EPT10: Why are the Germans winning? Playing well, for starters

Those of us following the European Poker Tour of late are finding it more and more difficult not to think about how the Germans are doing in a given event. The players, too, are having difficulty concerning the Germans -- as in difficulty figuring out how to play against them.

Season 8 of the EPT saw three Germans winning EPT Main Event titles -- Martin Schleich (Barcelona), Benny Spindler (London), and Martin Finger (Prague). Daniel Pidun then won EPT9 Berlin, and back in December it was Julian Track claiming the EPT10 Prague title.

Of course it has been in those big buy-in events where German players' success has been most conspicuous recently.

During 2013 alone Philipp Gruissem won two different tournaments with $100,000 buy-ins, plus the A$50,000 High Roller event at WSOP Asia Pacific in the spring. Gruissem got high rolling back in Season 8 of the EPT when he won two different High Roller events (Barcelona and London). During Season 9 two more Germans won €10,000 High Rollers -- Benny Spindler (Sanremo) and Marvin Rettenmaier (Prague), and another, Max Altergott, won the $100K Super High Roller at the Grand Final in Sanremo. And here in Season 10 there have already been two more High Roller winners from Germany in Martin Finger (London) and Fabian Quoss (PCA).

Walking through the tables during the afternoon play here on Day 1B we spotted one of our favorite Germans, Team PokerStars Pro Jan Heitmann, making his first visit ever to EPT Deauville after his beautiful wedding to his wife, Vanessa, a couple of months ago.

Heitmann, too, has an impressive résumé of tourney success stretching back a decade -- that is, prior to the rise of the German nouvelle vague (or, rather, neue welle).

So having Germans on our minds, we thought to ask Heitmann what he knew about it.

"I think they're playing very well," he grinned, emphasizing the word in a way that hinted at the fact that some may be overlooking a clear answer to the question of the Germans' success.

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"They're playing very well," he grinned

"Obviously they're also running okay -- without that you don't get that many big results," he added as he rattled off most of the above-listed names plus those of Igor Kurganov, Tobias Reinkemeier, and the wunderkind Ole Schemion. "They are all very, very strong players. They have a very strong background in game theory, and they must be doing something right."

Heitmann agreed that the very fact that they are a group and not all just working on their games individually is a benefit, too.

"They can bounce ideas off each other, and pick each other up if things don't so well. They're also probably sharing some percentages, too, which helps with the variance. Each of them is really what I would consider a professional poker player. They are doing a lot of things right and playing very well, but they also have all of the other little things -- or rather, the big things -- in the life of a poker player figured out. They are trying to stay very healthy and to play selective events. And they're playing phenomenonally, I think."

Not long ago Gruissem and then Kurganov made it known they have begun donating 10% of their tourney winnings to charity. Was that part of having the "big things" figured out, too?

"I find that great," said Heitmann. "Apparently the reason for it was that they were kind of burned out about poker before -- kind of wondering, you know 'what's the point of all this?' But now they have a really big incentive because it's not only about their own winnings but earning money for others, too. And that's a lot... 10% when you're crushing the high rollers!"

We didn't think to ask Heitmann whether he had plans to start donating 10% of his winnings going forward. But after he'd generously given us well over 10% of his first break of the day, we let him go to enjoy the rest and contemplate how he, too, might turn an EPT Main Event entry into yet another story of German players' success.

Martin Harris is Freelance Contributor to the PokerStars Blog.

Martin Harris
@hardboiledpoker in European Poker Tour