EPT11 Prague: Meet Luciana Manolea, set to be 2015's breakout star
You might not yet recognise the name Luciana Manolea, but there's a significant chance you'll hear a whole lot about her in the coming few months. Everything about this 26 year old from Romania screams "break-out star", and based on her record this week in Prague, she is building the bankroll to be a certain threat in 2015 and beyond.
Manolea is a former IT student, who one day closed one window in her browser and opened up PokerStars instead, learning the game (as do so many) in the online environment. Under the screen-name "luckyno75", she has since amassed lifetime career tournament earnings of more than $2.6 million and is the top ranked online player in the country.
In recent months, Manolea has gradually been transitioning to live poker and - come on, you've heard this story before - it's been going spectacularly well. She qualified for the EPT100 Takedown Challenge in Barcelona, in which she partnered Christophe de Meulder in a series of sporting events and a poker tournament. But she also won a €150 side event, made another final table and cashed the Main Event.
That brings us to Prague this week, where she arrived late on Wednesday night and immediately registered for the €1,000 hyper turbo, which kicks off at midnight. A couple of hours later, she found herself heads up and arranging a straight chop of the prize money, with only the trophy to play for. Not long after that, she had it.
"I really wanted to win the trophy," she says today, taking a break from the Main Event. "We kept playing. And I won the trophy." As simple as that.
That success represented the biggest live tournament cash of her fledgling career: €30,245. However, the very next night (i.e., as Day 1A of the Main Event was starting), Manolea was again heads up for a side event, the €1,000 deep-stack, big ante event. "Well, I finished second in that," she shrugs. "Much as I wanted to get one more trophy."
Despite falling at the very last hurdle, the second place finish gave her an even bigger score than the previous night. The runner up won €33,290 and completed a €60,000+ 24-hour spell. "It was amazing, especially since there were so many tough players at the final table," she says.
Manolea's biggest online tournament victory smashes even her combined haul from Prague. In May of this year, she won a WCOOP progressive event on PokerStars, for $105,733, and she is a two-time winner of the Women's Sunday.
But having already qualified for the PCA during the first online satellite she played, Manolea is confident of bringing live winnings at least up the standard of her online successes. "It's so much harder to be face to face and everything is so much more intense," she says. "When you're bluffing, it's so much more thrilling. But you have so much more satisfaction when you actually win by bluffing.
She continues: "It will be my first time in the Bahamas, so I'm excited about that. It will be my first $10,000 buy-in, my biggest live buy in."
Manolea now has the bit between the teeth, and intends to continue what seems set to be a glittering career in live poker. "It's a lot of fun," she says. "I enjoy playing live more and more. I always planned to. I want to play regularly these EPTs, and I plan to do that next year.
"I have had a good end of year, and I truly believe that 2015 is going to be even better for me. I am more motivated than ever and I hope good things are going to come."
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