EPT8 Berlin: Locals proving tough opponents on world stage


In terms of recent German history one feature dominates; a 97 mile long, 12 feet high feature that split East Berlin from West Berlin, East Germany from West Germany, and the East and West in general.

It's more than 22 years since the Berlin Wall was at first opened, then pecked at by Ossies and Wessis with pick axes, then torn down with bulldozers, freeing millions who had spent decades living behind it.

East Germans in their Zeha sports shoes were able to swap two-cylinder Trabants* for fuel-injected Mercedes, or at least watch their Besser-Wessi cousins, wearing Levi jeans and smoking dollar bills, speed past in them, listening to Nena** on the stereo.
It was a turning point for Germany, and the world, with German unification taking place less than a year later on 3 October 1990.

The Berlin Wall passed passed in front of here, the Brandenberg Gate...

At best guess half the field at EPT Berlin weren't born then and of those that were most were mere boys, kicking balls around and probably cleaning out Grandma in the family penny ante game on Friday night.

... and here, Potsdamer Platz

German poker though has evolved as well as the political climate in Europe over that period. Months before the guards lowered their rifles when East German citizens approached the border, young pretender Phil Hellmuth was denying Johnny Chan a third World Series main event title in a row.

Meanwhile across the Atlantic in soon to be unified Germany, the game was 7 Card Stud, a game brought into the country by American GIs. In the past decade though poker's popularity boom swept across Germany with dramatic effect, turning the country of moustaches, mullets and other baseless stereotypes, into a nation of hold'em loving poker players, producing some of the best players in the game today, all while keeping their Zippo lighters for the next Scorpions gig***.

Thang Duc Nguyen**** was the first German to win an EPT event, taking down EPT3 Baden, followed over the years by the likes of Michael Schulze, Sebastian Ruthenberg, Moritz Kranich, Sandra Naujoks, Michael Eiler, Martin Schleich and Benny Spindler.

The country got its own EPT event in Season 3 when Dortmund appeared. Sure, it took a while to get to Hohensyburg, and you had to find it first, but Germany was on the poker map, more so when the event moved to the Capital, Berlin, just 100 yards from Potsdamer Platz, where all those years ago the Berlin wall used to dissect the heart of the city.

Now Germans are all over the poker scene. Two of the first three events of the year were won by Germans (Schleich and Spindler), while Philipp Gruissem won the EPT London High Roller. Martin Finger added his name to the roll call, winning in Prague. The surge of German players within poker continues to grow. Let's not forget the current WSOP main event winner Pius Heinz.

These are the players we'll look back on in 20 years from now, a period that will likely see a continuation of German dominance in the major casinos and card rooms of the poker world.

* For those not yet 30-years-old you may need to Google this.
** And this.
*** And this.
****And this.

Stephen Bartley
@StephenBartley in Berlin