Sunday, April 20, 2014

Why Team PokerStars Pro Vicky Coren Mitchell's Second European Poker Tour Win is Monumental for Poker World

Less than an hour ago I watched Victoria Coren Mitchell, who was the first woman to ever win an European Poker Tour when she took down the London stop back in Season 3, win the EPT Sanremo Main Event for €476,100. I’ve covered hundreds of tournaments, and never have I felt compelled to write about it immediately after. This one was different. This one was history.

The atmosphere here in the Casino is absolutely electric. This was not just a big win for Coren, but for poker as a whole. In ten seasons dating back to dating back to 2004 there has never been a player to win two EPT Main Event titles. That meant there were 97 different winners heading into Sanremo. Next week’s Grand Final would have been 99, and then the Season 11 opener in Barcelona would have marked 100. PokerStars no doubt had big plans for that stop (“100 winners in 100 stops”), and while those plans getting disrupted may disappoint their marketing department, they got a massive PR boost this night. Not only will they benefit, but the entire poker world will too.

Imagine if you will that Mats Gavatin, Christophe Benzimra, or Vadzim Kursevich had become the first two-time champion? It’d have been cool, but would you have really cared? I know I wouldn’t have. Instead, it was a member of the Team PokerStars Pro family. Not only that, it was a woman, who happened to overcome being the short stack at the start of the final table. Furthermore, it was a short-stacked woman famous in the United Kingdom for being a writer and presenter (according to Wikipedia she writes weekly columns for The Observer and The Guardian and hosts the BBC Four television quiz show Only Connect) who happens to be married to famous actor and comedian David Mitchell. To top it all off, she has 233K Twitter followers.

I'm not going to say that her win is going to inspire a Moneymaker-like boom, because it's not, but in a time when poker headlines have been dominated by cheating scandals, indictments, and other mudslinging antics, it's nice to see a positive story of this magnitude.

Twitter was going wild when she won. Tomorrow the newspapers in the UK will run with the story. Believe me when I say this win will be celebrated and remembered throughout Europe, and it will help bring new players into the game. This may not be a big story for those in United States, but poker isn’t restricted to one area of the world. I could write a little more on what's transpired tonight, but there's some celebrating to do with everyone in Sanremo!

Side note, I actually interviewed Coren on Day 1 of the tournament, which you can listen to here:

Congratulations to Victoria Coren Mitchell! It was a job well done, and I am honored to have been there. I can’t think of anyone who will do the honor more justice than you.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Segways, Hitler’s Perch, and Austrian Rum in Vienna

When I saw that the European Poker Tour (EPT) was returning to Vienna, Austria for just the third time in its history, I immediately sent an email to my boss saying, “I’d very much like to work that event.” Luckily, I got the call and flew across the pond (a direct flight from Chicago if you can believe it) for ten days of fun… and work.

I won’t tell you much about the poker other than to say I played a €120 buy-in "Deuces Wild" event, which you can read about by clicking here. Likewise, I watched Fabrice Soulier win the EPT10 Vienna High Roller for €392,900, and Oleksii Khoroshenin take down the Main Event for €578,392. I thought the latter victory was especially impressive considering he was the Day 1a chip leader and managed to take it all down – a rare feat indeed. Congrats to him on becoming the first-ever Ukrainian EPT winner.

My first wiener Schnitzel.
My first wiener Schnitzel.

Anyway, I had some fun outside of the long workdays. Even before heading to Vienna I made a list of things I wanted to try. Foremost among them was wiener schnitzel, which is one of Austria’s specialties. I was expecting some sort of sausage, but it actually turned out to be a patty of sorts. I ate it on a few occasions, and each times is was delicious.

Two other Austrian specialties I wanted to try was Almdudler and Stroh. The former is an Austrian soda (basically a sparkling apple juice) and the other is Austrian rum. Now anyone who knows me knows I love rum and whiskey. When I think of rum, I think of Caribbean islands and tropical locales; as such, I was extremely intrigued by a rum from a landlocked country in Europe.

I immediately located both at a nearby grocery store and set about tasting them. The Almdudler was great, but I wasn’t a fan of the Austrian rum – at least not at first. It’s not like a smooth like a white rum or Captain Morgan, but rather strong with a brutish, gasoline-type tang. However, I’m not one to back down from a drink, and soon I developed a taste for it, especially when mixed with the Almdudler. Anyway, I loaded up and brought four bottles back home.

Changing gears, the poker tournament was held inside Hofburg Palace, which is without a doubt the most spectacular venue I’ve ever been for poker. With 30,000+ rooms, the palace is apparently the largest in the world. One fact I found particularly eerie was that the massive balcony out front was where Adolf Hitler gave his speech to hundreds of thousands of spectators after the takeover of Austria prior to World War II. As a history major, being that close to such an infamous moment proved both fascinating and unnerving. You can watch video of Hitler’s speech from the balcony on YouTube.

On a brighter note, my favorite part of the trip was taking a Segway tour of the city, a special offering from the EPT in celebration of its tenth anniversary. It require me to get up extra early, but it was worth it. So much so that I actually went on it twice!

The first time was with the video crew (they put together a great video that you can watch below), and I returned so happy and excited that the blogging crew – Frank, Danny, William, Neil, and Marc -- wanted to do it the next day. It was really a unique experience, and I enjoyed it so much that if I’m ever looking to tour a city, I’m going to see if doing it by Segway is an option.

Oh, I also watched the HBO show True Detective while I was in Vienna. It’s just eight episodes long, but it was pretty damned good. Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey were amazing. I highly recommend you check it out if you like a good thriller/mystery.

Next up is an event in Western New York (I’m really looking forward to seeing Niagara Falls for the first time), followed by a trip back to Europe for three weeks at the EPT Sanremo in Italy and the Grand Final in Monte Carlo. Rest assured I’ll be doing a post or two relating to those travels.

*To see more photos from my trip, visit my Facebook page.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @ChadAHolloway for more poker articles, stories and musings from the tournament trail.