A few players scooting off for their one-hour break contemplated heading outside for some vitamin D. That’s the one true benefit of taking dinner breaks right around the time of afternoon tea.
But as they pressed the bar on the heavy fire-door to the yard out back, they were confronted by something very weird. Water was falling from the sky.
“It’s raining,” Hossein Ensan said. He recognised this phenomenon from back in Europe. Garry Gates, now a Las Vegas resident, pressed the bar on the door anyway. “Oh,” he said and scurried back inside.
Ensan loitered close to the door and tugged on an e-cigarette, scarcely able to disguise the smile on his face. As they went on the break, he was sitting second in the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event, with 43.725 million chips. That’s more than 100 big blinds in the biggest event of the year, with now only 24 people left.
“I’m having fun,” he said. “I play poker just for the fun. The money is nice, but it is fun.”
Ensan is perhaps not that well known here in Las Vegas, but we’ve encountered him many times on the European Poker Tour (EPT). None of us could miss him when he claimed the biggest win of his career at EPT Prague in 2015. He won €754,510 for that, which is around $850,000, and he can beat that if he makes the final table here. Ninth place will pay $1 million.
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The Prague success came from his third EPT final table, a record matched by very few on Europe’s premier poker tour. There are around 28 people with three final table appearances on the EPT, but Ensan’s record is most remarkable because he didn’t make his first until Season 11, when fields were enormous and enormously tough. He He also came third in Barcelona in 2014, worth €652,667, and sixth in Malta less than a year later.
“EPT is harder,” Ensan said, when asked to compare the relative difficulties of the WSOP Main Event alongside his regular stomping ground. He was quick to add that things are getting significantly more difficult now, however, and to point to all the other things that need to combine for a deep run.
“You need luck, the cards,” he said. “And the skill.” He then paused and added: “And the balls.”
Ensan has long demonstrated possession of all of it, and there’s absolutely no doubt he is a genuine contender in this Main Event. If he makes it to the last nine, he will become the first ever EPT champion to then make a WSOP Main Event final table.
The only player ever to win an EPT and finish higher in this tournament is John Shipley, but he did it the other way round. Shipley finished seventh at the WSOP in 2002, two years before he then went on to win the inaugural EPT London. (He got $125,000 in Vegas and around $350,000 for winning in London.)
At present, Frederik Jensen’s 12th place last year represents the deepest run by an EPT champion in the Main Event. If he was interested in meaningless stats, that’s the target Ensan would have in his sights. But one strongly suspects Ensan is aiming even higher.
WSOP photography by PokerPhotoArchive