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How Maria Lampropulos Went From The Micro-Stakes To Winning Millions

Lampropulos Talks About The Seven-Figure Tournament Win She Almost Skipped

by Erik Fast |  Published: Jun 17, 2020

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Maria Lampropulos has cashed for more than $3.2 million dollars in live poker tournaments since first trying her hand at the game in 2014.

The U.K. resident is of Greek heritage, but was born and raised in Argentina. She currently sits in third place on Argentina’s all-time money list and is the eighth-highest earning female poker player in poker history. Vanessa Selbst is the only other woman to ever secure two live, seven-figure tournament scores.

Lampropulos took down the 2017 partypoker MILLIONS UK, defeating a field of 1,204 entries to win $1,280,000 and her first major title. Less than a year later, she overcame 581 opponents to win the 2018 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure main event for $1,081,100.

Incredibly, these results have come despite the fact that Lampropulos is not a poker professional. She has a degree in business management and previously worked in human resources at IBM.

Lampropulos had a good start to 2020 before live poker’s worldwide hiatus, finishing seventh in a $1,100 buy-in preliminary event at this year’s partypoker MILLIONS UK for $19,000 and then placing eighth in the main event for another $100,000.

Card Player recently caught up with the card sharp to discuss her background in the game, how she came to play in major main events around the globe, and more.

Card Player: What was the very first time you encountered poker? What about the game sparked your interest?

Maria Lampropulos: I used to love to play cards since I was a child. I knew how to play the five-card draw poker and I used to play this with my brother. Then I learned the rules of no-limit hold’em. But I was just railing at the beginning.

When I started to date my ex-boyfriend, Iván Lucá (Author’s note: Lucá is a World Series of Poker bracelet winner and Argentina’s leading poker tournament earner) I started to play some online tournaments, just at the micro-limits, once in a while. I liked to rail him when he was playing. Then we started to travel and I started to play a few live tournaments, but very low buy-ins.

Ivan used to encourage me so much to play. And I feel so grateful for that. Today I really love to play, poker is a passion for me. I enjoyed the game so much. I find it so interesting, it seems easy but it can be so complex, a lot of variables to be considered at the same time makes this game so fun.

Maria LampropulosCP: Can you tell me more about how poker came to be one of your main hobbies?

ML: To be honest, Ivan had a lot to do with this. I used to enjoy so much just to rail how friends were going. And I started to travel around with Ivan because he decided to play more live events. He insisted that I play and I did. And then it became a passion for me. I like to enjoy the game; that’s why now I play just when I really feel like it.

It took a while. At first, it was only very low buy-ins online, micro-limits. Then once in a while, live tournaments, but still at lower buy-ins starting in around 2015 or so. I think it was after March 2016… I finished runner-up in a PokerStars Eureka main event in Rozvadov that Ivan actually won, that happened just 10 days after I had finished runner-up in a World Poker Tour National Brussels main event. It was then that I started to feel more interested in the game. However, I was still not playing so often. Later I had the really big wins at the partypoker MILLIONS UK and the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure which made me want to play even more often. But it was a gradual process.

CP: Did you have a background playing other strategy games or sports prior to getting into poker?

ML: I used to practice a lot of sports since I was a child: rhythmic gymnastics, swimming, volleyball, hockey, so I probably understood about discipline quite well. And also as I said, I used to enjoy playing any card games all my life. I also like to play some games with the Spanish playing cards.

CP: Do you have any natural talent or personality trait that have helped you to succeed in poker?

ML: I think I am quite empathetic, and this could help a lot of the time when playing live poker. I also consider myself to be quite patient.

CP: When you started to play poker and have some notable results, was this decision supported by your family and friends?

ML: In general everybody, my boyfriend, my family, and my friends, they were all supporting me to play. Just for my mother, it was a little harder to understand, but I think this is pretty normal.

CP: Your first recorded live results were in smaller events in 2014. But as you mentioned earlier, you had started to play in a few main events on tours like the European Poker Tour by 2016. How did that transition take place?

ML: At the end of 2014, I played one of my first live tournaments, it was in Brazil. After this, I started to travel around with Ivan, because he had decided to play some live events. He insisted that I try playing some small live tournaments at the beginning, in 2015 or so, but then even higher stakes. So I think it was in 2016, that I played my first EPT main event, in Dublin.

Really, my mindset then was the same one that I have right now; to enjoy the game. To be honest, I don’t really mind about titles or rankings. I just want to do what I really love to do, play cards.

Maria Lampropulos after winning the 2017 partypoker MILLIONS UK main eventCP: As you mentioned earlier, in 2017 you had your first big ‘breakout’ win, taking down the partypoker MILLIONS UK main event for £1,000,000. Can you tell me about that win and how did you come to play that event?

ML: That was completely amazing! I was not planning to play that main event. The previous week, we had some friends in our place and also my brother came to visit us. I was a little tired, not getting much sleep, but I had just decided to play a live satellite for the main event. If I didn’t get in through the satellite, then my plan was to not play. I bubbled the satellite, losing after getting all-in preflop with pocket aces, so I was not going to play the main event.

The next day was day one of the main event and I rested. But registration was still open through the start of day 2 and Ivan was trying to convince me to play it. I went to the casino to finally decide what to do. And everybody there was talking how great the tournament was and that I should play it. So I jumped in with around 50 big blinds.

CP: Was your path to the final table smooth or did you have to make a comeback from a short-stack? And can you describe what it was like to win such a big event for your first major title?

ML: I don’t remember being so short at any point, but I do remember a sick bad beat. I had top pair versus top pair with a better kicker and flush draw, and I rivered the best hand. When I won that tournament, I felt absolutely ecstatic and even more grateful.

CP: Less than a year later you won your second major title, taking down the PCA for another score of over a million? Can you tell me about what that win meant to you?

ML: This was extremely awesome. A kind of miracle. As you said, just less than one year; another huge event. Super tough final table, great players.

CP: Yeah, there were a number of very accomplished players among the final nine there, including Adrian Mateos, Koray Aldemir, and Shawn Buchanan to contend with. Did the toughness of the competition make the win even sweeter?

ML: I would really have preferred not to have to compete versus them. They are amazing players. I really admire and appreciate many of them.

CP: So you are third on Argentina’s all-time money list currently, and eighth on the female money list. Do you care about rankings like those? Is that something you keep track of or use for motivation?

ML: I think that they can work as a motivation but I don’t feel obsessed with them. I don’t really care about rankings so much. I would just like to improve my game, try to do my best every day, and always be able to enjoy what I am doing.

CP: You made two final tables already in 2020, including finishing eighth in the same partypoker MILLIONS UK main event that you won back in 2017. How do you feel about your game right now, and what are you doing poker-wise during the current live tournament shutdown?

ML: I am feeling so comfortable at the tables at the moment. I have been playing online some, but not much. I have been talking a lot with my family and friends, cooking and trying to relax a little bit. To be honest, I never find time to feel bored.Spade Suit