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Springtime in Paris

by Jennifer Mason |  Published: Aug 01, 2010


Eiffel Tower, Paris

The story of the 2010 World Poker Tour Grand Prix de Paris ended with the indomitable Theo Jorgensen lifting the trophy (literally the world – it’s a big shiny globe) in the main event, and Freddy Deeb’s victory in the high roller, but started with barely a whisper a week earlier as with second-hand precision the Aviation Club’s dealers shuffled up and dealt to players seated and absent at 2 p.m.

Every day players and press had to keep an eye on the screens, which would suddenly start counting down a 90 minute level with the minimum of fuss (the best solution considering the Aviation’s unique multi-chamber-and-hallway table layout). Compare for a moment the anthems, guest stars, and amplified announcements at the World Series of Poker, and the venerable “Shuffle up and deal” launching every major tour’s events.

Not in Paris, ladies and gentlemen; you might be served food which puts most UK restaurants, let alone cardrooms, in the shade, you might be able to look out the window over the Champs-Elysées and see the Arc de Triomphe, one of the all-time great city vistas, but you may not have noticed the WPT Championship was going on unless you were looking for it.

On second thoughts, the two sheet-covered poker tables next to the cash desk with press laptops stacked two deep on them might have given a clue that a couple of big tournaments were in the offing ­ €10,000 is no small sum after all, and 247 players stumped up the cash or qualified for the chance at the €633,902 payday which came along with the title.

One of the first tours to really utilise the power of television, making household names out of American stars and helping to get the poker boom ball rolling back in 2002, the WPT returned to the ACF after a brief hiatus to find a pretty decent field (for the main event anyway), dotted with big names.

While the American contingent by and large stayed Stateside, possibly camped outside the doors to the Rio Hotel’s Amazon Room through May, Freddy Deeb, Sorel Mizzi (more on them later), Kevin Eyster, Alexander Kravchenko, and Shane Schleger were just a few making the long-haul flight to Paris, while home-grown talent like Arnaud Mattern, Antony Lellouche, Bertrand Grospellier, and Ludovic Lacay took on all comers.

In the end it was day two chip-monster Antoine Amourette who made the deepest run of the French, taking the runner-up spot to Jorgensen after a final table at which the Dane by-and-large dominated, while Per Linde calmly came third ahead of Italian Mickael Guenni, Fabrice Touil, and Nourredine Aitaleb.

Although one might expect the final to have been sixhanded, there are always quirks at the Grand Prix de Paris, and seventh and eighth place finishers (Mattern and Jimmy Ostensson respectively) also had some TV time under the lights of the stage which, as if by magic, appeared during the week and was dismantled seconds after the cameras stopped rolling with a startling and immediate efficiency. It feels odd getting interviews while strong people carry lengths of tubing and wire and chunks of set past you in the hall.

Amourette’s was one of a handful of enormous stacks generated over the main event start days (which always seems to guarantee early fireworks when the field combines), with day 1a chip leader Fabrice Touil boasting more than 200,000 in chips.

The same names dodged in and out of the lead spots (Iulian Iacob, Jimmy Ostensson, Ilan Boujenah among them) but when the final table was set, it was Jorgensen with about a third of the total chips in play who appeared understandably confident, and whose eyes remained on the prize until it was eventually awarded to him. It was not, however, the quick transition to the final table the players may have been expecting — two days’ break were announced (as opposed to the scheduled one) as it all ran well within the allotted timeframe. And what a city to have at your disposal for two days — we heard only the scarcest of complaints from the players about having to enjoy Paris in May for an extended period.

The high rollers event had a day removed as the field fit on three tables. With only four places paid (the top prize being €290,000 and fourth being pretty much the €20,000 buy-in back) this tournament played faster and looser than any big buy-in poker event I’ve ever seen. The first day was over in a flash with 50,000 chip stacks flying about like they’d been set on fire and launched at random from little catapults, and when the final eight made the transition to the TV table in the back of the Aviation Club’s luxurious restaurant, there was only slight change.

It was really Sorel Mizzi’s big stack versus Freddy Deeb’s big stack, with shortest-chipped Bruno Fitoussi, Antony Lellouche, and Hichem Ben Halima exiting outside the money, and Andrew Feldman taking the bubble. Thereafter it was Roger Hairabedian (who sparked up some fairly unintelligible conversations with Freddy Deeb during the final) who finished third, and Gianni Giaroni fourth. Deeb was responsible for busting those two to bring him only 100,000 short of Mizzi’s once-commanding stack.

After wearing Deeb’s stack a little thin, Mizzi was looking to add another title within 24 hours after taking down the $5,000 six-max limit hold’em tournament at the Spring Championship of Online Poker on the night off — you couldn’t make this up! He got his opponent all in with A-K vs A-Q, only for Deeb to be saved by a queen and then turn around five minutes later with exactly the same match-up in reverse, hold, and raise the trophy.

Tears for the phenomenally-running Mizzi nearly welled, however, because he’d previously bought our press team sushi during the dinner break, citing prior results after a generous mid-play feeding of the workers — now the superstitious could only cry “Bok”.

“So much for karma,” he said about it when the WPT cameras took a break from rolling. I say, keep at it. With press karma, as with tournament poker, it’s all about the long-term. Spade Suit

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