EPT11: Nir Levy, the latest graduate from the Israeli Poker Academy


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Nir Levy, earning his EPT stripes

We've written before about how PokerStars' slate of regional tours are a great way for players to get experience of deepstacked, well-structured poker tournaments at a price point that's a lot lower than the EPT.

They're also a fertile breeding ground for players wanting to step up to the EPT and there's a host of them who've had success on the UKIPT, Estrellas or Eureka tour before replicating that success on a bigger stage. Players of the calibre of Max Silver, Ludovic Geilich and Adrian Mateos all first hit the big time away from the bright lights of the EPT. Now, Nir Levy is following in their footsteps.

Until August 2014 Levy had never cashed in a live tournament with a buy-in of more than €300. He'd made two side event final tables on the Eureka Poker Tour but little else of note. Then came EPT100 and the Estrellas Barcelona Main Event. Since PokerStars began kicking off their EPT festivals with one of their regional tours Main Events the numbers have rocketed and Barcelona was no different.

A ridiculous 2,560 people entered the €1,000 event and Levy was one of four players left in when they struck a deal. That near €200,000 cash gave him a lot more than just a breakthrough score. "I think it gave me a lot of confidence. I had a great year online in 2014 and Barcelona came after a few big scores I had online. It increased my bankroll by a lot. I'm a bankroll nit most of the time," he told us during a break in play before adding. "This is my second time playing the EPT, I played in Barcelona and got knocked out in Day 2. I won a seat to this event in a €215 re-entry satellite."

The 27-year-old, who lives 20 minutes south of Tel Aviv in a city called Rehavot, plays poker online full-time but has also got involved in a side project. "I've started coaching at the Israeli Poker Academy, which is a live poker course with power point presentations all that kind of stuff so I'm both playing and coaching. I'm not one of the owners, I just work there. A friend of mine is one of the owners and he wanted me to coach there, so I'm coaching tournaments. It's mostly for beginners but they also have some advanced courses."

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Levy teaches poker when he's not playing it

The fact that there's an Israeli Poker Academy might surprise some people, but then Israel provided more players in this Main Event than any of Bulgaria, Greece, Portugal, Brazil, Spain, Ukraine, Ireland or Lebanon. "I think if I remember correctly there were 22 Israeli players in the Main Event so we definitely have a community," says Levi. "I've been playing since the end of 2007 and I didn't know anybody. In 2010 I met a lot of people that play online on PokerStars. A lot of Israeli's play high stakes, so maybe it's a new community, but it's big compared to the size of my country."

The players he's teaching tournament poker to at the Academy are in good hands. "I play tournaments online, mostly PokerStars and PokerStars.fr and Full Tilt. Mid to high stakes tournaments. I play the Super Tuesday ($1,050 buy-in) I wouldn't say all the time, but if I've had a good week I will play it. In 2014 I took second in the Big 109, I final tabled the Sunday Supersonic, I won the Sunday Brawl on Full Tilt and also had lots of €5k scores."

He's certainly not fazed about this tournament's buy-in being the size of many of his online scores. "I don't think about the money and I'm used to playing against really tough players all the time. I think that the field in an EPT is probably softer than the high stakes online, obviously there's a lot of money on the line but I'm not going to play scared money or anything. I don't think about the money I just think about how to play my game."

It's definitely a first world problem, but today Levi has joined the long list of poker players who've missed a flight and it could well land him in trouble. "It's my girlfriend's birthday on Saturday, I booked a flight for today but knew if I made Day 4 that I'd have to delay it and now I might miss her birthday entirely, if I do I'll need to bring her a really nice present I guess."

Will an EPT trophy suffice Nir?

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Levi - in trouble with the missus!

Follow coverage of the EPT Malta Main Event on the EPT Malta Main Event page. There are plenty of side events going on, and the €10,000 High Roller is under way. Keep abreast of everything via the EPT App, available on Android or IOS.

Nick Wright
@PokerStars in European Poker Tour