EPT11 Deauville: Snow falls in France as former skier Marcin Horecki leads Polish charge

Marcin Horecki has been a member of Team PokerStars Pro for more than six years, during which he has become very much part of the European Poker Tour family.

Horecki was already one of the top money earners on the Poland money list when he signed in June 2008 and has subsequently gone on to take his live tournament earnings past $1.2 million, reaching two EPT Main Event final tables in London 2008 and Prague 2010.

Perhaps even more significantly, Horecki has become a mentor/figurehead for many of the young players emerging on the scene from central Europe, none more so than Dominik Panka, who last year won both the PCA and the EPT Deauville High Roller title. Those successes meant that Panka leapt above Horecki in the Poland money list, and the pair, who remain friends, currently sit in first and second place on the chart.

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Marcin Horecki: Leading a strong Polish contingent

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Dominik Panka, defending High Roller champion

When people prematurely announce the "death" of poker, or wonder if the game can ever return to those boom years of the late 2000s, they are almost invariably coming at the question from a distinctly Anglo-American angle. For some fairly obvious reasons, the game has plateaued somewhat in the United States since 2011, but it doesn't mean the same applies elsewhere.

Horecki, Panka and others have inspired a generation of Polish players to take up the game, while high-profile successes for the likes of Dimitar Danchev, Martin Staszko, Sotirios Koutoupas, Dominykas Karmazinas, Mihai Manole, and others, have encouraged mini poker booms in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Lithuania, Romania, for example.

At the end of Day 1A here in Deauville, Horecki said that he had enjoyed his best opening day on the European Poker Tour for several years. He bagged up 92,900 last night after a day in which, he said, he "won lots of small pots". ("Patryk Slusarek was doing all the raising, raising, raising," he added. "Other people at the table were already pissed off.")

The significant part of Horecki's assessment is that he has "several years" of tournaments to compare it with. If you take a look at the other nine in the top ten of the Poland money list (i.e., the others not including Horecki), seven of them only recorded their first ever live cash since Horecki joined Team PokerStars Pro. They are newbies who have quickly risen through the ranks in the post Polish-boom era. The game is thriving there.

Of course, not even those most ardent partisans of the Red Spade will claim that Horecki or PokerStars, are to be credited exclusively with fostering those talents, but it is clear evidence of a surge in interest in the region. Returning to Day 2 in Deauville today, there are ten Polish players in the 336-strong field, more than from the United States, Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands, Norway or Denmark.

There wasn't a single Polish player in the payouts table from Deauville until Pawel Chmiel came 41st in season five. More recently, however, there has been at least one Pole in the money every year since season seven, and an expectation that another Polish champion could be in the offing very soon.

Today, Horecki will have to navigate his way through a table featuring Remi Castaignon, a former winner here, but said this morning that he is feeling confident and refreshed having decided to miss the trip to the Bahamas for the PCA this year. It even snowed this morning in Deauville, to make the former professional skier feel at home. Let's just hope it's not all downhill from here.

Polish money list - Top 10
(Name, winnings, date of first recorded live cash)

1 - Dominik Panka - Winnings: $1.9 million; First cash: July 2012
2 - Marcin Horecki - $1.3 million; September 2006
3 - Jakub Michalak - $1 million; March 2011
4 - Artur Wasek - $800,000; December 2007
5 - Marcin Wydrowski - $725,000; February 2011
6 - Michal Polchlopek - $625,000; November 2009
7 - Jose Carlos Garcia - $600,000; March 2012
8 - Grzegorz Cichocki - $534,785; April 2008
9 - Grzegorz Derkowski - $400,000; May 2009
10 - Patryk Slusarek - $375,000; August 2007

Polish cashes in Deauville

Andrzej Nowak, 18th season seven
Grzegorz Derkowski, 86th season eight
Artur Olczyk, 101st, season nine
Jose Garcia, 25th; Mikolaj Zawadzki, 57th season 10

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.

Howard Swains
@howardswains in Main Event