Gab Yong Kim Makes Record EPT Run for South Korea
Sometimes, a €74,770 win can be bittersweet.
Gab Yong Kim's run in the European Poker Tour Prague €5,300 Main Event ended in heartbreaking fashion. He got all of his chips in at the final table with aces, only to have them cracked by the queens of Norbert Szecsi when the Hungarian nailed a flush on the river to continue his white-hot run.
"My aces," a distraught Kim lamented with his head down after collecting his payout, a career-best score.
While understandably upset about the ending, Kim has put together a great run in Prague. He also cashed in the €2,200 National High Roller in 23rd place for €11,420.
What's more, the ninth-place Main Event finish represents the best placing by a South Korean in an EPT Main. On a tour more than 15 years old, that's a strong accomplishment.
And while Kim's name doesn't even crack the top 10 on South Korea's all-time money list, his combination of longevity and success might be unmatched among players from his country.
"We kind of started together," said long-time poker pro and former StarCraft progamer Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier.
Back in late 2003 or early 2004, Grospellier estimated, he and Kim lived together and played on the same StarCraft team in South Korea. When not commanding virtual armies and honing their APMs — actions per minutes for the uninitiated — the two played some online poker.
"He was doing really well in those days," Grospellier said. "One time, he turned $1,000 into like $120,000 in like two weeks.
"He's been playing for about 15 years, so he's a very seasoned player."
"One time, he turned $1,000 into like $120,000 in like two weeks."
Of course, Grospellier transitioned fully into poker and has had an immensely successful career, cashing for more than $14 million to date and garnering sponsorship from PokerStars that ended in 2018 — he's since joined up with partypoker.
But while ElkY was making his mark on the felt, Kim put together his own solid career. A regular in mid- to high-stakes cash games online and a tournament player with six figures in profit according to SharkScope, Kim may not have reached the highs of his old roommate, but he's become a fine player in his own right.
Tackling the European Scene
The old StarCraft teammates have been reunited in the Czech capital, and the arrangement seems to be suiting Kim well, based on his recent results.
Grospellier said he now lives in Prague, and both Kim and Kim's girlfriend Vivian Im — an accomplished player in her own right with an Asia-Pacific Poker Tour title and nearly $500,000 in winnings — are staying with him.
South Koreans are subject to a bit of an unusual situation with regards to live poker, as they are barred from playing in their local casinos. So, despite a growing poker community headlined by celebrity StarCraft player Lim-Yo "BoxeR" Hwan, South Korean live grinders can be few and far between at events like the EPT.
"It's got a little bit of a bad rep," Grospellier said. "So, they are mostly playing online."
The long travel distance between South Korea and most big live events is another barrier. That's the reason Grospellier himself moved back to Europe despite becoming comfortable living in South Korea.
"By the time the jet lag is better and you're acclimated, you have to go back," he said.
With the recent fall of the Macau scene, Kim has had even less options in his own region for live poker. So, a trip to Europe to visit his old buddy ElkY and quench his thirst for live poker made sense.
A recently announced PokerStars Live schedule for 2020 provides the chance for Kim to stay a bit closer to home due to the options in Manila. However, Grospellier said he expects to host Kim on more poker trips in the spring.
"They're really enjoying this trip and they're really enjoying Prague, so I think they'll come back," he said.
Trips with more than €80,000 in cashes undoubtedly help, and it's certainly worth a little jet lag as Kim continues to try to set the bar for fellow South Koreans in live poker.