EPT11 Deauville: Matas Cimbolas, the newest oldest story in poker

We're not going to try and dress this up as something it isn't. Matas Cimbolas' poker story is probably one you've heard before. But it's still compelling.

- gets start in poker by playing in small stakes home game with friends - check
- finds he has an aptitude for the game, begins to enjoy it a lot and improves - check
- goes to University to study but poker takes over - check
- builds up experience and bankroll online - check
- starts to play a number of live events but initially struggles - check
- talent defeats variance and eventually has a big live score - check


Cimbolas - happy to be deep in an EPT

We couldn't blame you for stopping reading at this point, but if you want to know more about how a 21-year-old Lithuanian happens to be in the final 17 of this tournament then read on. "I'm originally from Lithuania but I've lived in London for the last two years," Cimbolas tells the PokerStars Blog during a break in play. "I've played poker for around three years. Poker is my passion, I started off in small home games with friends in Lithuania. I got better and I liked the game so I improved myself."

For a while Cimbolas managed to combine improving himself at poker, with higher education."I went to university in Vilnius, I studied business and economics and for a while I combined poker with my studies but then I froze my studies when I started to have success in poker."

It was online where Cimbolas first found success and he's since gone on to rack up cashes totalling almost $1,000,000 and his passion for poker was behind the move to London.

"There's a small community of Lithuanian poker players in London," he says. "It's a great place for live poker and it has good connections for flights to the rest of the world."

It wasn't until 2013 that Cimbolas began to play live poker but initially he didn't have too much success.

"It took a lot of time to adjust my game from online to live poker," he says. "Reads, notes and everything online there are helpful programs like hold'em manager and you're multi-tabling. When you play live you're only playing one table. You have to pay attention to just one table, you can pick up some information about every player. I think it's completely different to online."

Despite taking time to adjust to live poker, Cimbolas managed a few deep runs and had cashed on the IPT, UKIPT and EPT (Sanremo in April 2014) before he had his breakthrough result in November of last year.

Cimbolas was one of 354 players to enter a £3,000 tournament at Dusk Till Dawn in Nottingham and after six days of competition he emerged victorious and was the recipient of a huge trophy and £200,000.

"It was one of my toughest tournaments ever, the field was super strong. I think in the UK tournaments are always tough because so many people live in the UK due to tax. The field was amazing, it was only my third or fourth deep run in a tournament but previously I'd busted with two tables left or something but as this tournament went on I felt I had a really good chance to win, especially as I came to the final table as chip leader."


Cimbolas turned the final table chip lead into a win

He's not wrong when he says the field was tough. The final two tables contained the likes of Ben Warrington, Tamer Kamel, Antoine Saout, Patrick Leonard, Luca Moschitta, Jamie Roberts, Sylvain Loosli, Adrian Mateos, Leo McClean, Ben Vinson and Charlie Combes.

And the victory has seen Cimbolas shift his poker priorities. "Before the win I would say that online poker was my main job but after the win it's changed things and I've moved more to live poker. It's given me a good bankroll for live poker and I met a lot of good players, good people through that final table."

One of those people is the man he defeated to win his breakthrough event. "Almost always I travel the circuit with friends, this time there's another Lithuanian still in and I'm also good friends with Ben Warrington."

Cimbolas was kind enough to share some strategy on how he approaches live tournaments.

"My strategy depends on my opponents," he says. "It also depends on the tournament. In a tournament like this, it's a deep tournament. Playing a 20 big blind stack can sometimes depend on the average stack in the tournament. If you've got 20 big blinds in this type of event you need to look for spots to grow your stack. Online you can wait until ten big blinds probably and find the spot to shove."

While Cimbolas is definitely still a youngster in poker terms, he's looking to broaden his horizons in 2015. "One part of the plan for 2015 is to travel the circuit and play a lot of poker. On the other hand I want to start a business, which is a car import and export business and to buy a flat or a house."


Cimbolas - hoping poker won't be his only business by the end of the year

Coverage from the Main Event of EPT Deauville is on the Main Event page. Check out all the action from around the festival on the main festival page. Also follow the action on EPT Live and stay up to date with the sensational EPT app for iPhone, iPad or Android.

Nick Wright
@PokerStars in European Poker Tour