Over the years that I have been involved with the Dutch Master Classics of Poker (I have been the official tournament reporter since 2001), things have gotten bigger and better each year. This year alone, there was total prize money of around 1.8 million, with a prize pool of almost a cool million for the 5,000 no-limit hold’em freezeout. So, what are some of the attractions of the Master Classics?
- Added prize money
For the past few years, the Holland Casinos have added substantial funds to the prize pool. In the 5,000 main event alone, the house decided to add a whopping 45,000. This means that even the average player may be playing with a positive expectation, and the pros will definitely be playing with a large edge — much larger than in other tournaments of the same size.
- Large fields
In recent Master Classics history, there were almost always sold-out events with 220 entrants. Fields of this size are rather unusual in Europe. Most other big tournaments would be very happy to have around 100 or 120 entrants — and some venues simply cannot accommodate more players than that. This year, the Master Classics was even able to host 270 players. While the Omaha events attracted 175 and 220 players, the three hold’em events were all sold out, and despite the large buy-in, even the main event managed to attract 188 players. With fields of this size, it should be clear that for the top pros, there is quite a bit of “dead money,” making the tournaments not just fun to play, but also potentially very profitable.
- The City of Amsterdam and Night Life
On more than one occasion, I have seen players come straight out of the Bulldog to participate in one of the tournaments, and rumor has it that Master Classics time is also a profitable time for those in the red-light district. Now, while some people may actually fancy the more traditional things that this city is famous for (like the museums or the canals, for example), it should be clear that the attraction of Amsterdam as a whole benefits the poker tournament, as well.
Over the past few years, some of the best and most famous players in the world have come to play. In addition to almost all of the top players from Europe who don’t want to miss any tournament, and who are always here in November, there have also been lots of poker stars from the United States, including players like T.J. Cloutier, Phil Hellmuth, John Bonetti, and Mike Sexton. This year was actually the first time that some famous Master Classics regulars did not show up, because of obligations regarding a competing event in Monte Carlo, but it is expected that next year both tournaments will not be scheduled again for the exact same dates, as was the case this year. Despite this competition, the Master Classics 2004 set new records for number of entrants and total prize money. As for the results, the main event was taken by American Robert Mizrachi, there was a great pot-limit Omaha win by Simon “Aces” Trumper, and in addition to the only Dutch win by young Sijbrand Maal, there were runners-up from the Netherlands in no less than three events — namely, big names Ed de Haas, Arno Weber, and “Flying Fox” Marcel Lüske, Europe’s Player of the Year in 2001 and 2003. To be more precise, the events went as follows:
Event No. 1: 220 limit hold’em, unlimited rebuys
Despite an impressive chip lead by hometown favorite “Holy Man” Mozes Fahim, it was the flamboyant Austrian Erich Kollmann who would win this event. Because of the 75-minute levels, there was a lot more play to this final table than in previous years. Despite the fact that heads up, it was Canadian Charles Mailhot who had a 4-to-1 chip lead, the Austrian came back to capture the title. While Charles had a big strength in winning lots of small pots uncontested, Erich had possibly an even bigger strength: the ability to win huge pots in a showdown. In a 270-player field, he took first place for 39,442.
Event No. 2: 820 no-limit hold’em,
one optional rebuy
As was the case in the first event, the chip leader at the start of the final table would not even reach the final three. The aggressive Isabelle Mercier lost a few important pots to bust out early, and in the end, there was a heads-up battle between the experienced Irishman George McKeever and the relatively young “Smiling Dutchman” Arno Weber. Arno played much more cautiously than in his pot-limit Omaha win last year. He caught a lucky break to bust out one of the favorites, David Benyamine, but in the end, he could not get enough chips to seriously threaten his last remaining opponent. In a once again full field, George took first place for 126,403.
Event No. 3: 520 pot-limit Omaha, one optional rebuy
In probably the most exciting final situs poker online pkv games table of this year’s Master Classics, some of the best PLO players in the world were in action. The last five players were four top British players (David Meyer, Simon Trumper, Graham Hiew, and Sonny Nijran) and one of Holland’s poker stars, Ed de Haas. Big Eddie reached the final two in an exciting battle. At a final table with more top sets, full houses, and nut flushes than one would usually see in an entire year, it was Simon who was able to trap Eddie on the final hand to win the event, and move into the No. 1 spot in the European standings for this game. In a field of 220 players, first place paid 69,696.
Event No. 4: 220 limit hold’em, one optional rebuy
The only Dutch win of the week was garnered by young Sijbrand Maal, who won a final table that consisted of no less than eight Dutchmen. In an event with lots of excessive action and quite a few unusual plays, he beat Morres Beaucaire and the chip leader at the start of the final table, Holger Lindemann from Germany. Sijbrand’s win, 40,867, once again was in a full field.
Event No. 5: 5,000 no-limit hold’em freezeout
With 188 entrants, no entry fee, and 45,000 added money, there was a prize pool of almost 1 million for the main event, which was played over three days for the first time. Chip leader Keith “The Camel” Hawkins was very unlucky to lose his chip lead, because he played well but ran into a few situations in which he was either up against slightly bigger hands or just plain unlucky. The other big stack, Germany’s Pouya Pouya Majd, made a rather unfortunate move to bust out and help American Robert Mizrachi amass a freight load of chips. The man from Miami got away with bullying the table and managed to win pot after pot when his opponents couldn’t or wouldn’t stop him. Heads up against Tristan McDonald, Robert was a bit lucky when his opponent’s top/bottom two pair got counterfeited on the turn, and his 9 kicker suddenly played for a two pair/higher kicker. First prize was a record 372,240, the biggest prize ever to be awarded in Master Classics history.
Event No. 6: 320 pot-limit Omaha, unlimited rebuys
Because the “big one” had been a three-day event, some of the players had left Amsterdam already when the last tournament took place. The final table had some fast and furious action. Almost all of the pots were a contest between “Flying Fox” Marcel Lüske and chip leader Ercin Corc from Austria, especially when the action was threehanded. Despite the fact that the third player was obviously aiming for second place, the two most active players would also be the final two players. Because Ercin managed to flop no less than four sets within just an hour of play, and because enough of them held up, he became the last Master Classics champion. In an event with 175 entrants, he collected 39,798 for first place.
Some Final Words
My detailed daily reports of this event, and also my previous reports of the 2001, 2002, and 2003 Master Classics, can be found on my own site: www.rolfslotboom.com. They include photos of the winners and a little background information. You can also find my daily reports of the 2003 and 2004 World Heads-Up Championships there, in addition to a selection of previous Card Player columns. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me at any time.