EPT9 Monaco Day 1A: Boris Becker back where it all began
We first saw him five years ago, striding in, all six feet three inches of him. Actually we only thought we saw him. Someone was behind the mass of security guards at the time and we were working on the assumption that nobody else that tall would get the same treatment. But you could see him when he sat down, still six foot three when seated; a giant of the sporting world coming to paddling in our little pond called poker.
This, of course, was Boris Becker, the six-time Grand Slam tennis champion, making his first appearance in the PokerStars livery. Finally, a poker player right there in front of us who our own mothers had heard of. It was as much a legitimisation of our own jobs as one for Mr Becker's private passion for poker.
So with a guard never more than a couple of paces away, and a press corp. forewarned of getting too close, he began to play, nervously at first, then cautiously. He had a big job to prove that he was any kind of player, beyond the shark of the rain delayed games in the Wimbledon dressing room, where one likes to think his rivalry with Stefan Edberg really came to the fore.
Sure enough Becker didn't last long in the main event. But it had been nice seeing him and we all buzzed when, walking past him in the corridor, he would throw a nod in our direction. Our friend Boris.
But then something weird happened - a €500 hold'em event with 252 runners to be precise. It allowed Becker to play under the radar a little. Sure enough there he was, still playing in the latter stages, and still there when the final table was put together, alongside Arnaud Mattern, Andre Akkari and Eli Marciano. There he was, proving everyone wrong with a solid seventh place finish.
Flash forward five years, this week is something of an anniversary for Becker, his fifth year as a PokerStars SportStar. There's no longer the crowd of security and PR people there to protect him visually, audibly and physically, all of it now unnecessary. Instead he saunters into the room like any other player, content to be entering an arena he's grown accustomed to, one in which he, like everyone else, relishes the competition.
Not only that but more results have come, in a work schedule that includes tennis commentary, TV work and an appearance on Top Gear as the "Star in the Reasonably Price Car"; 40th place in WPT Championship event in 2009, through to his deep run in Berlin last week, good for 49th place from a field of 912.
That's combined prize money of nearly $100,000. A nice little addition to the $25 million earned on the court. No hiding now. Becker is one of the crowd.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.
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