ESPT6 Barcelona: November Nine just part of poker plan for Pierre Neuville
"It's just a paradise."
A smiling Pierre Neuville waves a hand as he speaks, indicating the throng of people -- hundreds -- filing out of the tournament area alongside of us. We walk toward the food station, a quick bowl of soup during the break being Neuville's immediate goal.
The amiable Belgian has other, longer-term goals at present, of course, including winning the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event. From a field of 6,420 players just nine remain, and Neuville is one of them. He'll be fourth in chips when play resumes in November.
At 72, Pierre Neuville is the oldest ever November Niner.
"You know, I'm surprised," he continues, not needing to be asked a question to share his thoughts.
"Yesterday I was in the satellite, and many people asked me -- ten times I got the question, even from the media: 'You are still playing a satellite? Why do you need to play a satellite?'"
Before this year's WSOP, one of Neuville's greatest claims to fame in poker had been his unique success at satelliting, earning the nickname "the serial qualifier" and in fact winning the EPT's Online Qualifier of the Year award in Season 8. He's also picked up a Lifetime Achievement Award at the European Poker Awards earlier this year in Malta.
"I found that a very strange question," he continues. "I said, 'of course, I love to play satellites.' But they say, 'noooo, you are November Nine!'"
For Neuville, making the November Nine hardly means he can now play less poker. Rather, it means he can play more.
"If I wasn't enjoying, I should stay home, eh?"
As he did in Las Vegas this summer, Neuville negotiated his way through another huge field here in Barcelona a year ago in the Estrellas Main Event, finishing 36th of 2,560.
"Today, it's the same thing," he goes on. "They say, 'Ah, you are not going to play Estrellas...!' And I say, 'Of course I am!'"
As the food line gets shorter, the conversation turns to how things have gone for Neuville so far today, and again his new status as a WSOP Main Event final tablist seems to be affecting how others are responding to his actions.
"At the table, I bluff two times. People say 'Why do you spend your time bluffing here in a small tournament?'" There's a pause. Then it comes -- the same punch line: "'You are November Nine!'"
But what they don't realize is, Neuville plays every tournament -- from the smallest satellite to the Estrellas to the WSOP Main Event -- with the same enthusiasm and passion. "Once I'm sitting in a poker tournament, I don't mind the buy-in," he says. "I just stay and try to play the best game I can. And enjoy it."
As if to further the point that Neuville can bluff as well here in Barcelona as he can when on poker's biggest stage, he shares the story of a memorable hand from the latter stages of the WSOP Main Event, one that happened when there were 36 players left.
Neuville opened a pot and was called from the blinds by 2014 WCOOP Main Event champion Fedor "CrownUpGuy" Holz. Then after the flop came eight-high Holz check-called a c-bet from Neuville. Both then checked a trey on the turn.
The river was a deuce, making it five small cards on the board. Holz led with a bet, and Neuville raised big.
"It took seven minutes!" remembered Neuville, shaking his head.
"He's very smart... I know that he's a good observer. Ten times he was taking his chips, just pushing and watching." He went on to detail further the extent of Holz's scrutiny of him.
"He was looking for something, some difference," explains Neuville. "Joy of folding... or fear of calling."
Finally Holz let his hand go -- an overpair of nines, Neuville explained. That's when Neuville showed his unimproved ace-king, earning a huge laughing response from the table.
"I thought he won't believe I put my tournament at risk on this hand," he adds, noting as well how partly because Holz folded rather than called, Holz would finish 25th while Neuville's WSOP Main Event run continues.
"It goes a lot different," he concludes, referring to the non-occurrence of Holz calling.
At last at the front of the line, Neuville orders his soup, then turns his attention back to longer term goals.
"My dream is just to be able to play another 20 years," he laughs, then looks back around at the crowd of people around us.
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Martin Harris is Freelance Contributor to the PokerStars Blog.