Upon my arrival at Casino Barriere at Deauville, France to play in the French Open, I had one, and only one social thing planned. The plan was to meet up with my friend Steve (ackbleh), and his girlfriend Sara in the players meeting, and have some lunch at the welcome lunch.
Upon my arrival to the players meeting, I saw Steve and Sara, and wandered over to say hello. Sitting in a circle of four were Steve, Sara, and two other guys. It turns out the two other guys were these chaps named Carl, and Brandon. Carl and Brandon both lived in Seattle (where Steve lives), and knew of Steve, and had introduced themselves, etc. I found Carl and Brandon's story to be quite interesting.
Carl & Brandon were buddies who played a lot online, and hung out offline. These two went to high school and college together, and were both just a few years out of college. Neither of them had played "big time" poker tournaments yet, and both were really just in it for the experience. Carl is a fairly serious looking guy, who had won an online qualifier, and came to play in France. Brandon was a tall, cheery guy who always seemed to have a big smile on his face. Carl had called Brandon, and said "why don't you come to France, I have a hotel already, and well play some cards after the tournament, and have some fun." Brandon agreed, but a funny thing happened on the way to that plan. Brandon played in the very last Frequent Player Point Qualifier, and was one of two to qualify out of a field of nearly 200 players. Those two FPP seats were the last seats won online to this European Poker Tour event.
So, now the plan had changed, but it was a happy change. Brandon was in the tournament, and the trip was a freeroll for him.
So the five of us saunter over to the welcome luncheon, and proceed to have a nice lunch, talk about poker, life, Seattle, and many other things. I find both Brandon, and Carl to be very nice, and we all bond, and learn about each others poker histories, etc.
Once the tournament began, it was all business. We would all check on each other as we played, and indeed at the first break, we compared notes, and I had the biggest stack of the four, but we were all healthy, and no one had any real tales of woe.
By the dinner break, it was clear that Steve was in a bit of trouble, and not having a lot of luck. The other three of us commented on the irony, as (not speaking for the other two here) Steve was the most accomplished of the four of us, and the one that makes the best living playing cards, doesn't have any kind of a "real job", etc. But, this is poker, and the cards are the great equalizers, and for the moment, Steve was the only one struggling.
I finally looked up about midnight, and noticed Steve's chair was occupied by another player, and knew that he was out. I quickly look up, and around the room, and I can see both Brandon, and Carl were still at the eleven or so tables left out of the 25 that had started.
After day one, we compared notes, and Brandon was the king of the three friends left with about 33,000 in chips. I had about 22,000 and Carl was at 16,500. Certainly not anything that would lead anyone to believe that any of us three were destined for greatness in this tournament. Brandon, with the biggest of the three stacks, was still only about 23rd out of the 100 or so players that remained.
Day two started off with everyone a bit sleepy, and the action was calm at first. I had the chip leader at my table, who was playing excellent big stack poker, and really running things. Luckily, he was to my right, and tables were being broken in order, so I knew the theory for this table should simply be one of survival.
But a funny thing happened in the first half of this day two. Carl went on a tear, and by the first break of day two, had rocketed by both myself, and Brandon, and was feeling good about himself, as he should.
Throughout the rest of the day, I would periodically stick my head up, or go for a quick walk to make sure my new buddies were still in the tournament. Down to seven tables .yep all three of us still in down to five, yep there's Carl, and there is Brandon.
When it got down to four tables, both Brandon & Carl were well over 100,000 chips, and I was still stuck in the morass of hovering around 30-40,000. Five places from the money, we were all still in, but things were looking bleak for me. As described in my trip report, my tournament came to a bizarre, but very final end. Brandon saw I was done, and flashed one more smile, with a shrug of 'eh what can you do?', and went back to playing.
And play they did, as two of the original four friends at lunch had made the final eight, and would be on television. Steve actually managed to chop the 1,000 euro buy in event that was played on day two, so he wound up having an excellent trip as well.
But Brandon and Carl got their shot on TV, and made the most of it. Two of the four friends from lunch wound up finishing first, and second in the tournament, and winning 144,000 euro (Brandon), and 80,000 euro (Carl) respectively. Not bad for a guy who ten days prior was just going to come along for the ride.
All in all, the European Poker Tour was well run, and it was nice to see 50% of my initial group do really well in the tournament. I believe that stories like Brandon and Carl's are one of the prime things that keep the fields in these events healthy, and make people feel good about what tournament poker has brought to the lives of many a player.
From Steve, Sara, and myself .Congratulations Brandon, and Carl. It was a nice experience to share with all of you. Oh, by the way The next time these friends have lunch its on you, Brandon. Cheers.