From Patrik to Gus, here are the most iconic stars in European history
Poker has never been short of big money winners – but what does it take to be an icon? Should it be based on results? Influence? Charisma? We reckon it should be a combination of all three. We present the European players who have shaped the game with their personalities as much as their poker prowess and who have become the Euro elite
BIGGEST WIN Aussie Millions 2007 main event
TOURNAMENT EARNINGS $7,297,559
ICONIC STATUS The man who can play any two cards
‘I’m a much better poker player than I was when I won that first WPT title. You can’t even compare. I was probably more aggressive back then, but more aggressive just for the sake of it. There’s a lot more method to the madness now.’
‘If being table captain enables me to take down more chips it’s good but I don’t give a fuck about telling someone I was table captain.’
‘I’m probably not an internet player, and do too many other things like listen to music, eat some food, don’t pay enough attention and maybe play too many screens!’
‘I completely disagree with anybody who says that it’s easier to play with pros because they do what they’re supposed to instead of amateurs who make crazy calls. I want to play with amateurs anytime I can get away with it at a tournament.’
MARTIN DE KNIFF
BIGGEST WIN WPT World Championship
TOURNAMENT EARNINGS $3,372,383
ICONIC STATUS The $3 million everyman
De Knijff is the genial everyman who became Sweden’s first poker star, after winning nearly $2 million when he took down the 2004 WPT World Championship. Arguably he was also the first European pro to turn himself into a brand, opening poker site Martinspoker.com.
BIGGEST WIN Runner-up in WPT Five Diamond Classic 2005
TOURNAMENT EARNINGS $2,846,029
ICONIC STATUS The fearless high-stakes poker superman
You don’t seem to have as big an ego as some players – do you just hide it well?
I have an ego as big as anyone but I’m trying to be humble. Let’s just say that I don’t play against people when I’m tired if I think they have an edge but otherwise I will because you can always learn something.
Would you say you’re money-motivated?
If money was really important I would never have reached the level I’m at now. More money wouldn’t change much. How could I have a better quality of life? Perhaps I’d play less and take more free time.
How do you think you’re perceived in the poker world?
People still see me as an online player. I would say that I am so much better live. I can use my instincts ten times more. If the same games online were live and went that fast, I would do so much better.
Do you pay much attention to what they say about you on forums?
I never look at the forums. One time Roland [de Wolfe] told me to go look but I’m so bad on the computer I couldn’t even find what people had written about me. I tired for ten minutes and then I gave up and said ‘fuck this!’
BIGGEST WIN 4th in WSOP 2007 Main Event
TOURNAMENT EARNINGS $2,883,108
ICONIC STATUS Ice-cold Russian bracelet winner
The cold, emotionless almost caricature Russian villain look of Kravchenko first came to public attention at the 2007 WSOP when he featured on the richest final table in poker history. A regular face on the TV tournament circuit, and with his eyes hidden beneath mirrored aviator shades Kravchenko looks like a baddie from a cold-war era thriller and has rapidly become the face of Russian poker.
He began playing poker in 1997 and has a string of tournament cashes from Austria and Russia to his credit and can regularly be found playing high-stakes cash games in Moscow.
BIGGEST WIN 2nd in 2007 WSOP $50k H.O.R.S.E.
TOURNAMENT EARNINGS $2,257,333
ICON STATUS The shabby, eccentric poker architect
After selling his music-publishing business Fitoussi entered into poker folk lore by setting up and running the Aviation club in Paris. The Frenchman? has a unique table ?presence and a? classically Gallic air ?of detached cool best ?exhibited at the $50k ?WSOP H.O.R.S.E. ??
BIGGEST WIN Winner of $10k Omaha hi/lo WSOP 2008
TOURNAMENT EARNINGS $3,400,899
ICONIC STATUS The bloodiest nosebleeder of them all
‘Playing high is not always the most exciting but beating the best player is. That’s why I play Phil Ivey very often heads-up.’
‘You’re not superior because you have?more money. You’re superior because you’re making the right choices for your life.’
‘If you do not have that gamble you cannot be a top, top player. You have to use? it really smartly and wisely.’
BIGGEST WIN PCA 2008
TOURNAMENT EARNINGS $5,729,258
ICONIC STATUS Video game king turned poker phenomenon
‘ElkY’ was the first player to reach Supernova Elite level on PokerStars, accumulating 1 million FPPs in one year. To beat his nearest rival he put in a 27-hour straight finishing spurt.
Previous to his poker career, he spent four years in Korea as a video games pro, specifically playing the strategy game Starcraft. Fellow PokerStars Team pro Hevad Khan also shares the same passion.
He sits at the top of the EPT leaderboard and is the biggest French money-earner of all time with $5.7m, over $2m ahead of David Benyamine. ElkY is only the third person in history to win EPT and WPT main events. He has earned over $2.2m from the WPT alone.
BIGGEST WIN 10th in WSOP 2004 main event
TOURNAMENT EARNINGS $3,733,894
ICONIC STATUS The eccentric Dutchman with an engaging table presence
Marcel, what’s the secret of your success?
There is the live experience that I had from Amsterdam from playing with so many people. The key is understanding what they have in mind from how they speak and the tone of their voice. It’s a lot more difficult now because there are so many people coming in and you hardly get the time to analyse them.
What’s your proudest achievement?
I think being respected throughout the whole poker industry for who I am and what I stand for – the guy who wears upsidedown sunglasses, who sings at the tables, who wear suits. It’s nothing to do with winning a tournament, it’s more about being fair and respectful to other players. I can’t make everybody like me but through FIDPA (The Federation Internationale de Poker Association – governing body for European poker, created and developed by Lüske) and standardising the rules of poker, I can be a positive influence.
But hasn’t your involvement with FIDPA taken away from your poker playing time?
I could sit down four or five days a week in the Holland Casino and make my money and go home but if that’s life, where’s the challenge? We live for 60-80 years then they put us in a box – why not get in the box straight away? In life we go for certain goals. I want to win the World Series of course but I also thought that, ‘Someone has to write the international rules. Someone has to get the best rules out for the players and the dealers and the floor management.’ And we’ve done it.
You’ve been a mentor to a lot of players – what’s one piece of advice that you always give?
Once you get the feel of the cards, let go and believe in what you’re doing. There is a feel that goes beyond normal mathematics. How can you explain how you know that someone is going to get dealt runner runner or get a bad feeling when you’re dealt Aces? I think everybody is born with this feel, this animal instinct. The moment you feel bad about the hand, that’s the moment you should give it up. The fear inside is like your built-in protection.
What are your plans for this year in poker?
I look at the fields and they’re getting more difficult – the players are younger and better and take you on more easily but I really believe that I’m going to win a bracelet this year. We’ve finalised the international poker rules but there is a still a lot to be done. I have just made a deal with PokerStars to join their team, which will be good for promoting my brand as well. I believe that PokerStars are doing the most for poker in Europe with the EPT. I want people to understand the beauty of www.tockpoker.com which teaches poker at its most basic level and will help players have a better feel of the game.
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