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2008 European Poker Awards Celebrate Europe's Best

2008 European Poker Awards Celebrate Europe's Best 0001

The 2008 European Poker Awards took place last week at the celebrated Aviation Club in Paris. Every year, the cream of the European poker community descends on this glitzy awards ceremony to drink champagne, celebrate the major successes of the year and look forward to another 12 months of poker. This was the eighth occurrence of this prestigious event and judging by the winners list, it could become the benchmark by which all future awards ceremonies will be judged. The honorees:

Casino Staff Person of the Year:


• Jonathan Raab (Scotland)

• Madeleine Harper (England)

• Thomas Kremser (Austria)

• Simon Trumper (England)

• Sylvie Belanger (Spain)

Winner: Jonathan Raab (Scotland)

Although the European Poker Awards celebrate the most successful players in Europe, they are also a chance to thank those people who have made outstanding contributions to the game. This year Jonathan Raab, the tour manager of the Grosvenor UK Poker Tour (GUKPT), won the award for his part in turning a UK-based poker tour into one of the most coveted titles in Europe.

With £1000 buy-in main events, the GUKPT bridged a gap between the local festivals and events such as the EPT, attracting a healthy mix of amateurs and professionals alike. Although entirely based in the UK, the GUKPT has recently been attracting players from all over Europe for the ten-event tour. It has become so popular that last year Marc Goodwin was able to win the European Player of the Year Points race directly as a result of his success in GUKPT festivals. Jonathan Raab has been at the heart of the GUKPT from the outset, and has listened to what the players have had to say, helping to put UK poker on the map.

Player of the Year:


• Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier (France)

• David Benyamine (France)

• Andreas Krause (Germany)

• Marty Smyth (Ireland)

• Neil Channing (England)

Winner: Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier (France)

What a defining year this was for the Team Pokerstars pro, who fought off stiff competition from WSOP bracelet winner and cash-game supremo David Benyamine and an in-form Marty Smyth (who not only won the PLO Championship at the WSOP but also won two major European TV tournaments last year).

ElkY started 2008 off with a bang, winning the biggest-ever (at the time) PokerStars Caribbean Adventure for a $2 million score. He then proved his mettle stateside by winning the WPT Festa Al Lago in October for another $1.4 million, becoming only the third player to win both a WPT and EPT title. If that wasn't enough, ElkY also dominated the 2008 PokerStars WCOOP despite not winning an event, cashing seven times and winning over $400,000. It also looks like he will be a contender for this award in another 12 months' time, after his success in the PCA High Rollers Event this month.

Most Notable Tournament Performance of the Year:


• Neil Channing (England)

• David Benyamine (France)

• Bertrand "Elky" Grospellier (France)

• Marty Smyth (Ireland)

• Jesper Hougaard (Denmark)

• Sebastian Ruthenberg (Germany)

• Peter Eastgate (Denmark)

Winner: Peter Eastgate (Denmark)

Any other year, this would have been a tough category in which to pick a winner, but not since Carlos Mortensen in 2001 has Europe claimed a WSOP Main Event winner, making this a lock for Peter Eastgate. Not only was it an excellent performance by the young Dane, it was one where he broke the long-time record held by Phil Hellmuth for youngest Main Event champion and it was also the first ever all-Europe heads-up showdown for the title. It was a much deserved award for Eastgate and something that every European poker player can be proud of.

Europe's Leading Lady:


• Sandra Naujoks (Germany)

• Isabelle Mercier (France/Canada)

• Kara Scott (England)

• Annette Obrestad (Norway)

• Svetlana Gromenkova (Russia)

Winner: Sandra Naujoks (Germany)

This is only the second year of the award for female poker players, which last year was won by Katja Thater. It was a fiercely competitive category last year, with Thater besting Obrestad for the honor. This year was equally as tough for picking a winner. Kara Scott had a deep run in the WSOP Main Event and also won the PartyPoker Sports Star Challenge, and Svetlana Gromenkova brought the WSOP Ladies Event bracelet back to Europe. Still, the honor went to Sandra Naujok, who had a great 2008 in open events, coming in ninth at the EPT Budapest and winning the Main Event of the CAPT Baden Open.

Rookie of the Year


• Stephen Chidwick (England)

• Ivan Demidov (Russia)

• Davidi Kitai (Belgium)

• Jesper Hougaard (Denmark)

• Sebastian Ruthenburg (Germany)

• Alexander Kostritsyn (Russia)

Winner: Ivan Demidov (Russia)

This was without doubt the toughest category of the entire awards and was a battle between three men who would also have been legitimate contenders for player of the year. Jesper Hougaard burst onto the scene this year by winning a bracelet in both the WSOP and WSOPE and Sebastian Ruthenburg won not only the EPT Barcelona title but also a bracelet — a rare European stud hi/lo bracelet, no less.

The title, though, went to a man who didn't even lift a trophy in 2008. Still, some might consider Ivan Demidov's second- and third-place finishes in the WSOP/WSOPE main events, respectively, to be an achievement that may never be repeated. Whatever one's opinion, he did win the most money of the three ($6.4 million) and there is no doubt that the elusive champion's trophy is not a very long wait away for the third Russian to win this award.

Lifetime Achievement Award:
Winner: Marcel Lüske

Previous winners of this award include players and casino staff including Dave Colclough, Thomas Kremser and Dave 'the Devilfish' Ulliott. This year the "Flying Dutchman", Marcel Lüske, was honored. Lüske has not only been one of the most colorful characters on the circuit but also one of the most successful. When he isn't singing at the table, wearing his glasses upside down and generally acting the clown, he has been dominating European poker... ever since these awards began. With over $3.7 million in career earnings, the most successful Dutch tournament player of all time added this award to a trophy cabinet that also includes two previous European Player of the Year awards.

Rob Gardner Award for Innovation:
Winner: Rob Yong

This is only the second year for the Rob Gardner Award for Innovation, which was created in honor of Rob Gardner, who sadly passed away in 2007 and was a pivotal character in the production of the TV series Late Night Poker. This special award congratulates those people that have made an outstanding contribution to the evolution of poker.

This year's honoree, Rob Yong, is a UK based businessman and poker enthusiast who in 2005 had a vision for a fully licensed poker club, created by a poker player for poker players, which became Dusk Till Dawn. It seemed a simple enough task to create such a venue, but what followed was two years of courtroom battles to license the Nottingham club after objections from local councils and nearby casinos, who tried to prove there wasn't enough demand for the club.

Finally, at the end of 2007, Dusk Til Dawn was granted a license, opened its doors for the first time and has been packed to the rafters ever since. Europe's only fully licensed poker-only venue has become the jewel in the crown of both UK and European poker and an absolute must for any visiting poker player, whether they are a recreational player or a high roller. 2008 exceeded all expectations for the club.

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