The Mizrachi under the beard
The Grand Hyatt Berlin was packed on Monday for Day 1b of the EPT Berlin Main Event, and the late registration tables were tucked away in a small corner outside of the main tournament room. Although only a small percentage of the players were sequestered in this area, many of the game's top players arrived after the noon start, and were forced to battle it out against one another. Look left, and you'd see Team PokerStars Pro's Vanessa Selbst and Eugene Katchalov. Look right, and you'd spot Toby Lewis, Chris Brammer, and Griffin Benger. The number of top-level professionals was astounding.
There was one player in particular whose résumé exceeded everyone else's. At first, the live reporting staff wasn't sure it was actually him - he rarely travels to Europe for tournaments - but upon further inspection, our suspicions were confirmed. The larger, bearded gentleman in the camouflage hat was indeed Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi.
Mizrachi currently sits in eight position on the all-time money list with over $14 million in career tournament earnings. He is a three-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner, taking down the $50,000 Poker Players Championship in both 2010 and 2012. In 2010, he also made the Main Event final table, ultimately busting in fifth place.
The Grinder has 22 six-figure scores and five seven-figure scores, but he's only cashed in one EPT Main Event - the 2013 PCA Main Event, which didn't even take place on European soil.
"This might be my third one, I'm not sure," he told our own Sarah Grant during one of the breaks.
There is only one player ahead of Mizrachi on the all-time money list with fewer EPT Main Event cashes. Phil Hellmuth, despite cashing for over $17.8 million in his career, has never cashed in an EPT Main Event.
Mizrachi is excited to be in Berlin, excited to watch his brother DJ - this is evidently the only reason he came to the capital city of Germany - and most importantly, he is ready to make a deep run.
"I'm looking forward to winning this tournament," he told Grant.
True to his word, Mizrachi bolted up the chip counts during the latter levels of the evening. He knocked two players out in one particular hand, where Mizrachi put Pascal Hartmann and a second opponent all in preflop holding two red aces. Hartmann had pcoket tens, the other player had pocket kings, and the aces held.
"I can't believe he called me with kings," Mizrachi joked after the hand.
Mizrachi wasn't always among the chip leaders, however. He returned from the dinner break with the starting stack of 30,000 chips, but found a double through EPT regular Paul Testud. Mizrachi called a raise in the small bind with seven-nine, and rather than three-betting in the big blind with queens, Testud called as well. The flop produced two sevens, the money went into the middle, and Mizrachi held.
On one of the last hands of the evening, Mizrachi lost a 50,000-chip pot to Nicolas Chouity. Chouity was all in and at risk preflop holding two queens, Mizrachi was well behind with ace-queen suited, and the queens held. Had Mizrachi somehow binked an ace, he would've bagged well over 200,000 chips.
Instead, Mizrachi finished Day 1b with 155,400 chips, and will start Day 2 in the fourth overall position. A win on the EPT would be an incredible addition to Mizrachi's already historic list of poker accomplishments, and he would join Team Pros Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier and Jake Cody, among others, as a member of the Triple Crown club.
The tournament is still young, and there are still a few days to go, but Mizrachi could be eyeing history here in Germany.