Life, like poker, is sometimes all about good timing and knowing when to make your move. For Christoph Walkenhorst, a 35-year-old social worker from Germany, that move was made a little over a month ago.
“I hadn’t played online poker for some years, but in my home game my friends kept talking about online poker,” Walkenhorst tells PokerStars Blog the morning after he won one of the first Platinum Passes to the PokerStars Players No Limit Hold’em Championship (PSPC) 2020 (more on that in a moment).
“I told my friends that I have two kids, and therefore no time to play an eight-hour tournament online. And that’s when they told me about the Chase Your Dream freerolls.”
The Chase Your Dream competition began with online freerolls, and anyone who went deep enough was then invited to send in audition tape. The prize, they all thought, was the chance to come to EPT Barcelona and play in an invite-only tournament versus pros and celebrities, with a shot at winning €10,000.
That was all true. But there was a whole lot more at stake too.
Thankfully for Walkenhorst — who admits he hadn’t watched any poker in years until recently — he decided to play, and ended up finishing 15th.
“The next day I got an email from PokerStars inviting me to send an audition video,” he remembers. “I didn’t have a YouTube channel or anything, but I remembered my brother-in-law does and he makes private family videos that only we can see. So I took my son out for a walk and recorded a video.
“I said ‘Hey PokerStars, as you can see I have two kids and no time to play the Chase Your Dream tournament, maybe next time.’ They found it funny, they called me, I came to Barcelona, and now I’m coming back next year! Crazy.”
Out of hundreds of entries, Walkenhorst was selected as one of five qualifiers who would play against PokerStars Ambassadors Lex Veldhuis, Chris Moneymaker, and Fatima Moreira de Melo, as well as high stakes legend Patrik Antonius and UFC announcer Bruce Buffer. The two best performing qualifiers would then go through to a heads-up final where they would play for €10,000.
There was one catch: each qualifier only had 25 hands to win as many chips as they could.
“I don’t really remember the hands I got,” Walkenhorst says. “But I remember they weren’t the best. It didn’t matter though, it was just great to get to play with the pros. I really had a great, fantastic time during those 25 hands. It actually felt pretty quick. When they told us it was the last hand, I thought ‘what happened? I want to keep playing!'”
An unsuccessful bluff versus Chris Moneymaker cost Walkenhorst all of his chips in his very last hand, and he knew his chances of making it through to the final were now very slim. Nevertheless, Walkenhorst was still a very happy man.
“At the beginning some people said to me good luck, but I felt I was already lucky just being here. There was no reason to wish me luck as it was already one of the most exciting days of my life. It wasn’t that I didn’t care — as I would have loved to win the €10,000 — but that would have just been the icing on the cake. I was already lucky, now I’m beyond lucky.”
Whilst Walkenhorst’s poker playing was done, he stuck around and watched the others from the sideline. He admits to us that Patrik Antonius was the only player at the table he used to watch on TV, and…well, he was intimidating to say the least. Maybe not being as familiar with the other players helped him though?
“Maybe, yeah! But that was why I was terrified of Patrik Antonius, because he is the one I used to watch on TV and he really scared the hell out of me,” he laughs. “He got the best of me, but that’s OK.”
When the two qualifiers got through to the final, it was revealed that not only would they be playing for €10,000, the winner would also get the first Platinum Pass to the PSPC 2020.
A Platinum Pass is worth €26,466, and includes entry into the €22,500 PSPC 2020 event, plus hotel, spending money, and a whole lot of prestige. Despite not making it through, Walkenhorst hung around to congratulate the eventual winner, France’s Clement Eloy.
Then something amazing happened.
“When James Hartigan mentioned a consolation prize I thought it might be entry to a €500 tournament or something, and even just that would have been really amazing. So when he said it was a Platinum Pass…Oh my God,” Walkenhorst says.
He’ll now be back in Barcelona next year, taking part in what’s sure to be one of the biggest tournaments of all time.
Talk about good timing.
Has the PSPC 2020 announcement inspired you to start playing poker? Click here to open a PokerStars account.