WSOP 2017: Comfortable and confident, ElkY takes a seat
He's easy enough to spot, even when standing amid a crowd of other players. See, there he is... right over there. Like a curiously-placed capital Y.
Of course, this summer Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier has gotten perhaps a even more attention than in past years at the WSOP, given how his series started.
Grospellier arrived as the today's first break began. When Level 2 began he found himself on one of the secondary feature tables, sitting right beside Mike "Tîmex" McDonald -- the only player at the table and one of the few in the field who has won as much in tournaments as ElkY. In fact, they're uncannily close, with McDonald's just under $13.3 million and right behind Grospellier's almost $13.4 million.
Just before taking that seat, ElkY sat down in a more relaxing one in the King's Casino high-stakes cash game area, a partitioned-off corner of the busy Pavilion ballroom. An appropriate place, in a way, as a little over a year ago the Frenchman moved from his longtime home in London to Prague, home of King's.
As you probably heard, his WSOP started in grand fashion with a runner-up finish to Doug Polk in the $111,111 High Roller for One Drop, good for an enormous $2,278,657 cash. That eclipsed even the $2 million ElkY earned back in 2008 for winning the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event, his previous career-high score.
"It was a really, really great feeling," said Grospellier with a grin. "It's the biggest tournament of the year, besides the Main Event, and a super tough field. I was fortunate to do well and stay focused."
Finishing second to Polk -- who is today offering commentary on the live stream -- was a little disappointing, for sure, in part because as Grospellier explains they'd begun heads-up play relatively close chip-wise, but Polk took a huge pot off him in the very first hand to gain the momentum and chip edge.
But it was still plenty satisfying, even just missing the huge first prize and a second career WSOP bracelet. After all, this business of being satisfied or disappointed -- it's all relative, as ElkY well knows.
"If I had busted in sixth or seventh, that would have been really disappointing. In fact I almost went out in fifth -- there was a huge spot where I had ace-king against deuces."
He refers to a tense hand between himself and Chris Moore, one that saw Moore open-shove with a pair of ducks, Grospellier call for not much more with Big Slick, then the board getting all of the way to the river before an ace arrived to stop Moore in fifth and position ElkY to go further.
"It was a great confidence boost... a perfect way to start the series."
Grospellier's previous two cashes also came after deep runs in PokerStars Championship Main Events -- a 13th-place finish in Monaco (in April), then a 12th-place showing in Sochi (in May).
Any special reason for the relative renaissance in tournaments?
"It's not like one single thing that has been different," he explained. "I have been playing more live events lately, so of course when you play a higher volume it's much easier to get results."
"But when you make a deep run, you get more confidence. There are many different factors -- being confident, running a bit better as well -- that all help. It's not like there's one magic thing that changed."
The run actually extends back even further back through late last year, though prior to the spring several of Grospellier's deep runs in both super high rollers and high rollers had ended on bubbles or with small cashes.
Perhaps the move to Prague -- coinciding with more live tournament play -- has helped as well.
"It's a great city... I think it's a perfect fit," he says. "It's perfectly located in Europe, and there are lots of events there, too, like WSOP Europe and the PokerStars Championship. I still love London, but sometimes there are just too many people and too much going on, and everyone's a lot more stressed out than they are in Prague."
Speaking of lots of people and a ton going on, the break was about to end, and like thousands of others Grospellier was soon making his way through the packed Rio hallway to the Brasilia and his assigned seat.
Even seated next to McDonald, though, Grospellier seems relaxed. Confident. Perhaps ready to end the summer where he began it, finding himself yet another seat late in another big tournament.
WSOP photos by PokerPhotoArchive.com.