Mayu “marroca5” Roca is a man in demand. At the first break of the day I found myself third in line to interview the Colombian. This is unprecedented outside of winner interviews. The PokerNews video crew were lined to speak to him, then Spanish language reporting site Poker|Red. I’d perhaps dallied a little too long in the last few minutes of the first level of the day, but, come on, would you expect there to be a queue forming for Roca?
Maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising. Roca holds the chip lead with twelve players remaining (now ten) in the EPT Grand Final Main Event, which pays out €1.2m for first; the field is not saturated with bandstand names like it was last year; he’s a handsome and confident chap, which is always good for video interviews; he’s won a World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) title; he’s already number one on the Colomobian all-time money list; and he’s a player with $489,948 in live tournament winnings and has recorded more than $3.1m in online tournament cashes.
In all honesty, it looks like we should have tried to speak to him sooner. Playing under the name “marocca5”, Roca won his WCOOP title back in 2011 in $530 Stud hi-lo event. Okay, it’s not a blue ribbon event, but good form in mixed games tends to be an indication of a solid, well-rounded poker brain, which Roca has been demonstrating all week.
By the time both video interviews had taken place there was just six minutes left of the break so the interview took place en route to the bar, throughout banana ordering and eating, and even with a minor interruption from Leo Fernandez. The 27-year-old player lives in Bogotá, the Columbian capital, and told PokerStars Blog about the game in the South American country and how it’s developing.
“When I started to play a few years back it was kind of small,” said Roca. “The live poker community was very local, not many poker stars played online, and it was relatively small. But now it’s picking up. Many players are emerging and they’re just starting a couple of years ago and using all the poker tools that are available. It’s growing, it’s growing. A few years ago it wasn’t very technical or professional.”
It is a growing game in Colombia. If you were to take a look at the MicroMillions stats page then you could see that there were 6,834 Colombian entrants into the low buy-in series, a good indication of a growing swell of players joining the game. Of those, five made final tables and one took a title. Considering the enormous fields that play the MicroMillions, that’s not a bad showing from Team Colombia.
“The good players now mainly play online and now or then maybe there’s a good tournament twice or three times a year in Bogotá or Cartagena,” said Roca. “There’s also a couple of decent tournaments in Medellin. It’s picking up, you know. We’re rooting for poker to be considered a serious sport in Colmbia, a sports federation there. I think it’s going good. It’s evolving.”
Roca has a good shout at winning, or at least making the last few big money spots, and it could well make big waves in Colombia. Winning €1.2m is no mean feat.
“I definitely believe that I can win,” said Roca. “I feel very confident that I can win, but in terms of percentage I don’t know. I say being realistic, I don’t know, 25 percent at most. I couldn’t say that number too securely. I’ve been running good and playing good. If I come out second or third or wherever I just hope to be happy with how I played… Right now, I’m not thinking about any of that. I’m just playing a poker tournament and trying to win it with the chips I have. I look at that first prize and daydream about it, but I just concentrate on the tournament.”
Come tomorrow evening that daydream could well become a reality.
Click through to live updates, features and interviews from the EPT Grand Final Main Event and the EPT Grand Final Super High Roller. You can also check out all the EPT Grand Final side event results.
Rick Dacey is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.