Dortmund doesn’t necessarily make it onto many travel itineraries. Various other attractions of central Europe usually steal the limelight from this part of the Ruhr region, perhaps cruelly as anyone who has taken a wander through the forests and over the hills outside of Casino Hohensyburg will attest.

But one American traveller has made this part of Germany his first stopping point in Europe, and he seems mighty glad he did. The 21-year-old PokerStars qualifier Matthew Sharkey navigated his way through day 1a with 19,600 chips. And within the first orbit of day two, he has doubled that, finding aces at the same time that Jan Heitmann found kings.

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Matthew Sharkey

That is a dream start to any day, let alone when you’re playing your first-ever live tournament with a buy-in of more than $200, and when you’ve flown half-way across the world to do so. That, though, wasn’t the half of it. Sharkey’s plane from Michigan — where he is studying at a community college in Flint — was cancelled, necessitating a four-hour drive to Chicago for a replacement to get here on time.

The commitment paid off, however, and Sharkey is enjoying everything about his experience here. During the opening day, he chipped up to a high of about 34,000, before “trying to pull a little squeeze” sometime close to the end that didn’t quite come off. Still, he had enough chips to be able to enjoy his day off, which he spent exploring downtown Dortmund, sampling some local food, buying a jersey of the local soccer team, Borussia, and hanging out with his father, Blaise, who flew over from Arkansas to support him from the rail.

All of this exploration and entertainment cost Sharkey about $150, which was his total investment into a couple of step two qualification tournaments on PokerStars. After making a fairly trouble-free passage through to step six, he chose to contest a Dortmund qualifier as the tournament coincided with spring break from college.

Stephen “stevie444” Chidwick, the qualifier extraordinaire, was one of the sharks circling in that final sit and go, but this time it was the Sharkey from the United States who lived up to his name and won the seat. Long may he continue to occupy it.

Stay tuned for a video blog with Sharkey. That is in the editing suite as I type.

Click here for the prize payouts.

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