Sunday, August 28, 2016

Travel Report: EPT13 Barcelona, Day 12 -- Exponentially-Growing Happiness

Most of these tournaments we cover tend to run together, with most ultimately not standing out too starkly in the memory even just a few weeks on, let alone years later. Somehow I think tonight’s finish to the European Poker Tour Barcelona Main Event will ensure this one will stick in the memory a little more successfully.

They pretty much raced down to heads-up in the sucker, leaving just two players from the 1,785 who entered -- Uri Reichenstein (originally of Israel, now Germany) and Sebastian Malec (of Poland). Reichenstein is in his late 20s, has a ton of big online wins, and fits the mold of the very solid, smart young player. Malec, meanwhile, is just 21, and qualified for the €5,300 buy-in Main via a €27 satellite online.

Malec is also clearly an intelligent player, and in fact it wasn’t that surprising to see these two emerge from the final group to make it to heads-up. Malec didn’t necessarily stand out all that much prior to it getting down to two, but afterwards he did. I mean that literally, too, as in he was standing for a lot of the time while playing, particularly after he made an incorrect hero call of a big river shove by Reichenstein to give the latter the chip lead.

His nervous energy made watching and reporting on him a little stressful, I have to admit. He chattered nonstop, mostly to himself and occasionally to Reichenstein. He’d rock back and forth on his feet while standing and added tons of extra movements to every action. Meanwhile Reichenstein couldn’t have been more stoic and serene, and when Malec occasionally did engage him in conversation, he was very cool and classy with his responses (I thought), making him a likable character in the developing drama.

I found myself liking Malec a lot, too, though, despite all of the talking and near-mania of his behavior. When heads-up first began, he said something to Reichenstein about the “glory” of winning an EPT title, asking him whether he wanted heads-up to be short or last a long time. They were very deep to begin, with Reichenstein on about 100 big blinds and Malec on 70 or 80, so a long duel was a possibility.

Reichenstein said he didn’t care much one way or the other about the length of their match, he just wanted to win. But Malec was firmly on the side of wanting it to go on for a while. He referred to how special it was to get to that point and how he wanted it to last as long as possible.

Then, much later in the match, Malec uttered a line amid the chatter that really stood out -- so much so that my colleague Howard quoted it in his recap of the night:

“My happiness grows exponentially the longer we play,” he said.

You don’t hear that kind of stuff at the poker table very much. Heck, you don’t hear it much anywhere at all, with reference to any profession or recreation or activity in which we engage.

But if you think about it, there are certain things in our lives (hopefully) that do give us happiness, and for which the longer we experience them the happier we grow. I’m mostly thinking of friendships and our relationships with those we love, but there are other things we do that we really like to do, and which keep giving back to us over and over in greater degrees.

One of the things I like to do is to watch other people be happy. And so when Malec won and his joy was such that he couldn’t avoid letting the tears flow, it was hard not to enjoy that. A lot.

Check Howard’s recap for more on what happened, and you can also read the account of the last hand in the live updates. Really, though, you ought to watch the last half-hour or hour of the EPT Live broadcast to get a better idea of what a spectacle it all was. I’m thinking I probably will be doing that myself again once I’m home.

Flying tomorrow. Was a great time and ended on a genuine high, and getting to experience it with friends made it even better. Talk again from the other side of the Atlantic when I’m back on the farm.

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