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UK News

by Jennifer Mason |  Published: Apr 01, 2008

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Leaderboard's Reset; Julian Thew Still on Top

After the poker break which seems to naturally occur over the New Year period, January saw the reset in rankings, leagues, and festival series which make up the overview of the UK's (and Europe's) tournament circuit. It might look like all European rankings are dominated by people from Finland at the moment, but that's mainly because of the Helsinki Freezeout festival being one of the first large buy-in ones to greet 2008. Back in the UK, which now has more than one poker circuit (the Genting Stanley National Poker Championships kicks off in March, and the Gala Casinos British Poker Tour returns in February) it looks like another year of poker is planned to tightly mesh with the foreign biggies like the European Poker Tour and World Series of Poker, leaving few open weekends for those with a thirst for climbing leaderboard's and accumulating points of one sort or another, along with cash.

It was interesting to see that the lack of television coverage for the first leg of the Grosvenor UK Poker Tour didn't combine with the usual "I've spent all my money over Christmas" blues to reduce the field for the Brighton £1,000 event at the end of January. Players such as Ian Woodley, Dave Colclough, and Dan Carter bundled out of the rather vicious sea breeze into the comforting warmth of the casino, wondering whether it might have been better to stay permanently in the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas - a new "European" Poker Tour venue which was apparently so pleasant people readily overlooked its discrepancy of location. It was won by Team PokerStars Frenchman Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier, while UK player Craig "The Apple" Hopkins came fifth for $450,000. Such a prize for fifth gives an idea of the popularity of that event - 1,136 players entered. A huge number which can only imply that should global warming recreate the conditions in Nassau around the Midlands, our own tours will sell out immediately.

Back to Brighton, and the event was won by the name on every poker front page at the moment, Julian Thew, who started the New Year perching gently at the top of yet another leaderboard. Beating a field of 280, Thew became the first double GUKPT winner and in doing so has already secured himself the first place (not first place. Yet!) in the £3,000 grand final to be held in November, 2008, when the brief UK summer will have come and gone. Blue Square has also come up with a Tournament of Champions made up of, as one might expect, champions from any of the GUKPT main events, side events, or online festivals. With a prize pool of £75,000 up for grabs at the end of the year, it looks like this is yet another incentive to play designed by those marketing-savvy folks who devised the tour and have kept good numbers turning up all year round.

Runner-up in the Brighton event was Karim Louis, who played a tough heads-up battle, starting with a 2:1 chip lead and seeing the chips swing backwards and forwards before an all-deciding coin flip gave the title and £86,800 first place to Thew. Joining them on the final table were a few names who have been within shouting distance of a GUKPT title themselves, or already have proven track records in tournaments around Europe including Nik Persaud, Jim Reid, and Marcus Bebb-Jones. Reid knocked out ninth place finisher Robert Cowen with queens in the first hand of the final, when his pocket fours called a preflop reraise and then got it in when he'd comfortably flopped quads. Likewise trips versus a flopped full house saw off eighth place Fabio Esposito - this was definitely an action final and probably would have made better TV than some of last season's.

The surprise finish was probably that of seasoned pro Joe Grech, who had accumulated the sort of stack you assumed was a misprint by the end of day two, and started the final with nearly half a million chips. However, after losing a few big pots, he was eventually eliminated in fifth place by crowd-supported Irishman Michael Bolger. Bolger, in turn, came fourth, and chip leader through much of the final, Jim Reid third. Some cagey early play by Karim Louis and one huge 5-5 versus A-Q later, and William Hill must have been having kittens (the good kind) as their sponsored player took down his third major tournament in as many months.

All eyes were on Thew again as he returned to the EPT in Dortmund, Germany, but his form gave out there and he left it to UK players like Mazhar Nawab, Steve Jelinek, Chris Rossiter, and Dan Carter to contend for the first title of '08. It was young Carter who finished highest from the British contingent (12th) leaving even younger Canadian Mike McDonald to capture some kind of record and the top prize of over €900,000. Without in any way implying that young players have been gaining experience to rival their older counterparts online before they can legally enter casinos, I would comfortably guess that the leaderboard's will contain several under-20s by the end of the year. Let battle commence.

Jen Mason is a part of www.blondepoker.com. She is responsible for its live tournament coverage in the UK and abroad.