Most EPT main event champions tend to return immediately to the felt. The chance to become not only the first double winner, but also a back-to-back champion, is usually too enticing to resist. Our last winner, on his home soil in Vilamoura, was the Portuguese businessman Antonio Matias, but something about the nature of his post-victory interviews always gave the impression that he might not be flying to Prague.
You may have read the story before, but it bears repeating. Matias had already spent a good half an hour in front of the various microphones, video cameras and notebooks of the waifs that pass for press in the poker world when his wife, standing patiently behind him, attempted to call off the inquisition. It wasn’t a near-the-knuckle line of questioning, it wasn’t that he was revealing anything embarrassing about the family. It was a simple matter of domestic order: “We must go now,” she whispered. “I have a rabbit in the oven.”
We can assume that right about now, Matias is happily tucking into a nice stew at home in Lisbon. (As expected, he didn’t come to Prague in December.) But a number of the players who also dazzled on the Algarve have made the trip, and some of them are faring very well indeed.
Matias only beat one man in Vilamoura, the Belgian player Pierre Neuville. He has become a fixture at the major poker tournaments of the world after retiring from a career in another kind of gaming: board gaming.
Neuville was a vice president of Hasbro for more than 20 years, but (re-)turned to poker when he quit, fulfilling a dream of being a card player that he had harboured since he was a teenager. Here in Prague, Neuville is sitting with about 80,000 tournament chips, still about 180,000 less than the real euro equivalent than he won in Portugal.
Fourth place in Vilamoura, and a cheque for €117,000, was snaffled by a young scamp named Jan Skampa – and there was always a higher than average chance he’s be at this week’s tournament. Skampa is an economics student right here in Prague, and has demonstrated such clinical poker acumen that it was always going to be considered good business for him to return to the felt.
As a local hope, Skampa has had a good few railbirds in this week’s tournament, and they’ve watched him amass more than 100,000 chips. Good show.
Tome Moreira actually first came to our attention in Warsaw, where he was the last remaining Portuguese player in Poland and earned about €15,000 for his troubles there. He was back in the action in Vilamoura and wound up with a back-to-back cash, taking €17,000 for 11th. But just checking his records, it seems there’s more to read in this particular Tome. He also made the money right here in Prague last year, a min-cash in 40th for €9,700.
Moreira, and his stack of more than 150,000, would be considered the chip daddy on his table if it wasn’t for Jude Ainsworth. The Irishman marked his debut in the colours of Team PokerStars Pro by running all the way to 13th in Vilamoura, worth €13,000 and change.
Today Ainsworth has more than 230,000, but he’s probably looking forward to next week even more than he is this. The inaugural event on the United Kingdom and Ireland Poker Tour (UKIPT) kicks off in Galway on December 11 at the very venue where Ainsworth won €145,000, and the title, in January 2008.