EPT final tables don’t usually last 13 hours. When they do there’s usually something memorable to talk about, even if it’s just a rush hour taxi ride to catch a plane home on 45 minutes sleep, while typing an end of day report and brushing your teeth.
When the final table began in Barcelona 12 months ago it was the content of the field that we assumed would be recalled most easily.
For a start there were four Spaniards in the running, included Juan Perez, the talented Raul Mestre and Thomeu Gomila, who had played faultlessly on his way to the last day. Surely one of them could chalk up a first win for the home nation?
Dragan Kostic would eventually finish second, surprising everyone, mainly himself. His finish was even better than that of the masterful Eugene Katchalov whose third place not only cheated him of a Triple Crown, but the watching audience of seeing the best player lift the trophy.
That left Martin Schleich, a quiet German from Munich, who like the rest of us had a flight to catch as the sun was coming up. First though he had to win the tournament. But as the hours ticked by, and fatigue kicked in, this proved harder and harder. Then the crowd got restless.
Martin Schleich: Taxi and luggage just out of shot
That mob were not exactly orthodox. Usually crowds fade away as players bust, leaving only the friends of those remaining. The thing was Schleich didn’t really have any friends, or at least not in Barcelona at the time. But having taken drink, some German customers arrived from the bar to lend vocal help to their countryman.
Heineken actually does make poker fans…
They did this with faultless dedication and if Schleich had felt alone before he could now bask in a massive chorus of rented worship. But at 3am even that had run its course. After Schleich’s name had been soccer-chanted along the halls of Casino Barcelona, the mood turned to weariness.
“Martin! It is enough!” cried one of his gang; the first sign that even their resolve was crumbling. Finally inspired, Schleich wrapped things up.
With the big hand on four A.M. the TV crew did their utmost to avoid a second take, urging Schleich to give them everything he had for the photos and winners interview, which he kept brief. Some champions bask in the attention while others can’t quite grasp what the fuss is about. Schleich was among the latter, already on his way to the airport, presumably with a briefcase of cash under his arm, while his new friends were still chanting his name.