Tuesday, March 08, 2016

A Heads-Up Couple

I’ve had the good fortune to have had the chance to cover poker tournaments in a variety of countries around the world, including having on both the European Poker Tour and the Latin American Poker Tour.

There isn’t usually too much overlap among players in the EPT and the LAPT -- not too surprising, of course, given that the festivals take place on different continents. The PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas is where the tours all collide, more or less, with the recent addition of the LAPT Bahamas event helping encourage further the mixing of players from Europe, Central and South America (and the U.S., too).

Ivan Luca of Argentina is one of the few who I’ll encounter turning up at both EPT and LAPT events, which means I’ve also grown accustomed to seeing his girlfriend, Maria Lampropoulos, often railing him. Luca’s been a consistent performer for a few years now, and currently sits inside the top 30 in the Global Poker Index overall rankings.

Lampropoulos also plays and has done well, too, occasionally going deep in events at festivals I have covered. Just recently she made it relatively deep in the EPT Dublin Main Event (finishing 58th), while Luca was final tabling both the €25K High Roller and another €5K side event.

It’s come up a few times, then, whenever Lampropoulos is in an event that someone will mention the fact that she and Luca are a couple, usually with an eye toward bringing that side story into the coverage somehow. And it usually does get mentioned, although my instinct often is not to make such a big deal out of poker couples unless there’s some compelling reason to do so.

For example, in 2011 you might remember how with just four tables left both Doc Sands and Erika Moutinho -- then a couple, later married -- were among those remaining, and in fact they were seated next to each other on the feature table for a time. That was an instance where it wouldn’t have made much sense not to draw attention to the pair’s relationship. (Sands ended up finishing 30th and Moutinho 29th.)

Was following the conclusion of the LAPT Chile Main Event today which ended with Rodrigo Strong of Brazil outlasting the Chilean Fabian Chauriye heads-up to win. Luca and Lampropoulos chose not to play in Viña del Mar, instead deciding to play in the Eureka Rozvadov Main Event over in the Czech Republic, and as it happened another one of those interesting situations happened making it impossible not to remark on the relationship status of a couple of poker players.

That’s because out of 682 entries, Luca and Lampropoulos both survived to make the final table, and then somewhat incredibly both made it to heads-up as well. At that point they struck a deal (natch), then Luca went on to win.

I watched a bit of the live stream on Twitch over on the PokerRoomKings channel this afternoon -- including the heads-up portion -- featuring one of the most unenthusiastic poker commentators I’ve ever heard. During the hour or so I watched his analysis seemed almost entirely limited to complaints about the pace of play. (I’ll quote a sample: “This is hardly bearable. Jesus Christ. God this has taken too long of our lives.”)

Too bad, because it seemed like a story worth having some fun with, especially when the pair got into some table talk regarding postflop decisions in one of the hands. (That was when we heard that bit quoted above, in fact.) Off the top of my head, can’t think of another instance of a couple getting to heads-up in a tournament as big as that one. Deserved a bit more excitement, I thought.

The tourney ended with a kind of cooler for Lampropoulos when a river card that filled a straight for her also made a flush for Luca. I suppose that wasn’t the appropriate outcome on this International Women’s Day, but it still made for a pretty cool story, one you can read more about over on the PokerStars blog and at PokerNews.

Image: Eureka Poker Tour logo.

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