EPT10 Prague: There's no place called home - Ari Engel making hay from life on the road
In the past seasons few players have proved exemplars of poker's work ethic than Ari Engel. It was something that became clear two years ago when Engel, in what was then a rare appearance on the EPT, cashed in sixth place.
In the usual course of looking up the background of those in contention at the final, Engel's record stood out, a string of small cashes in small towns across the United States: Chester, Pennsylvania; Maryland Heights, St Louis, Elizabeth, Southern Indiana; Lake Tahoe, Nevada and Council Bluffs, Iowa. These are not the type of place that you win packages to, in fact they sound like the destinations in an AmericInn brochure. But they are towns you go to to earn money, and Engel has done that consistently well.
Few can claim to be as dedicated to the ethos of the working pro as Engel, who plays without flash or fanfare, but who simply puts in the hours.
His record prior to his Prague result is nothing compared to the past year, a life changing one for Engel who in January made an unlikely decision to turn his back on the comforts of home and instead hit the road.
Engel (centre) alongside ElkY
"In 2013 I went homeless," he said, explaining his unusual lifestyle choice. "I live in hotels now and I just travel around and play live poker. So I have a lot of cashes but I play a lot also. I've probably played 220 tournaments this year." (he's been keeping count)."
It turns out he's been keeping count. From those 220 tournaments he's cashed 37 times, earning more than $414,000 this year alone and clocking up thousands of miles in the US alone, visiting places like Choctaw, Robinsonville, West Palm Beach, Uncasville, Mashantucket, Wilkes-Barre, Thackerville, Cincinatti, Hammond and St Louis.
For Engel though, it's not about the scenery, it's about the job, doing well and earning a living, and with the climate as it is, heading out on the road and staying there seemed to make good sense.
"I was only going to do it for a month or two but things went my way," he said at the first break today. "I didn't want to pay rent and I was living in Toronto prior to that. You can't play online in America so there's no real point in having a place to live in any one place. One thing led to another and I haven't had a place for a little bit. I'm not sick of it yet."
For most people this sounds like some kind of purgatory, but it's a lifestyle that Engel has found himself adapting to surprisingly well, travelling with one suitcase and a carry-on bag, although he confesses to having a significant amount of stuff in storage.
It has meant a couple of changes though. No longer are hotels judged on facilities such as restaurants and comfort. Instead, his priorities have changed a bit.
"It's a really big bonus when a motel has a Laundromat inside of it, that the thing I look for," he said. "That and a gym."
After a year of encouraging results Engel then secured a big result last month, winning the Heartland Poker Tour event in St Louis to earn $142,125. Now, on a rare excursion to Europe he's looking to round off the year in style. He started the day on 172,000 but as he told PokerNews yesterday, there are a few cultural difference s on this side of the Atlantic.
"I've been 4 bet more today that I have in the last six months playing in America."
Still, with his earnings form this year he's earned enough to keep him in quarters for the washer-dryer and for now, an apartment, roots and a home town can wait.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.