There was a time when PokerStars qualifiers, or any breed of qualifier for that matter, matched a certain profile. Usually male, they were aged between 18 and 22, were studying something at university and had no facial hair. Sent up against the experienced pros of European poker some would flourish, some would cash well and a few more would score big, but most would bust, having had a harsh lesson in poker reality.
That age didn’t really last that long.
Soon the guys (and gals) from the internet were among the most feared players on the live circuit and to have qualified for an event like this simply meant you paid a lot less for your seat than the old time pro who busted you back in your first live tournament. Take Deeb as your example, or Annette_15, ElkY and Zigmund.
But while all PokerStars qualifiers now have the necessary skills to fight hand to hand in an environment like this they must still go through that first EPT experience, that first day 1a, and do it alone. For Christophe Schmeyer, from near Bremen in Germany, that day is today. Well almost. He’s not alone. He’s brought his mum.
Schmeyer was among the first to arrive in the tournament room this morning along with mum Pia, here to see for herself just what all the fuss is about and snapping a few photos for the family album. Christophe, a good son, dutifully posed in front of the appropriate backdrops and she looked proud to be watching him take those first EPT steps. So, I asked, is he a good player?
“He’s good,” she shrugged. “He’s my son, so he’s good,” nailing in one line the thoughts of poker parents everywhere.
It’s a sharp learning curve for the 22 year old who’s been playing for fun for four years and studies civil engineering in Bremen. His seat here came thanks to a successful 10,000 FPP satellite which came thanks to a successful 500 FPP satellite prior to that. It all amounted to a €5,000 buy-in seat and a week at the Hilton.
Schmeyer watched from the rail as his rivals trickled in around noon. Shaun Deeb walked past, here for another crack at live poker vindication (as if the online legend needed it) and a few others too, each stopping to chat to friends not seen since Vilamoura, or Warsaw.
Schmeyer did the same, without the chatting, taking his seat alongside Manuel Bevand, one of a crack bunch of a French attack pros like Levi, Lellouche and Lacay. Mother Schmeyer took a few last photos before retreating to the rope line, leaving him at the school gate to fill in waiver forms and fiddle with 30k worth of chips.
Schmeyer got off to a gentle start. Around him the Italian influx, now standard on the tour but never more so than in Prague (outside of San Remo that is), were already deeply involved. Two were all in and calling a table away, splitting a pot when both showed a nine. It’s the C5 Sicilian defence – an attack first, count chips later strategy that last year got three of them into the last five.
Schmeyer on the other hand played in a more considered fashion at the start, easing into the game. Nothing flash as far as I could tell, loitering around his table. Approaching from a different direction I watched him win a hand off Bevand, restoring his stack to around the jump off point. But it would be Schmeyer in trouble soon enough.
Russian Anton Kashuba, another PokerStars qualifier, also fitted the standard description: young, clean shaven (if there was any facial hair there to shave in the first place) school boy looks, but with the instincts of a thief.
It was those same instincts that would send Schmeyer to the rail. On a king high board deep into level two, Schmeyer held ace-king but didn’t count on Kashuba holding pocket kings. Oh well, Schmeyer out.
There’s always next time.