If you follow the results of big PokerStars tournaments and series long enough, you’ll notice a certain kind of player’s screen name pop up time and again. This player never seems to take down the big title but is in contention often enough that it seems like an eventual victory is just a matter of time. And if you keep following the results long enough, every now and then you’ll see one of them do just that.
Nick Lampropoulos is one of those players. The 31-year-old from Greece, now residing in Cyprus, has been playing professionally for eight years as “justnl2” on PokerStars. Now married with a three-year-old son, he says he wants to play for at least a few more years before investing some of his winnings into another pursuit.
His bread and butter has always been pot-limit Omaha Zoom cash games. He has logged about three million hands at those tables over the years, “usually PLO500 through to PLO5000,” he told the PokerStars Blog by email this week. He also plays most of the medium- and high-tier hold’em and Omaha events during SCOOP and WCOOP, and he’s been known to play big weekly events, too.
There have been plenty of tournament wins over the years, of course. None came in the glare of the spotlight, but there were close calls. He has appeared at the final table of both the Sunday Million and Super Tuesday, and he had a near-miss during TCOOP as well before finishing fifth behind eventual champion Niklas “Lena900” Åstedt in a 2018 WCOOP 6-max PLO tourney.
Last week Lampropoulos finally earned the breakthrough win he’d been waiting for when he conquered SCOOP Event #5-H, a $2,100 6-max PLO tournament, for a career-best $115,417 prize. To get there he had to maneuver past WCOOP High Roller winner Patrick “prepstyle71” Serda and defeat 2017 SCOOP Main Event Medium champ “ROFLshove.”
The journey to get there was, in his words, “a sick run.” He sat in the top five of the chip counts from the early stages of the tournament all the way until Day 1 was over. In first place when the money bubble popped, he leveraged his big stack to finish out the day in the same position where he’d been throughout it. The trend continued into Day 2, but one look at the quality of the competition kept any danger of overconfidence at bay.
“I noticed that the field was full of well-known and very good regulars who play at the highest-limit cash games, so it would not be easy,” he said. “I remember that when there were 12 players left in the tournament I had a very lucky table draw. I managed to avoid three very good regulars who left the event while I was still the chip leader with a huge lead over second place.”
Lampropoulos still had the lead with 70 big blinds as the final table began, which was enough to help him advance to heads-up play. There he found his biggest challenge yet in “ROFLshove.”
“It was really strange for me,” he said. “The guy there was unknown to me and not too tough at the 6-max final table, but maybe he had more experience than me in a heads-up format. A scheduled break during the battle helped me to think for a while and adapt my strategy, and eventually everything was positive for me.”
“It was the largest cash in my online career,” Lampropoulos said. “I had a very big downswing at the start of the year, so it has helped me to recover. Of course, I celebrated after the end of the tournament, but in a calm way — everyone was asleep at home!”
It was a satisfying moment for a man who admits he doesn’t take it easy on himself.
“Obviously the primary goal when playing poker is winning money and this is the most important thing,” he said, “but personally I like to set tough targets and when I [accomplish one] I feel pretty good and proud of myself. The sick part of playing tournaments is that whatever prize you get, you are unhappy unless you get first place. That’s the difference for me in cash games. So I am very happy to have won a SCOOP title!”
The timing of the win was good, too, because Lampropoulos can see an end in sight.
“I definitely want to keep playing poker for the next three years at least,” he said. “At the same time I will try to invest some of my capital in some other activity because we cannot play poker forever! I think nowadays poker is evolving very fast. In order to continue to be profitable you must also evolve, and it is quite difficult to manage to do that after 35 years of age.”
Maybe he’ll feel differently when he gets there. Maybe there will be more wins in the spotlight between now and then. If not, there will be future pursuits — plus the lingering satisfaction from winning a SCOOP championship.