EPT11 Barcelona: Philippe Souki, a cash game grinder who's got the tournament bug

We've talked a lot this week about players making the step up from the plethora of PokerStars regional tours. One such player who fits that mould is Philippe Souki. He's a 26-year-old professional cash game player from London who finished fourth at EPT3 London in March 2013 and is playing his second ever EPT here in Barcelona.

But Souki, who started the day with 496,000 and found himself on the feature table at the start of Day 4, should have been eliminated yesterday. "The last hand of the day I had a bit of a set-up. A 10 big blind stack shoved with jacks, I re-shoved kings with 22 big blinds and a player who had us both covered called with aces. I spiked a king, it was literally the last hand of the day."

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Souki - fortunate to have made Day 4

As for the rest of Souki's tournament it can be summed up in two words - a grind. "I came in and registered on Day 1B like an idiot so I was alternate 120. I got in at the 250/500 level and played for an hour and a half. Day 2 was a grind as well, I came back with 60k for Day 3 which wasn't a lot. I was then below average for the whole day just waiting for the right spot."

As for today, he's played a grand total of two hands in the opening 90 minutes, but one of those was the most interesting hand of the opening level at the feature table. "I opened K-10o and the American guy (John Andress) three-bet me. We have some history, I played with him on Day 2 and he three-bet me quite a lot. Against him I'm not sure what I'd do, I was potentially thinking about a four-bet. But then the guy in seat 1 (Piotr Sowinski) four-bet from the small blind so I just folded."

Whilst Souki's role in the hand was done, the hand was far from over. "When John put in the five-bet I was surprised that Piotr flatted out of position. John has got about two-fifths of his stack in, so it was definitely odd to see a flat but they were both quite deep."

The flop came raggedy and jack high, Andress then bet small before folding to a check-raise shove from Sowinski. "John said he had ace-king, that does make sense," said Souki. "I don't know how I'd have played it, I might have played it exactly the same way. It was a very interesting hand. I'd like to know what seat one had, he didn't say.. He might have slow played a big hand, he might have had jacks and flopped a set."

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Souki - a reluctant TV star

Souki's far from shy but he admits he's not totally at home on the feature table. "I don't like it, mainly because I don't want to do something stupid. A few players have stakes in me and I've got a few friends watching, I haven't told that many people though."

Away from the feature table, Souki's very comfortable though. Back when he final tabled UKIPT3 London he was almost exclusively a cash game player. Since that cash he's racked up another $70,000 in live tournament earnings but he still says cash games come first. "I still predominantly play cash but I like to come on a few trips every now and then. I went to Vegas for the first time this summer and I'm trying to improve my tournament game."

But he admits there's a certain allure to playing tournaments."There's nothing like going deep in a big tournament, even winning a big pot in cash doesn't compare. This is only my second EPT, they're big buy-ins tournaments. I don't know if I have an edge in these tournaments at the moment but I feel like I do. I have people around me like Ollie Price (3rd, EPT10 Deauville) and others who've gone deep in EPTs who I can talk to about strategy and things. They can give me advice on tricky situations."

When pressed on what sort of spots he finds trouble with given his cash game background he says. "There's a big difference between playing 30-50 big blinds and 300 big blinds. When I'm playing cash we'll be playing 300 big blinds deep. So in tournaments I'm more inclined to peel three-bets when I shouldn't with hands that I like but I've tried to eradicate that from my game. When I first started playing tournaments opening from a 25 big blind stack with jack-ten suited and peeling a three-bet out of position would've been something I would've done. That would've been frowned upon but I've definitely worked on my tournament game a lot, I've got a training site membership to help with that too."

And he definitely sees his big cash at UKIPT London as being a springboard that allowed him to play more tournaments. "My deep run in London definitely gave me a taste for tournaments. Most of the tournaments I play are in the UK I went to EPT Deauville and then decided I'd like to travel a bit more, whilst I've got the bankroll and I'm young I want to go and enjoy myself. Stops like this are amazing, if you bust you're in a beautiful city. I've run pretty good in the live tournaments that I've played. I definitely pick and choose the EPTs and bigger buy-in events I play. I probably won't play London even though I live there. During EPT London, I pretty much just play cash because the games are huge and really good."

He's smart enough to know that the cash game might not always be as good as they are now though. "The cash game scene in London is still strong but it's getting more difficult because a lot of good Spanish players and other good international players coming to London because it's a bit more liberal with taxes so the games are tougher than they used to be but there's still value to be had."

If the cash game action ever dries up, it looks like Souki needn't worry as it looks like he's got a future at this tournament lark too.

Follow all the action from the tournament floor on the main EPT Barcelona page. There's hand-by-hand coverage in the panel at the top, including chip counts, and feature pieces below. There's also EPT Live, which is streaming action from Day 4 of the Main Event.

Nick Wright
@PokerStars in European Poker Tour