PokerEncore.com’s Karl Mahrenholz celebrates the best of British after Victoria Coren Mitchell’s history-making EPT triumph
Last April Victoria Coren Mitchell become the first ever two-time EPT champion. I thought I would help celebrate by looking back at what I consider to be some of the most significant UK tournament results by home-grown players – the tournament results on home soil that have shaped UK poker over the past ten years.
In 2006 Vicky Coren was well known within the London poker circuit, mainly by those who frequented the Victoria casino. She didn’t like to travel for poker and her results show no entries from outside the UK before this time. She did have some notable smaller results but by her own admission she was more of a cash game player at this point.
Vicky was as close to a celebrity UK poker had with her journalistic background and appearances on mainstream media. It was for this reason Vicky was already in talks with PokerStars when the 2006 London EPT hit the Vic in September. She wasn’t the first Brit to win an EPT or indeed the first Brit to win the London EPT (both honours go to John Shipley back in 2004) but her £500,000 score caught the attention of mainstream media like no other. She was the first woman to win an EPT title and her celebrity status put poker on the map in the UK.
Good on tour
January 2007 saw another key event in the history of UK Poker. While poker festivals were a common occurrence, and certain events had become fixtures on the calendar, the concept of a poker tour was not one the UK was familiar with. The GUKPT led the way for the flood of tours that would eventually crowd the UK calendar.
In its first season it came with TV coverage and the eventual winner was a certain Praz Bansi. He almost didn’t make it to the event after his car broke down en route and had to be talked around by yours truly to not turn back home. It was almost fate that we ended up the last two players standing and it was this event that really led to the formation of the Hit Squad.
Irish eyes are smiling
This next landmark didn’t happen in the UK but it would be remiss to leave it out. Neil Channing’s Irish Open victory for €800k was a breakout result for a predominately live cash game player and was hugely significant for him given the journey he had been on. It also had a domino effect on the wider UK poker scene. Neil had dabbled in staking before this result but afterwards his position was cemented as the UK staking head honcho. His ‘I’ll give anyone a spin’ attitude was also the start of a boom for staking in UK poker that would lead to results such as James Akenhead’s runner up bracelet finish in 2008 for $500k and his WSOP Main Event final table in 2009.
It’s coming home
In 2007 the World Series of Poker made its first trip outside the USA and landed in Leicester Square for the inaugural WSOPE. It wasn’t until 2009 that we saw the first ever bracelet won by a UK player on home soil, when JP Kelly took down the £1k event. It was a feat that he nearly repeated the following year, losing heads-up in the same event to fellow Brit Scot Shelley. Kelly became the first UK player to win two bracelets, paving the way for further British success at the WSOP, with both Praz Bansi and Matt Perrins quickly following his lead and grabbing their second bracelets.
It took the WPT until 2010 to host its first event in the UK. While it hasn’t become a regular feature on the UK calendar (although it will be back at Dusk Till Dawn later this year – see p9), this one-off event did allow UK poker superstar Jake Cody the chance to fulfil the second leg of his poker triple crown, a feat he would complete a year later. In doing so Cody became the first Brit to join an elite group and inspired a new generation of players by showing them exactly what’s possible.
Now that Vicky has become the first ever two-time EPT champion, what lies next for UK poker? Will anyone do the UK triple crown, taking down one of the main events on each of the major UK tours? The UK poker landscape is very different now from how it was ten years ago, and I can only think we’ll be saying the same again in ten years time.