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EPT London: Tournament firsts

Stick around and you’ll see a lot of firsts at an EPT. In fact the London event last year marked the first female winner of an EPT when Vicky Coren took the honours here in her local casino. But there’s been nothing close to the sight of 150 poker players eating at the table simultaneously.

Like the canteen at school where kids must eat on demand, bowls of grub in various colours (selected earlier) are being chomped on as players check cards, pausing only to wipe their hands on their trousers. They seem happy to play on without a dinner break – the reason for this group feed on The Vic casino floor, but what happens if you’re eliminated before the food arrives remains unclear.

One player who managed to wipe his plate clean before heading for the rail was Ben Johnson.

Anyone looking to capture the true facial expression of defeat, that gut burning howl of having come so close need look no further than American Ben Johnson as the last hand played out at the EPT in Baden last year. In the shadows of the victorious Thang Nguyen who was busy leaping up and down in joy was Ben, his face in close-up on the TV monitors, who had just watched his EPT glory hopes vanish.

Cut to London nearly a year later where Johnson is back on the tournament trail. The poker pro from New York City now seems a little more relaxed, even in defeat, wandering over with a slight ‘ahh, you saw that?’ smile.

“Better now than on the bubble!” he said.

The story had been different earlier when he’d sat above average on the chip scale, winning one pot, then another after the break, telegraphing signs of run on the lead before the wires were suddenly cut.

“I went out with sevens against queens but I lost it all earlier with aces against kings. I went from 15k to 4,300.”

Now, with the prospect of dessert on the horizon, Johnson is out. Here with Supernova pal Yakov Hirsch who plays tomorrow, the two are on one of those buddy road trips, usually accompanied by a Joni Mitchell album that passes through London on the way to Baden where another run on the EPT will commence next week.

“At least I have more time to explore this great city now.”

After a few tourist suggestions, and the assurance of a pub on every corner, he was gone.

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