EPT10 Grand Final: Swapping algorithms for scenery and company

Mark Teltscher was unfailingly polite when I asked to talk to him at the break. He paused for a second, double taking as if something else had occurred to him, before asking: "For an interview?" I replied yes. He then suggested the bar of Le Sporting, "If that's convenient to you."

Such courtesy is not all that common in these parts. Monaco is not exactly known for its civility - just ask anyone who has found themselves trying to cross the street. But Teltscher prefers civility in his correspondence, excusing himself from friends he'd run into at the break to talk about poker, betting, and the human element that still keeps such things fun.

I'd been reading about the other life of Teltscher as a sports bettor in The Spectator magazine earlier this year. In a Freddy Gray article entitled "How to beat a robot bookie", the columnist talked about how modern sports bettors find themselves competing more against algorithms, automatic computer generated odds, rather than human beings dependent on skill and judgement. Consequently this made the playing field one-sided.


Mark Teltscher enjoying the local hospitality

Or did it? Gray then quoted Teltscher, an avid sports bettor, who suggested that there were still moments in which the human element ensured he had an advantage.
Take the example of a football team which, having used all three of their substitutes, then loses a player through injury, meaning they play on with ten men. An algorithm should have treated that incident in a similar way to a sending off, adjusting the odds accordingly. But in one particular case it didn't. At that moment Teltscher lumped on the opposition and, as Gray writes: "He could have traded out his position at a profit; alas, being human, he held on and lost."

Poker on the other hand allows the players to focus not on algorithms, but the human element, something that keeps Teltscher in touch with the poker world, even if he doesn't play as many events as he used to in the years following his success at EPT London in Season 2.

The appeal of a place like this is obvious. For one Teltscher is possibly alone in that he drives to the Grand Final from the UK along the Napoleon route through Gap and Col Bayard, with its gilded eagles, occasionally parking his red Ferrari 448 Spider outside Le Sporting. It's a little flash and ostentatious perhaps, but so is the Riviera. And while Teltscher might not have the lofty ambitions of an Emperor, he might at least have another tilt at an EPT title in an environment that provides more satisfying competition.

"Poker is not just a technical math game, it's also a heartbeat," said Teltscher. "So by talking to your opponent and by having an understanding; having a rapport with the people you're playing against you get to go inside their minds, their thought processes. And by the way they position themselves, their demeanour; you get a very good understanding of what they have.

"Poker in comparison to sports betting is very different. Live poker you get to socialise at the same time. You combine a holiday with work."

So Teltscher plays on today, swapping a day he'd usually spend in front of Sky Sports betting any game in which he feels he has an advantage, for a stack of chips and eight other players with which to pass the time. Teltscher has proven he can beat an algorithm, no to prove again that he can beat his peers.

All the hand-by-hand action, including chip counts, will be in the panel at the top of the main event page. We will have feature pieces below that.

Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.