Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine

Clubs in Spades: Golf and Poker in Vilamoura

by Jennifer Mason |  Published: Nov 01, 2010


Both the UK football season and the European Poker Tour’s year happen to start in August. This coincidence felt relevant at the second leg of the EPT in August (Vilamoura, in the Algarve, Portugal) as Teddy Sheringham, one of the UK’s more famous retired footballers with both a stellar career and an MBE, made another deep run to finish fifth and add nearly another six figures to his already respectable tournament record.

His stamina seemed to equal or better his very youthful opponents’, as on day four he was spotted enjoying the nightlife at 2 a.m., teeing off at 8 a.m. (more on that shortly) and reclaiming his stack at midday. The whole link between sport and poker is an interesting and oft-debated one, and Sheringham’s not the first to trade up (or down) to competition over cards rather than on pitches, courts, and snooker tables.

Many now regular players have made a jump from some other form of competitive activity, whether physical (like Holland’s Fatima Moreira de Melo, Olympic gold medallist in field hockey, or Boris Becker, tennis legend) or mental and sedentary (like David Williams, Noah Boeken, Justin Bonomo or Isaac Haxton, all Magic The Gathering).

This might be why PokerStars organised what an outsider to this world might consider better named the Non Sequitur Challenge — the Fairways & Felts contest involving two competitive rounds, one of golf and one of tournament no-limit hold’em.

Golf (and golf prop bets) have been around for a while at a tangent to the poker community (remember Erick Lindgren playing four rounds, carrying his own bags, shooting under 100 on all four in the baking Vegas heat to win $300,000?) but recently young players have been taking up golf where previously the Xbox Tiger Woods version was the closest they were likely to come to a course. Some had been at it all along — Dan Carter played at a professional level and many Vegas and California-based pros took advantage of their local courses to raise their game in another area they could bet on and get some exercise at the same time. However in recent years the bandwagon seems positively bursting with new converts to golf from the poker world, and PokerStars, as ever, had its ear to the Twitter grapevine. While Daniel Negreanu ended up top of the golf/poker side event (his team having on it both Marcin Horecki and golf pro Tom Larsen from Norway, finishing 5 under par for a modest 2,500 chip addition in the tournament), the main event’s final table kept the big winners at the EPT overall from the side action.

The final eight had bested a record-breaking field (384), creating officially the largest live poker tournament (and therefore, with the buy-in €5,000, the richest) ever held in Portugal. There are several problems with hosting large-scale poker tournaments here, among them being the legal requirement of applying for permission individually for every tournament (including the high roller may-happen-may-not €10,000 events) and the total ban on photography or filming inside the tournament area. However these issues were not directly relevant to the players’ experience, which was universally good (better, of course, for winner Toby Lewis who officially took home €467,835 as consolation for missing out on beach time).

The fields on the start days were dusted with multinational past EPT champions like Anton Wigg (Sweden), Allan Baekke (Denmark), Vicky Coren (UK), and Pieter de Korver (Holland). Other major titleholders such as James Mitchell (Irish Open 2010) and JP Kelly (double World Series of Poker bracelet winner) took their seats alongside successful online players like Paul Foltyn, Lawrence Houghton, Annette Obrestad, and Chris Moorman. The only previous EPT champ to make the final was Rob Hollink, a fixture on the circuit since its inception, who busted in seventh place (winning €55,872) but kept the Dutch rail happy until near the bitter end.

It seemed right from the start that the UK’s strong contingent could dominate until all the chips were in one stack — first off on day 1B when most players were trading hundreds back and forth from their 30,000 chip starting stacks, Jonathan Weekes busted two players in a matter of minutes and was sailing on with 90,000 right from level one. His table line-up changed, players like Kristijonas Andrulis (who went on to finish second in the €10,000 side event, having seemingly found his format in Tallinn) and Tom Marchese came and went, but the quiet British player took his good start and ran with it for over 10 levels. Also in the spotlight was Brandon Cantu, who rocketed to the top of the leader board on day three, only to take multiple knocks ending his Triple Crown hopes early. Meanwhile Toby Lewis and Sam Trickett built dominating stacks which, when combined with Teddy Sheringham on the final table, equalled over 73 percent of the total chips in play at one point.

This good fortune was not to last for Trickett, however, who in six preflop all-in confrontations went in ahead five times and lost all six, and he went from pretty much joint chip leader (there was a 4,000 chip difference between his and Lewis’ stacks at the start of the final) to out in fourth.

Preceding him to the rail, though, were Portugal’s Sergio Coutinho, Hollink, Sheringham and Frederik Jensen, leaving a canny Jason Lee to bust while attempting to build his short stack into contention for the title in respectable third for €186,240. Martin Jacobson had started the day quietly but got progressively louder, building some momentum that looked tough to stop by the time he’d doubled through Trickett fivehanded.

Indeed he’s had plenty of experience, coming third at the sole EPT Budapest and final-tabling a €1,500 event in Vegas this summer, but he couldn’t quite clinch a win this time, finding a cool spot indeed when a case five popped out on the turn to commit him with two pair — Lewis had a set of fives — to hand the trophy to the 20-year-old British player.

Rumours that there may have been business done as the stacks levelled out and the heads-up players requested the 75-minute levels drop to 30 seem plausible. Rumours that Toby Lewis will be heading the British team for the Sticks & Stacks Challenge (lacrosse and pot-limit Omaha) at EPT London in September are unfounded. ♠

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