EPT10 Vienna: Piper playing his own tune on return to EPT

As mentioned earlier, Michael Piper is perhaps the only player dressed for the surroundings. At least that goes for his top half.

There's something late-Victorian about his appearance today. He has six months of beard -- which would suit a man who travelled here by Penny Farthing, or steam powered car -- and he wears a jacket and shirt in two shades of grey. The bowtie around his neck is in a third shade.

That's where the theme ends though; a pair of bright green trousers brings him back into the Technicolor age. By the time you get to his blue shoes you've travelled through 100 years of fashion - 1914 at the top, 2014 at the bottom.

But this suits Piper, a self-confessed attention seeker, who is happiest when standing out.


Michael Piper

"I like to set myself apart from the field I guess," he said at the break earlier. "That's not just poker, that's general life. Even If I'm going to get some groceries I try to look good."

As well as the way he looks Piper stands out by actually being here. Not previously a regular on EPTs (although he has a fourth place finish in Sanremo in Season 7), he has turned to poker more seriously in the past six months, and is now back on the grind.
"It just sort of happened, I didn't plan it," he said. "I didn't think about getting back into poker. I started playing live a bit more. I was enjoying it and winning. Then I got invited to a private game that was very juicy. I started winning and got the urge to play.

The draw was simple. Winning tends to make you want to play more.

"Absolutely, that applies to anything. If you're good at it you enjoy it. You associate winning money with happiness, obviously. If you lose money, if you feel like you're outclassed, you don't want to continue. But if you're beating everyone else and taking their money of course you want to carry on doing it."

Right now Piper is winning money, or chips at least, moving up to around 45,000 at the dinner break, the perfect situation for someone of his temperament?

"At the moment we've got a very quiet table," said Piper. "Everyone is very serious, and that's good. I can knuckle down and put my headphones in.

"At UKIPT Manchester two weeks ago there were a few characters, including Ben Mayhew (winner of UKIPT Nottingham), Sam Grafton, and a couple of other nice people. Sam Grafton and I were jostling for Alpha position both in terms of chips and personality - in a very friendly way, not putting the other one down but making jokes and keeping the flow of the table happy.

"We had a few amateur players at that table and they want to play super serious, no-talking poker. If they found themselves at that table, it's a tournament so they can't sit out like they would in a cash game, but it's also going to encourage them to play extra loose and have fun."

Here though it's a different story, with mostly professional players playing serious poker. Stone-faced silent. Piper though, has his methods of keeping things interesting.

"Sometimes I like to break the rhythm by giving someone a weird smile in the middle of a hand, which can help get reads on someone," he said. "I do something unexpected, not like raising when they expect you to call, but a weird face, when they're fully focused."


Some of the art work in the Festsaal

That's working for now, and Piper will hope it continues until the weekend, where he can continue to stand out in a tournament room which, in Piper's opinion, is a pleasure to play in, although he wonders if culture of this grandeur is lost on most poker players ("they go to Vegas every year"). Still, a final table will be something Piper will be prepared for - even sartorially.

"I've had a shirt that I've owned for about a year now," he said. "I've designated it my final table shirt. Hopefully you'll see it."

It's difficult to stand out in a room like the Festsaal, but if anyone can pull it off then that may well be Piper, albeit in vintage beard and green trousers.

Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.