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London's poker season ends in dramatic style

AFTER three weeks that saw the world’s best players come here to play in the World Series of Poker Europe and the European Poker Tour, London’s season of poker has finished. To cash in either flagship tournament is an achievement, and to cash in both – meaning you’ve picked your way through two of the world’s toughest fields in succession – is exceptional. So step forward former England footballer Teddy Sheringham, who managed just that. I’m not that surprised – back in the spring I watched Teddy winning money off Britain’s leading poker player, Roland de Wolfe. Although to be fair, that was in a game of cards on a flight to Monte Carlo – I’m not sure either was taking it too seriously, despite the chunky wads of fifties being chucked around.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that sports players enjoy a bit of a gamble, though, or that poker’s competitive side should play into their hands. Another couple of poker-playing sporting greats are City A.M. columnists Sam Torrance and Trevor Steven – and you can play against both of them in our online tournament next Wednesday evening at William Hill Poker. Have a look at the box below for details of how to play.

Back in the live arena, the poker season in London wasn’t without its fair share of drama – particularly in the way its two major tournaments concluded. On Wednesday, 23-year-old American pro Aaron Gustavson won the London leg of the European Poker Tour, held at the Hilton Metropole on the Edgware Road, taking down £850,000 in the process. If anyone doubted the rudeness of poker’s health in this country right now, Gustavson fought his way through the largest tournament field ever assembled in this country, with 730 players putting up £5,300 to play.

WORLD CHAMPION
Perhaps his biggest challenge was saved for the end though, when he had to go heads-up with Denmark’s Peter Eastgate, the reigning world champion – from their names you’d think the two had swapped countries. Eastgate, who lives in London, was looking to become the first world champion to win an EPT event, but home advantage wasn’t much help in overhauling a 7.8m to 14m chip deficit when they went heads up though. Gustavson had the champ beat and the tournament done and dusted 20 minutes after the two locked horns.

Eastgate’s reign as world champion has one more month to run – on November 10, the final nine players from the World Series of Poker Main Event convene in Las Vegas to play down to a new champion. He’s had an impressive year, however, with a series of cashes bringing his winnings over the $10m mark, placing him seventh in the all-time tournament earnings list.

AGONISING
That’s a list that has a new person at the top as a result of the other big London event, the World Series of Poker Europe. Daniel Negreanu came second in the tournament, bringing his total earnings to just shy of $12.5m, overtaking Jamie Gold for the top spot. But any celebration of that achievement was wiped out for the Canadian poker legend by the agonising way his battle with eventual winner, magazine publisher Barry Shulman, ended.

Having swapped the chip lead over several hours of heads up play, Negreanu had a tiny lead when he went all in with Q J, after a flop of J 8 5 brought him top pair. Shulman called with pocket aces, meaning Negreanu was in serious trouble. But the turn card was another jack, making trips for Negreanu, and putting the tournament all but in his hands. Shulman needed the final river card to be him one of the two aces left in the deck – and astonishingly, it was. He busted the Canadian the very next hand. But as Negreanu knows as well as anyone – that’s poker.

Timothy Barber