When the EPT hit Berlin for the first time in 2010, it was to be an event that no one who was present will ever forget. It became more infamous than famous, because for the first time in its existence, a poker event was raided by a gang that was seemingly connected to the organized crime scene in Berlin.
Armed with guns and machetes, the four thugs entered Hyatt Hotel where the event was held, made their way to the poker reception, held the employees at gunpoint and took as much of the buy-in as they could stuff in their bags.
They were attacked by one of the security guards but managed to escape with several hundred thousand euro. The gang was later arrested because they made a couple of crucial mistakes: Not only did they sit in a fast food restaurant opposite the hotel for several hours talking openly about what they were going to do.
One of the gang members also didn’t wear gloves because he was only given a pair of yellow rubber gloves, which he refused to take because he found them uncool. After the raid, the men took off their masks and escaped through through a large shopping mall with surveillance cameras everywhere, so they were quickly identified.
Within a couple of weeks, all the villains were arrested, but the haul is still missing today.
Before the EPT moved to Berlin, it was held in the Hohensyburg Casino near Dortmund. In 2008, a young Canadian player named Mike “Timex” McDonald made his debut in the European poker scene by taking the event down and winning almost a million euro.
In an amazing run, he came back the next year, made the final table again and almost repeated his feat, ending up in fifth place. He then went on to make final tables at the World Poker Tour event in Venice, then in Deauville and also in smaller events in the Bahamas, San Remo, and Monte Carlo.
All this within two years and before he was even old enough to walk into a casino in the USA.
2009 saw the rising of a new German poker star. Having busted Mike McDonald in fifth place, young model and student Sandra Naujoks from Dessau went on to win the last EPT Dortmund and capture her second international title within a year, the first having been the European Championship in Baden/Austria.
With Holger Kanisch in second and Marc Gork in third place, this was the only EPT event where the top three players came from the same country.
Sandra Naujoks quickly became the new face of poker in Germany. Today, she is still travelling the world as a tournament player, representing one of the biggest online poker rooms on the internet.
In 2011, another German player called a lot of attention to himself. Max Heinzelmann, savvy online player with a reputation of playing hyper-aggressive, made the final table and only had to bow out to the eventual winner Ben Wilinofsky.
Undeterred, Heinzelmann went to San Remo only two weeks later and followed his feat with another terrific performance, making the heads-up again and losing again, this time to Rupert Elder from England. Until now, Heinzelmann is the only player on the EPT circuit who made two second places in a row.
Next month, the EPT is coming back to Berlin, and the German poker scene is waiting in anticipation on what’s going to happen this year.
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