Copenhagen: playground of the rich
Children should not play poker. But it would help if the casinos didn’t turn their poker rooms into playgrounds. There were more see-saws, yo-yos, slides, swings and roundabouts on the final table of EPT Copenhagen than in all the Toys R Us warehouses around the world. I, like the eight players, the eight hundred spectators, and the millions who will watch this television broadcast, am dizzy.
Let’s begin at the beginning, back when this classroom of eight went on an excursion to Casino Copenhagen to read, work and study their way to the top; before, in short, this high-stakes poker tournament became a ten-hour long recess.
Johan Bergquist, from Sweden, was carrying the lightest backpack, just 47,500 in chips weighing him down. He would have to take a stand against the bullies if he wanted to keep it and, wow, first round of the table he picks up aces, gets the chips in, gets the call he wants and doubles up. Can the poor boy make good?
Answer: no. He’s still got to be crafty, stay on his toes and pick his way through the schoolyard, punching and running. His re-raise of Mads Anderson was a fine blow, but he runs right into Anina Gundesen, who’s kings are like two head-masters, sending this ace-knave to the bottom of the class. He took 238,879 Kr, so can still probably give up the paper round.
Then there’s Shek. That’s Shek Chi Hung to those he has never met, the most senior member at the table. He owns a restaurant in Copenhagen having moved here 30 years ago from Hong Kong – and he is also riding the fastest bike in the neighbourhood. “RRR-aise, RRR-aise, RRR-aise,” it goes. But Shek suddenly discovered that there’s always someone with a fatter cigar and a faster car and Philip Hilm’s two jacks were all over Shek’s jack-ten. He departed in seventh, earning 318,505 Kr.
It was round about this point that Mads Andersen found his way to the slide. He sat on top, smiled a cheeky smile, and slid downwards fast, chips spraying from his pockets. Philip Hilm gathered a load when he turned a full house against the chip-leader from Denmark, then Edgar Skjervold, “radge” to his friends, grabbed a bunch with sixes in the hole.
Quietly biding his time amid this carnage was Markus Gonsalves from San Diego. He’d never been shy of joining the ruck before, but his card-shaped helper had deserted him, forcing him to move in with ace-seven. Philip’s gang is bigger – he has ace-queen – but soon there’s reinforcements for Markus and his seven finds its twin to keep him alive.
The see-saw now began to rock. Mads Andersen came to the final table with more than a million in chips and was the only player trusted with the orange ones, worth 10,000 apiece. Each one of those represented the buy-in of each player in this tournament, but when they started appearing in the stack of first Philip Hilm and then Marc Naalden, it was easy to see that Mads didn’t have quite the stranglehold it had once seemed.
Anina Gundesen wanted some. By this point, with six players remaining, she was already guaranteed to be the highest placed female finisher on the EPT, bettering Xuyen Pham’s seventh in Dublin in season one. Her name was going on the honours board, her legend in the yearbook. But when she took a glance at a flop of king-jack-nine, knowing she had matched that jack in the hole, she’d been trapped by Philip and his two kings. The orange chips were staying with Hilm and Anina was out, the PokerStars qualifier taking 398,131 Kr for her troubles.
Marc Naalden had been quiet, concentrated and studious. But as any mother will tell you, it’s the quiet ones you have to watch and he soon came leaping on to the merry-go-round. He pickpocketed a couple of those orange chips from Mads and had his eye on whatever Markus had left. But as Markus was fearing the man to his right, it was Philip Hilm who sneaked up and busted the second PokerStars qualifier. Philip had sixes in the hole and Markus’s ace-nine was not enough.
Then things began to get very foolish indeed. The roundabout span, the see-saw see-sawed and the four remaining stacks were tied to yo-yo strings. Marc leads, Mads leads, Philip leads. No one able to take to the front and stay there for long. Then Mads, for so long the fulcrum of all this swaying, clicks into gear. He does some good, old-fashioned pushing and shoving, distracting us all from the real battle that will then emerge. Marc, the chess player from Holland, spies a check-mate move when Philip moves in on the button. Marc calls with ace-seven and it’s good. Philip takes his leave.
Edgar Skjervold had stayed out of most of the massive skirmishes, but had also found himself up and down, peer pressure forcing him to follow the prevailing trends. He soon found his own crazed voice, however, when he was all in twice in quick succession. The first time his nine-seven cracked jacks, the second time his ace-queen was good enough for another double through. The Norseman was now ahead.
The next to fall off the swing was Marc. Mads took care of him, first with pocket queens and then with nine-ten, that eventually became a flush. We were heads up between Edgar and Mads. Over in a flash? Not on your life.
This was one of those epic heads-up matches, the see-saw now loosed from its moorings, catapulting children high into the stratosphere, before seeing them plummet back down to earth. Edgar takes the first sizeable leap skyward, when a five on the turn gives his ace-five the edge over Mads’s ace-queen. But he’s on the deck a moment later, when Mad’s ten-queen outdraws his king-jack. And we go on.
The final table was ten hours long at this point. That’s the longest in EPT history. The players are feeling the strain and the edge is all the spectators know of their seats. Their fingernails are nothing, however, compared to those of the organisers: the casino is obliged to close in half an hour. Will we really have to take this into the street?
No, thankfully not. The chip stacks are a little in favour of Mads when a pre-flop raising battle commences. No one is going anywhere and they get all the chips in, nearly three million, before the flop. Mads has ace-queen, Edgar ace-ten and, for once, the best hand holds up. It’s all over, the marathon has been run.
First to break the tape was Mads Andersen, the local boy, and it was one long, long, thoroughly entertaining race.