Table one, seat one usually holds no particular significance in poker tournaments beyond its occupant featuring top of the table draw printouts. But today that seat is occupied by Michael Berry, who should be feeling accustomed to that lofty feeling.
In the past couple of months, Berry beat a total field of 5,771 players to win the recent Mirror EPT Challenge, a freeroll tournament run on PokerStars in conjunction with the Daily Mirror newspaper. Readers were invited to find a password on the Mirror website then log onto PokerStars and play a series of events. All those many thousands took up the offer, 290 got through to the final and Berry took the first prize: a seat and hotel package to EPT London worth something like $12,000.
Indeed it can. He finished day one with 43,000, which was below the average stack, but bagged up last night with 324,000.
Berry is not a professional player, but he’s not a novice either. He’s had a few decent results both online and off, and plays “all the time,” he says. Born in Kent, Berry lived in Munich as a child and then came back to study at Manchester university, before settling in Rotherham.
As an ex-student, he has clearly learned the value of note-taking and said that yesterday he wrote down something like “Don’t get over the top on top pair” having noticed that some players were over-playing that particular holding. Berry himself didn’t do so, but he won a huge pot earlier in the day when an opponent did: Berry’s pocket pair of jacks held up on a ten-high board against Jean Montury’s ace-ten. That doubled Berry up and put him in his dominant position here.
So the freeroll continues. At the start of the tournament, he was taking it one hand at a time and not even daring to think of making the money. Now he’s actually cashed, it’s all about how much. We will watch and find out over the coming day and more.