EPT10 Prague: Some real high rollers in the High Roller
The €10,000 High Roller tournament has started here in Prague, with a fanfare precisely inversely proportional to its buy-in. It really is one of the quirks of these EPT festivals that the High Roller plays almost all the way to its champion with a fraction of the attention of the other events.
For most players, one suspects, they wouldn't have it any other way. It's just easier like this. For the likes of ElkY, Steve O'Dwyer, Isaac Haxton et al, they have probably had about all the media attention they need. For others, such as David Vamplew, JC Alvarado and Dimitar Danchev, it just seems a whole lot simpler to play poker and not have to worry about any of the other nonsense.
It wasn't quite so simple for Adrian Mateos Diaz, who is entering the final month of a year he probably wishes will never end. In January, he won the Estrellas Poker Tour even in Madrid, earning €103,000, and then won ten times as much in October when he took down the WSOP Europe Main Event in Enghien-les-Baines.
Carlos Mortensen is the only Spanish player ever to win more in a single poker tournament than that, and he had to win the WSOP Main Event in Las Vegas to do so. It has made Diaz an instant celebrity in Spain, and as he took his seat today, he found himself with a marker pen shoved in his hand and a Spain baseball cap thrust before him, accompanied by an autograph request from a fan. Diaz obliged with an unassuming chuckle and off went our man.
However, it soon turned out that this wasn't just any old rail bird when the "fan" shuffled two tables along and also took his seat in the €10,000 event. It was the Norwegian player Tom-Aksel Bedell, who had obviously been impressed by Diaz's play.
(Bedell is also wearing a sweatshirt that bears a three-tiered legend. On the top line, it says in block-capitals "BLOGGER" and we accept that as a tribute to our own unflinching efforts in the pursuit of tournament reporting excellence.)
High Roller players tend to split into a number of categories including the one today featuring Diaz. He is representing the players on a rush, who have perhaps had a sensational score and are now happy to enter tournaments with massively inflated buy-ins to their previous regular game.
That Estrellas event, which gave him his tremendous start to the year, cost him €1,000 to enter. Still only 19-years-old, he is now quite happily ante-ing up ten times that.
Marc-Etienne McLaughlin is also in Diaz's category. McLaughlin scored the biggest success of his career when he came sixth in the WSOP Main Event this year, earning $1.6m. I've never seen him on the EPT before, but he's now got a really taste for globe-trotting and has the bankroll to match. The aforementioned Danchev, who is the reigning PCA champion, is also now a regular in the biggest buy-in tournaments.
Another portion of the field in High Rollers comprise the kind of player for whom the tournament was named. The likes of Dan Shak and Leon Tsoukernik live their entire lives as High Rollers.
The former is a Wall Street hedge fund mogul, who has been known to sit with iPad open on his knee during the nosebleed stakes games, almost certainly earning on the trading markets at least four times what he is wagering at the poker tables.
Tsoukernik, meanwhile, is the flamboyant owner of King's Casino in both Prague and Rozvadov. If you type his name into YouTube, you'll find about as many videos showing him clambering in or out of a helicopter as you will of him playing the highest stakes cash games in the world.
He is not scared of sitting down with the likes of Philipp Gruissem, Dan Cates, Luke Schwartz and Andrew Moseley, for instance, and is always a brilliant presence at the table. With Ami Barer, Lascal Lafrancois and Jason Lavallee at his table today, there'll be plenty of opportunity to put what he has learned into practice.
For coverage of Day 4 of the EPT10 Prague Main Event, head to the EPT Prague Main Event page. There's hand-by-hand coverage and chip counts in the top panel, plus feature pieces below the line. The same applies for the High Roller event on the High Roller page. All the information about this festival can be found on the main European Poker Tour website.