Saturday, 24th February 2024 16:42
Home / Poker / Top distance runner Rafał Gontarczyk sprints to EPT Paris for just €22

WARNING: You probably shouldn’t try this at home. PokerStars Blog is not responsible for any injuries sustained by readers attempting to run as fast as Rafał Gontarczyk. 

With that out of the way, here’s a challenge for you.

The next time you hit the treadmill, crank that thing up to 12.5 miles per hour and see how long you can last. 

If you’re somehow still going after 14 minutes and 51 seconds, you’ll have just run 5km (3.1 miles) and equalled Rafał Gontarczyk’s personal best.

That’s no small feat. Gontarczyk is regularly a Top 20 distance runner in the Polish National Championships and recorded the breakneck pace in 2023. He’s been running competitively since he was 15, pounding pavement around his home city of Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski, where he lives to this day. 

Gontarczyk took an eight-year break from 2011-2019 but returned to competition in 2019 and has seen his times improve exponentially, as well as his poker game. 

“When I started to run again my poker results went up because I feel good and fresh in my mind after running,” he says. 

On Christmas Eve, Gontarczyk ran his usual 10-15km daily distance and then settled in for dinner with his family. Afterwards, while most of us would be gently slipping into our food comas, the 34-year-old late-registered for a €22 hyper satellite for the European Poker Tour (EPT) stop in Paris.

It was his first qualifying attempt, and one attempt was all it took. He booked his way to EPT Paris and will be battling in the €5,300 Main Event in February.


With more than $100K in live earnings, Paris won’t be Rafał Gontarczyk’s first live poker rodeo.

Gontarczyk was introduced to the game while living in a student house. He was studying physiotherapy at the Academy of Physical Education in Wrocław and by his third year, he was making enough playing online that he turned pro.

PLO cash games were and remain his bread and butter. Behind his PokerStars screenname “gonti89” he regularly battles on the $1K tables and also dabbles in the $5K and $10K PLO games. 

Tournaments are something he only plays online occasionally, but he loves travelling to live festivals and improving his no limit hold’em MTT game is one of his biggest goals.

“I also hope to maintain my level in PLO,” he says. “It’s sometimes tough to keep your form and play your A-game. It’s often possible that you won’t win money, and that’s not an easy job sometimes. But you must keep calm and relax your mind to be a good player.”

That’s why Rafał Gontarczyk will often be found going for a run during the 75-minute dinner breaks at live poker events. It clears his mind and allows him to focus.

It worked for him on Christmas Eve. Now he’s hoping it will work for him in the EPT Paris Main Event.

“My dream is to win the tournament,” he says. “Everything is in the mind and your score sometimes reflects just how much you want that.”


EPT Paris coverage hub
City guide: Where to play poker in Paris
Christmas Eve Power Path win sends taxi driver to EPT Paris
Official EPT Paris site

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