“We find ourselves at the table between a lucky amateur and a pro, it’s disconcerting”

This Wednesday, March 1 began the final of the Winamax Poker Tour, the biggest poker tournament in France. It is at the Porte Maillot Convention Center (17th arrondissement) that this unofficial French championship takes place in a discipline that is gaining more and more followers in France.

For five days (from March 1 to 6), 2,500 players compete and the big winner will be awarded the title of French Poker Champion and a prize of nearly 150,000 euros. Among them, a young 21-year-old Ile-de-France resident, Léo Calendini, from Crosne in Essonne (91), is participating for the first time in a tournament of this scale.

Leo Calendini at the Winamaw Poker Tour. Paris on March 1, 2023. – Caroline Darcourt / Winamax

How was your first day?

Well, I experienced very different emotions. I arrived early this morning to pick up my pass because I knew it was busy. It gave me time to discover the places and the environment.

With the cards, it was more mixed. I had a few hard knocks early on that led me to play with a low stack (the amount of a player’s stack). I quickly entered into a perspective of simple decisions, mechanical blows, very theoretical to try to save the day. I was eliminated at 4 p.m. by a pair of jacks, when I had an ace and a king. I came close to following but it finally did not come. It’s over for me.

It must be a disappointment for you who fought to qualify?

Yes, I did the Tour de France of the Winamax stages to try to qualify. Of the forty tournaments, I participated in all the most important, the “600”, which bring together six hundred players. I ended up qualifying for Poitiers at the beginning of February. It also allowed me to gain experience against other quality players.

Yes because it was your first experience of a big tournament…

That’s right. I wanted to do this for a long time. I learned the rules around 5 or 6 years old, but until then I had always played only recreationally. I wanted to try my luck in 2018, but I couldn’t because I wasn’t yet of age (He was born in 2001 – Editor’s note). Thanks to the tournaments, I understood that I had to learn more about the theory and the psychology in the game.

Is it a necessary asset in a tournament like this?

Yes, because it’s a very particular environment. We can find ourselves at the table between an amateur who only plays online once a month and who has qualified with a little luck, and on the other side a professional.

Very different ways of playing that you have to understand. It can be very confusing. You have to focus a lot on playing the game.

What’s next for you?

At first, I will continue to go to the Palais des Congrès to see the rest of the tournament. I have friends who continue. Technically, I could have signed up for the “Sides”, small parallel tournaments to the Main Event, but it’s very expensive, so I’ll just attend to continue learning and progressing.

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