EPT10 Vienna: The fairly rated and the unfairly under-rated

A couple of weeks ago, Rick Dacey, of PokerStars Blog, looked at the subject of under-rated performances on the European Poker Tour and beyond, attempting to give credit where it was due to a couple of recent winners.

His general point was that some players, typically older or from unfashionable countries, tend to be labelled at best "unconventional" and at worst "clueless" when they loosen their games and play more creatively, the kind of approach that would have spectators purring if done by an established, younger star.

Dacey focused on Sotirios Koutoupas and Duncan McLellan, winners of EPT London and UKIPT Isle of Man, but he might easily have turned his attentions to Georgios Karakousis. In October last year, Karakousis, then 64, went to the final table of EPT London second in chips and at that stage had the chance to become the first ever EPT champion from Greece.


Georgios Karakousis, at the London final table

Fully expected to stay calm, play only premium hands and bust in fifth, Karakousis was actually among the most active players at the table, time and again forcing mistakes out of his more highly regarded table-mates (including Ludovic Geilich and Jeff Rossiter) and eventually losing only to Robin Ylitalo. Indeed, Karakousis was the only player prepared to tangle with the hyper-aggressive Geilich, yet received little to no praise for his play.

Nobody could quite get a read of Karakousis, who wanted to play big pots and play them often, and the keyboard warriors of the forums and social media had a field day at his expense. But taking a more measured observational approach actually revealed a player with a clear knowledge of how to exploit his appearance (greying and Greek) and who has subsequently continued an amazing heater.

Since EPT London (where he won close to £350,000, incidentally), Karakousis has been to four more final tables, including three at the PCA, and picked up a small cash in the Eureka Poker Tour main event this week.

Karakousis is back in action today and on another table of superstars, some heaped in plaudits and some flying under the radar. It's the kind of table that makes the EPT such a fascinating place.

ElkY is in seat one, for instance. Is there anything we really need to say about ElkY that hasn't already been said. A Triple Crown winner and jewel in PokerStars' crown, the Frenchman is one of the finest (and quickest) thinkers the game has ever seen. In contrast to Karakousis, for instance, the common perception about ElkY's game is that if he has made a play you first accept that it's right and then figure out why that's so. He is that kind of brain.


Elky: Rock star from the future

One seat along today, you'll find Rumen Nanev. Almost nobody outside of the EPT press room would be able to pick Nanev out of a crowd--and, to be honest, plenty inside it would struggle too. But he also is a bit of a side-event beast, with six side event final tables to his name over the past year or so.

Nanev has a habit of building a big stack early, and he already has about 90,000 today, three times his starting stack. He looks more like an accountant than the rock-star-from-the-future vibe of ElkY, but he is hoovering up the chips today.

Until fairly recently, those three were also in the presence of a bona fide German celebrity, from away from the poker felt. Axel Stein, who is an actor and comedian, was among a trio of PokerStars sponsored players here in Vienna (alongside CommanderKrieger and Elton). And he played his part as poker newcomer pretty much to perfection, busting before the dinner break.


Axel Klein: celebrity in a different sense

Day 1B of EPT Vienna is under way. Click through to the main EPT Vienna page for all the action.

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour