The received wisdom these days is that poker is a young man’s game. It’s wrong on so many levels, though, with the objections of Vicky Coren-Mitchell, Vanessa Selbst and Liv Boeree, among others, just the start of it.
Antonio Buonanno might also have something to say. The 47-year-old Italian was the last man standing at the end of EPT Season 10, holding off the challenge of 650 players to win the EPT Grand Final in Monaco and €1,240,000. Many of the vanquished were less than half his age.
It might be true that every season we see a fresh batch of 18-year-olds emerging on the live tournament scene, fully rounded and brilliant, but it doesn’t mean that the old guard just fall off the end of the earth. Poker players can actually stay sharp long past the age that they qualify for free public transport and there are plenty of exceptionally talented older folk still plying their trade at the highest level on the European Poker Tour.
This season, organisers have bowed to public demand and introduced seniors events for players aged 50 and older. The first such tournament started yesterday in Barcelona, a gentle warm-up costing €200. Then the price went up not long after for a second seniors tournament: 78 players put up €1,000 for the seniors’ “main event”.
The final table played out today, where the last nine contested a first prize of €20,800. And there were some familiar faces among them, including Michel Abecassis, who has made an EPT main event final table, Fernando Brito, a former EPT Player of the Year, and Jacques Zaicik, whose first came to our attention at the 2007 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. Zaicik made it all the way to 12th (from 1,136) in that event and then watched as his friend Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier won the whole shebang.
Abecassis perished in ninth today, and Zaicik went out in third. That left Brito heads up with Plamen Stavrev, from Bulgaria, and it was a keenly fought contest between those two. With a three-to-one chip lead, Brito thought the trophy was his when he picked off a Stavrev shove holding 5♦5♠. Stavrev had K♦5♥.
The board was blank all the way until the end, when the K♠ popped up. “Nice river,” Brito said. Stavrev winked back — and then went on a heater to wrap things up about ten minutes later, leaving Brito, who has won five side events at past EPT festivals, trophy-less this time.
Seniors events will likely feature at every EPT stop this season and one suspects numbers will increase steadily.
EPT11 Barcelona Seniors Event
Buy in: €1,000+€100
1 Plamen Stavrev, Bulgaria, €20,800
2 Fernando Brito, Portugal, €14,780
3 Jacques Zaicik, France, € 9,700
4 Nadir Yusupov, Russia, € 7,450
5 George McKeever, UK, € 5,900
6 Paolo Capezzone, Italy, € 4,620
7 Anibal Figgueiredo, Portugal, € 3,630
8 Dariusz Paszkiewicz, Poland, € 2,850
9 Michel Abecassis, France, € 2,150
10 Elias Moukawem, Lebanon, € 1,890
11 Ulf Hakan Delin, Sweden, € 1,890