People play on PokerStars for all reasons and for all stakes. The vast majority are doing it simply for fun, and for tiny portions of their regular job’s pay packet. But the very best thing about playing online is that you can also spend tiny amounts to win a trip to something like the European Poker Tour (EPT), where all of a sudden the money, the players and the atmosphere is like taking a trip into something extraordinarily more rarefied.
“I am a normal man,” said Tibor Halatsch this afternoon, peering wistfully over Monte Carlo Bay. “But I am here, and I am sitting with the best poker players in the world.”
Halatsch’s trip to Monte Carlo offers an absolutely perfect example of what is on offer to regular poker players if they ever feel like taking a stab at something different.
One recent Sunday, Halatsch said he thought to himself, “Maybe I’ll play a little poker today.”
He entered a tournament costing $7.50 to play, and won a seat to a tournament with a $55 buy-in. From there, he won a place in a tournament with a $162 buy-in. And after winning that, he played an EPT Monte Carlo qualifier with a $550 buy-in.
The winners of that tournament — which this time included Halatsch — won a package to EPT Monte Carlo, including a $5,300 buy-in, flights, and accommodation in the exquisite five-star Monte Carlo Bay Hotel. It took him about eight hours in total, and by doing so he emulated his earliest poker hero, Chris Moneymaker, after whose spectacular satellite-to-WSOP-success Halatsch took up the game, 20 years ago.
And it’s safe to say, he is enjoying his experience. “This is the greatest day of my life,” he said.
Halatsch is a 55-year-old painter from Dusseldorf, Germany. (“I paint houses. I’m not an artist.”) He plays poker almost exclusively online, maybe 20 hours a week, and very occasionally heads with friends to Casino Duisburg to play at the €2-€5 cash tables.
But last night, shortly after arriving in Monte Carlo, Halatsch headed to the PokerStars players party, drove in a Ferrari simulator, made a few news friends from Germany and then, all of a sudden, “One of my new friends said, ‘That is Hossein Ensan.’ He was standing right there. Then we were talking with him. The world master!”
Halatsch continued that Koray Aldemir then sauntered along, doubling the contingent of German WSOP Main Event champions within Halatsch’s immediate orbit.
“If I told my friends in Germany that I was having a beer with the World Champion, they would not believe me,” Halatsch said. “But then Koray walked past, and I was with TWO German World Champions!”
He continued: “”I am having the greatest time of my life here. I have so much fun. It’s a story like from Hollywood.”
Today, Halatsch is at the tables, playing Day 1B of the €5,300 Main Event. Although this isn’t actually his first EPT (he previously won a Spin & Go to get to Monte Carlo six years ago), it is still way, way bigger than he normally plays. He answered the question of how he feels playing the event by opening his hoody a little, and displaying sweat patches under both arms.
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Having already achieved everything he could have wished for just to be here, and having enormous fun during every second of the day, he has modest ambitions but definite plans should the dream continue even longer.
“If I survive today, I will go to the bar tonight and have one glass of champagne,” he said. “If I make it to the money, I will go to my boss and tell him…” Well, we won’t quote directly what he’ll tell his boss, but suffice to say there might be a few houses in Dusseldorf without their new paint job.
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