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European Poker Tour Extra

by Conrad Brunner |  Published: Jan 06, 2005


As Rudyard Kipling wrote (sort of), "If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same, you have what it takes to be a champion poker player." John Shipley, the winner of the London EPT tournament at the Victoria Casino last October, knows all about poker disasters.

Shipley – as you may be aware – could have been the greatest name in British poker. If the cards had fallen differently, the 44-year-old from Solihull could have spent the last couple of years on the celebrity talk show circuit, promoting his new website and getting bank­rolled into the world's biggest poker tournaments. He could, in short, have been Britain's very first multimillion-dollar World Series of Poker champion.

Instead, Shipley is known – in his own words – as "the man who lost the World Series," a reference to his traumatic experience at the 2002 WSOP in Las Vegas. Shipley was a strong favourite to take the title that year with a stack of more than $2 million – twice as much as his nearest rival – going into the final table. Online poker sites, impressed by his outstanding play up to that point, were queuing up to offer Shipley whatever he wanted. In the event, he got somewhat less. Rob Varkonyi, the eventual winner, managed to get inside Shipley's head with a series of reraises, inducing an unwise call by Shipley when holding A-J against Varkonyi's J-J. The loss of that hand – and a million dollars in chips – proved to be the key moment of the tournament and effectively ended the Englishman's participation. Shipley eventually finished seventh, winning prize money of $120,000.

In the postgame analysis that followed, it was open season on the Limey. "The worst calls in WSOP history," said one report of his A-J versus J-J call. "How could someone with more than $2 million in chips finish seventh? By a series of really bad plays, that's how," said another. Basically, England's finest got the mother of all rubdowns, and it is safe to conclude that no poker player has ever been so miserable to win $120,000.

"Nobody would have wanted to be inside my head for a couple of weeks after that game," he recalls. Let's fast-forward a couple of years, and a short-stacked Shipley is ripping through the final three tables to arrive at the EPT final table with, once again, a sizeable chip lead. "I had 33 percent in 2002, and I've got 24 percent now," said Shipley, once the 175 runners had been whittled down to nine.

"So, who is going to win this time?" I asked. Shipley flinched at the stupidity of the question, and then replied: "I will."

Seated in the No. 8 seat, tall and omniscient, Shipley shook the tree until the apples fell one by one. George Mc­Keever, Marcel Luske, Jeff Duval … none of them stood a chance. You have never seen such a sure thing at a final table.

By the way, for the sake of accuracy, the correct Kipling quote is:

"If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with triumph and disaster

And treat those two imposters just the same;

… then yours is the Earth and everything that's in it."

EPT in Denmark
The European Poker Tour has recently confirmed an EPT stop for Copenhagen in January. The tournament will take place on Jan. 29-30, 2005, and will be preceded by a minifestival organized by the venue. The buy-in for this event will be DKK20,000 (Danish Kroner), which is approximately 2,690 ($3,575). The maximum number of players is 150, but they may accommodate a few alternates if need be. The event takes place at the Casino Copenhagen, Denmark, located in the SAS Radisson Hotel, where a preferential discount should be on offer.

Conrad Brunner works for