At any EPT there are usually one or two tables rocking with laughter, or hearty conversation at the very least. These tables don’t just magic themselves out of thin air, they’re based on what we reporters like to call an ‘instigator’ – a player that we can usually rely on to get a bit of action going. During a slow period of play you can hone in on one of these players knowing that you’re likely bag some material, either in terms of play or chat. An instigator provokes and prods, they laugh and pester, they raise and bluff. In other words, they’re a catalyst and, dare I say, fun to watch.
Any poker fan will know the likes of Daniel Negreanu, Tony G or Mike Matusow who would certainly fall within this category, or 1998 Main Event champion Scotty Nguyen who plays here in Deauville today, but to the trained eye there are many more who have graced the EPT felt; Roberto Romanello, Heinz Kamutzki, Ben Wilinofsky and Victor Ramdin. Others, if they are in the right mood, such as Giuseppe Pantaleo, can also weigh in.
Here in Deauville, however, play at the tables has been uncommonly quiet. Perhaps it’s due to the number of domestic players causing a schism between those that don’t speak French, those that don’t speak English and those that don’t seem to be able to speak at all. I went straight to source to find out.
Paul Berende is a gregarious Dutchman with $900,537 in live tournament winnings and is easy to spot, volume aside. If you see a tall guy from the Netherlands with a tight curly barnet that looks like it’s been treated to a healthy squirt of Soul Glo simply check if he has a beer in his hand. If so, you’ve found your man. He loves the stuff.
Berende is a regular fixture on the EPT, a PokerStars Blog approved ‘instigator’ and a decent player to boot. When he bust out of the Season 7 EPT grand final in 24th for €50,000 rather than drowning his sorrows or bleating about bad beats he instantly jumped into the €25,000 High Roller in an attempt to spin it up. And so he did. He finished fifth for €191,200. I think it’s safe to say, the kid likes action.
Berende had been playing a side event here yesterday on his day off where he’d been at the centre of a table loud with banter, celebratory high-fives and flashing of cards. Not so today, his table is silent.
“I don’t know if it’s just the French mentality of being quiet or it’s just the atmosphere here. I’ve been to Copenhagen a couple of times which is similar. They’re quite a sober people and not really open wide. Dutch people are a little more active,” Berende tried to explain to me at the break, felling any future ambitions to get on a European diversity board.
So, I asked, why do players such as yourself get so lively at the table? Is it just a social thing or are you trying to get something out of it in terms of the tournament?
“I’m doing it just to spend the time but also to get a small advantage. I had some guys to my left on day one who I was chatting with, just friendly chatting like ‘where you from?’, and they were really friendly to me. Suddenly they were showing me hands when they had it after I had folded. It was quite an advantage for me when they do that and I’m not under any obligation to do it as well,” said Berende, who currently sits on around 165,000.
Being the nice guy can pay. It’s not going to gift you aces or make you river more draws but in a game of tight edges each one should be valued. Berende agrees: “”I think it could be a benefit. If you have a bad image and people really want to bust you people are just going to move it in on you but this way you get more walks and your three-bets get respected more often.”
Either way should Berende still be in come Sunday when EPT Lite begins I’d suggest that he is a first choice to put in front of the fixed cameras when they start rolling.