EPT8 Berlin: Poker Boxing, a concept waiting to happen

ept-thumb-promo.jpgIn October 2005 the first European Chess Boxing Championship took place in Berlin in October 2005 with Tihomir Atanassov Dovramadjiev of Bulgaria beating local hope Andres Schneider in the seventh round (chess). If you've never heard of chess boxing, well, it wouldn't be a huge surprise. It's hardly a mainstream sport. Chess boxing is a fusion between, wait for it, chess and boxing in which heads up combatants battle it out over 11 alternating rounds of the two sports.

Starting with a four-minute bout of speed chess the players take each other on mentally and physically until a winner is determined by knockout, checkmate or disqualification from exceeding time limits to make a move. What if we were to bring this concept to the poker table to create Poker Boxing? Rounds of fast paced (and timed) heads up poker interspersed with frenetic (or for some, curled up in a ball) minutes of boxing in between.

Poker bust-ups
There has been some crossover in the past, Theo Jorgensen beat Gus Hansen in a boxing match while Lex Veldhuis' repeated kicks to the head put Bertrand 'ElkY' Grospellier firmly on his back, but no true fusion of the two has yet played out.

The World Chess Boxing Federation has strict rules for entry and must be rated at least a Class A strength as a chess player (just below that of 'Expert'). For argument's sake, you know, just to get things started, let's say that the inaugural European Poker Boxing tournament is only open to EPT winners.

While there are some players you may instantly rule out Poker Boxing may be the same as professional boxing where the heavyweight fights are often a let-down while the wiry bantamweights create a ripsnorter; Dario Minieri versus Will Fry? Mickey Petersen up against David Vamplew? Vladimir Geskenbein and Tim Vance going mental on each other? They'd be absolute belters.

I cornered a few EPT champs and pundits to find their pick of the bunch for this (unfortunately entirely fictional) tournament.

First up, Anton Wigg (Copenhagen, S6), a possible frontrunner himself: "Has Johannes Strassmann won an EPT?* If he has, I'd bet all my money on Strassmann. If not, maybe Carter Phillips (Barcelona, S6) or Patrik Antonius (Baden, S2). I think I'd take Phillips over Antonius," said Wigg looking happy with his decision.

*He hasn't. He's had five top ten finishes.

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Anton Wigg using his trophy for training

The choice of Phillips, an enthusiastic gym goer who's demonstrated an aggressive temper on more than one occasion, seems to be a popular one. Donnie Peters, global live reporting manager for Poker News, was balancing Phillips against Michael Martin (London, S5). Peters himself is a bit of a fitness freak, he reads Men's Health magazine, which alone counts as more exercise than the PokerStars Blog does collectively, so perhaps he's placing too much emphasis on power alone. As pointed out by a colleague, it would be tough to put Poorya Nazari on his back.

After explaining the concept of Poker Boxing to Rupert Elder (San Rem, S7) and David Vamplew (London, S7) I asked which would win in a heads-up bout. Before the words had fully dribbled out of my mouth Elder chipped in.

"Me," said the San Remo, S7 winner enthusiastically.

"Snap you?" guffawed Vamplew, actually looking a little offended how little time Elder had taken to think.

"You won't be conscious for the poker round," said Elder, getting into the pre-match theatre like an angry pantomime dame.

"What is this?" asked Vamplew, the maths graduate not necessarily the most suited to US style smack talk.

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Rupert Elder (left) giving Marvin Rettenmaier his 'I'm gonna knock you out' eyes

The Scotsman wisely brought the conversation to the wider question, which EPT winner would likely be crowned champ: "Elky's pretty good."

"Liv?" piped up Elder.

"Anton's in pretty good shape," replied Vamplew, trying to settle on his contender.

"But he's too much of a nice guy."

"Yeah, I don't think he'd be able to bring himself to hurt anyone."

"Maybe Ben then."

Ben Wilinofsky? Last year's winner? The chatty Canadian in the suit with the bouffant hair?

"He's shredded," said Elder pointing to his own stomach (not quite so shredded).

Come to think of it, Wilinofsky did seem to fill his suit jacket out quite easily.

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Ben Wilinofsky: 'I'm gonna dance like a butterfly...'

We're undecided (although ElkY's kickboxing training should make him a good shout, right?) but we'd like to think that Poker Boxing has a little life to it. Who do you think would take the title? Take a look at the list of all eight seasons of EPT winners by clicking on this link and feel free to leave your pick in the comments box below.

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ElkY has to be a good shout, right?

Tournament snapshot
Level 13: blinds 1,000-2,000, ante 300
Players: 180 of 745
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Rick Dacey
@PokerStars in Berlin