If you were to stand them next to each other there’s not much Jean-Noel Thorel and Thomas Butzhammer really have in common.
Butzhammer is of that young breed of high roller. He wears track pants, trainers, a t-shirt and a hoodie. As far as uniforms go this is standard issue, clothes that take minimal preparation other than to pick them up from where they were left the night before. It allows maximum comfort, and for maximum attention towards to be directed at the real task at hand. The man lives poker. For the same reason he is unshaven.
Then you have Thorel, a distinguished man of the third age who created a massively successful pharmaceutical company, who is the opposite. Clean shaven, neat and tidy, wearing a crisp t-shirt and pale blue slacks. The man glows with life, and you sense the Adidas cap he wears is the same one he wears when jogging each morning. He has a cardigan on the back of his chair, a practical wardrobe accessory given that’s its freezing outside.
The contrast in appearance was not the only difference between them. For while Thorel plays on, Butzhammer just became the unlikely eighth place finisher.
Thorel didn’t send him to the rail, but he did take part in the hand that Butzhammer was still seething from as he waited at the pay-out desk, preferring not to answer questions about it.
Thorel had opened from the button for 75,000, which Butzhammer called from the big blind. The flop came four-five-nine with two hearts. Thorel had paired his jack-nine. Butzhammer was looking at queen-jack of hearts and a flush draw.
He checked the flop. Then he called Thorel’s bet of 100,000 when an ace landed on the turn. Butzhammer now bet 225,000 and looked over at Thorel. The Frenchman sits low in his chair, his arms arching over his chips. He makes deliberate movements with his hands, as if trying to complete a jigsaw in record time. No energy wasted, he made a calculation and decided to call.
Thomas Butzhammer (far right) with Thorel at the far end of the table
A ten landed on the river. Butzhammer thought, and then checked. Thorel checked behind him. The German showed his hand and then Thorel did the same. The effect seemed to shatter Butzhammer’s spirit. He picked up his cards again so he could toss them back onto the table with more force this time. Then he turned and kicked a chair, making his way out of the room as the break began.
He would be out a few hands later, still coming to terms with that had happened.
“Difficult to call, huh?” said Thorel as he stacked up Butzhammer’s chips. Then he laughed. It might be a while before Butzhammer does the same.
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Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.