I have just stolen $4,850,000 from EPT Madrid final tablist Andrei Stoenescu. I don’t know how it happened. I’m making no excuses but things can happen to a man’s mind in the fog of war or, our version of it, the back end of a six-day poker tournament when you’ve been stuck in a hotel/casino/Starbucks loop.
Last night I spoke with Stoenescu just minutes before he knocked out Mike ‘Timex’ McDonald ending, yet again, hopes of that historic first EPT double champion. In interview the Romanian came across much as he does at the poker table, quietly confident. The 23-year-old seemed calm and centred, as if he had no doubt he deserved to be among the final nine, but it certainly didn’t come across as arrogance. We spoke briefly, just long enough to get the details for today’s final table profiles.
He’d chopped a Sunday major for $115,000, he plays $5/$10 up to $50/$100 cash games, his PokerStars name was ‘andr31123’, he wears a light grey leather jacket. I thanked him for his time and returned to the press room in time to see Stoenescu get it in with A♥K♥ against McDonald’s 10♦10♣. The Romanian flopped Broadway and McDonald bottom set. The board did not pair, Stoenescu rocketed into fourth while McDonald was sent to the rail just short of his fourth EPT final table.
Among the end of day wrapping, discussions on whether to take the 40-minute taxi ride to the EPT party (I didn’t, a first), I checked his username on a cash game tracking website curious to see how much he was up. Five million dollars.
Five million dollars? Down from a 2009 peak of nine million dollars? We’d thought of Stoenescu as a dark horse, but this was taking it to a new level. He was the hidden Viktor Blom, he’d had a winning day of $1,959,481 in August 2009 when he was just 20-years-old and a $1,560,127 downswing just three months later. It explained everything; the understated confidence, the expensive leather jacket, and the seen-it-all-before calm when he found himself flipping for a two million chip pot against one of the greatest EPT tournament champions for a spot at the final table. He was one of the biggest cash game players in the world and no-one had noticed.
Stoenescu may have been under the radar but I would pluck him out of obscurity, somewhat reminiscent of that somewhat self-conscious walk across the 2011 PCA tournament floor when Blom was finally unveiled to the world. I tucked it away, a tournament nest egg to crack into the following morning.
Overnight the fog of war began to clear. Nine million dollars up? That can’t be right. I searched out Stoenescu in the minutes leading up to the final table. He was talking to Frederik Jensen, one of the three players who started the day with more chips than he.
Errmm, can we just check something, Andrei. Were you ever $9,000,000 up in cash games?
“No, it’s wrong. I don’t think so,” said Stonesecu, a look of confusion on his face.
So you didn’t win $1,959,481 in August 2009?
“August 2009? I wasn’t even playing poker.”
I explained where we’d seen the information and he plucked out his smartphone to check. He logged in, typed in the same username that I had, ‘andr31123’, which showed that he was up a very credible $150,000 up. Not quite $5,000,000.
“I saw you wrote my username correctly on the blog. I only started playing cash games online more seriously in November. Nobody is up $9m,” said Stoenescu.
So you’re not some cash game wizard who has somehow remained unnoticed for the last five years? No. It was now pretty obvious he was not. I thanked him again for his time, hoping that I hadn’t spun him into a web of confusion just before the biggest final table of his life, and deflected things back onto more familiar footing with some default questions.
Stoenescu had wisely also skipped the party opting instead to spend some time on his computer talking to friends before getting his head down for a decent night’s sleep. He woke up in a winning frame of mind: “I was feeling pretty well this morning. I don’t have much experience but I’m pretty confident, also a little nervous because I really want to win. I would be the first Romanian (EPT champion) which would mean very much to me. I’m going for the title.”
I returned to the press room to check his name and seen where I’d gone so nosebleed wrong. I typed ‘andr31123’ into the search box again and for the second time it came up showing a peak of $9,000,000. This time I took in the backdrop of the chart which had a large capitalised ‘SAMPLE’ printed across it. Unlike Stoenescu, I had forgotten to log myself in. This, ladies and gentlemen, is why you should always fact check. If something seems out of place or somewhat unbelievable it’s because it usually is.
Level 26: blinds 20,000-40,000, ante 5,000
Players: 8 of 477
Average stack: 1,789,000
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