EPT10 Deauville: Natalie Hof: PokerStars' new best friend
The poker players of Germany are among the very best in the world. While the likes of Philipp Gruissem, Tobias Reinkemeier and Fabian Quoss continue to dominate High Roller and Super High Roller events, there's never too long an interval between a German EPT Main Event winner.
Julian Track prevailed in Prague just before Christmas, while Finger, Pidun, Spindler, Schelich, Eiler, Naujoks, Kranich, Ruthenberg, Schulze and Nguyen have already been there and done that. No country has provided more title winners than Germany -- and Martin Harris will tell you more in his latest article.
If you ask Natalie Hof, the newest Friend of PokerStars, what she expects from her time as a sponsored player on the EPT, she answers, "Actually I expect nothing." But if you rephrase it and say, "What do you hope for?" she'll tell you, "An EPT title". She'll then laugh before falling silent as she clearly allows herself a moment to dream.
And why shouldn't she. Hof, after all, is German and has spent the past four or five years since seriously taking up the game hanging around with some of the top German pros. She has been a presenter on the German television coverage of the EPT, has hosted WCOOP Radio and has developed her own game along the way.
Hof already has a handful of results from major events across the continent, including five final table appearances and a 39th in an EPT Main Event. In December, she was also named as the new host of TV Total - Poker Nacht, a show on Germany's on ProSieben channel, which attracts millions of viewers.
Her signing to PokerStars, also late in 2013, allows her to play more EPT tournaments as well as WCOOP and SCOOP events.
"They asked me and I said yes, of course I will," Hof said, describing the conversation that ended with the Red Spade stuck on her arm. "I will be the best Friend of PokerStars. I love the team."
She continued: "The good thing about the German poker community is that we are like a family. I know all the German players and that's the reason why all the German players are good, they have such a good community and talk.
"I have tried to improve my game. In poker you learn your whole life. It's never the same. Every tournament is different. In France it's totally another game than in Prague or Vienna, for example. I love the French players."
Poker, however, is not where Hof's life begins and ends. It is merely a small part. Her first degree, earned at the University of Osnabrück, was in educational science and theology, a qualification she has used in employment as a social worker. She has been heavily involved, for example, with assisting with the integration of immigrant children, typically Turkish, to German schools -- a role that can make enormous difference to a child's educational prospects.
"We have to work on the whole school system," Hof said. "It's not good for kids at school because there's a lack of understanding. In maths, for example, sometimes they don't even understand the question, so even if they are very good in the subject, they have problems doing well."
Hof will soon be returning to university to pursue a master's (during which she will also probably work on her Turkish language skills, which are currently not as strong as she would like) and expects that after a couple of years she will sacrifice the life of the travelling poker pro to continue in social work.
"I'll do my best and hope that I win something," she says. "But my life is good and even if I am not playing the higher events, or not being as successful as other players, I am happy...I am almost 30 anyway. I am too old for this life."
Today, Hof is playing her second EPT Main Event since joining the team. She is to the immediate right of Artem Litvinov, which is never a great place to be, but is enjoying matters so far. She lost a third of her chips early on, but has since rebounded and is back to her starting stack.
Follow our coverage from EPT Deauville by heading to the main EPT Deauville page. There's hand-by-hand coverage in the top panel, plus chip counts, and feature pieces below.