Floating on Aerts: The Unibet Belgian Poker Championship Crowns a New Champion

  • Kees Aerts defeated Peyman Moradi to win the title and €55,330 ($54,820)
  • The 650 entries were a record for the Unibet Belgian Poker Championship Main Event
  • Dutch poker pro Matteusz Moolhuizen said the player experience was fantastic
  • Aerts just barely beat his previous career-high cash, which came at WPT Valkenburg in 2014
Kees Aerts won the 2022 Unibet Belgian Poker Champion at Casino Blankenberge over the weekend and €55,330. [Image: Tambet Kask]

It is no use waiting for your ship to come in unless you have sent one out

There is a Belgian proverb that translated into English goes something like this: “It is no use waiting for your ship to come in unless you have sent one out.” The poker version of this would be “you’ve got to be in it to win it” and that is exactly what hundreds of players did last weekend in Blankenberge when they stumped up €550 ($545) to play in the Unibet Belgian Poker Championship.

Blankenberge is a quaint little seaside town on the northwest coast of Belgium. Before the First World War, it was the holiday destination of European royalty and it is still very popular with tourists today. The Blankenbergenaars are a friendly, welcoming people and last weekend, they welcomed poker players from the Netherlands, Estonia, Austria, Iran and every corner of Belgium, all vying to become the Belgian Poker Champion 2022.

it smashed the record for number of entries

This was the fifth time this tournament has been held and as is becoming a trend for poker events in Europe right now, it smashed the record for number of entries. Across three starting flights, the buy-in was ponied up 650 times, generating a total prize pool of €325,000 ($322,004). In the end, veteran player Kees Aerts was victorious, the Dutchman defeating Iranian player Peyman Moradi to take home €55,330 ($54,820) and the title.

Cast no dirt into the well that gives you water

Another Belgian proverb is “Cast no dirt into the well that gives you water.” Poker players are very familiar with this one, translated into poker-speak as “don’t tap the bowl.” Day 2 of the Unibet Belgian Poker Championships began with a jam-packed room of 206 players, 95 of whom made it to the money, 16 of whom made it to Day 3 where they drank deepest from the proverbial well.

Just missing out on the final day was Dutch poker pro Matteusz Moolhuizen, who finished in 20th position. The two-time Unibet Open champion makes a point of attending all Unibet events, viewing them as a poker vacation. Speaking to VegasSlotsOnline News, he emphasized Unibet’s player-centric approach to live events.

even when the numbers were record-breaking, they didn’t sacrifice on player experience”

“It was a very enjoyable event. As my girlfriend Dehlia [de Jong] made clear to me, I finished too early, in 20th place. Credit to Unibet that even when the numbers were record-breaking, they didn’t sacrifice on player experience. The Main Event was 8-handed throughout. They chose quality over quantity.”

This sentiment was echoed by Unibet’s Head of Live Events Nataly Sopacuaperu who also spoke to VSO News. She said: “At Unibet, we put player experience first and it was great to see so many players at the tables after such a long time. It really shows that the poker community in Belgium is very alive. The atmosphere was amazing and we were extremely grateful to all the players who chose to play our event.”

Sell not the bear’s skin before you have caught him

In poker, it is important not to count your chickens before they hatch, or as the Belgians would say: “Sell not the bear’s skin before you have caught him.” (Yes, I’m persisting with this gimmick.) Making a Day 3 is great, but all the big money is on the final table and most of that is concentrated into the top three spots.

On Sunday, it didn’t take long to get down to a final table of nine. In fact, it was pre-flop all-ins that accounted for all seven bust-outs. Tonny Krijn’s pocket nines we’re no match for the pocket jacks of “Mandrake.” Fokke Beukers followed had his ace-eight cracked by Moradi’s ten-nine suited. Kris Thys took a nasty beat, his pocket queens versus pocket eights. Then Peter Vermaas ran ace-queen into Mandrake’s ace-king.

Next to go was Koen Lauwereys who lost a flip, his king-jack succumbing to Aerts’ pair of sevens. Bart Boermans was eliminated with pocket queens after Mandrake’s king-queen spiked a king in cruel fashion. Then, on the final table bubble, Michael van Slimming would hit the rail after his ace-jack failed to overcome the ace-king of Bryan de Riddere.

He who does not wish for little things does not deserve big things

With the final table set, tournament director Kenny Hallaert introduced the players and battle commenced between the hopeful nine.

Tom Lenaerts was the first person to bust, as his ace-ten ran into the pocket aces of Yves Vloebergs. Moments later, Vloebergs picked up pocket aces once again but this time he lost to the bigger stack of Aerts who held ace-queen on a board of K-T-6-J-5. Nicolas Joseph Robert was out in 7th after losing with pocket queens to Mandrake’s ace-king.

Short stack Maarten Verhaegen busted in 6th, his ace-king going down to the 6-5 of Moradi. Soon after that, a similar fate befell the ace-king of Kevin Wuytack, who was three-outed by Moradi’s ace-nine. It was then Bryan de Riddere’s turn on the short stack, as he took his chances with 9-7 suited, but Aerts made the call with ace-two, which held. Suddenly, there were just three players left, but Aerts was turning the screw, putting distance between himself and his two foes.

In a huge pot, Aerts made quad kings against Moradi. Then shortly after, Mandrake was served a cooler, running his ace-queen into Aerts’ ace-king to bust in third place. That meant Aerts had a commanding 7:1 chip lead heads-up, which made for a brief battle. Peyman managed one double-up, but just one hand later, it was all over as once again Aerts held ace-king versus the dominated ace-six of Moradi.

€55,330 is the biggest payday off Aerts’ poker career, just eclipsing a €55,000 ($54,493) result he had when he won the WPT Valkenburg Main Event in 2014. As the Belgians would say…

“He who does not wish for little things does not deserve big things.”

Unibet Belgian Poker Championship Final Table Results

1. Kees Aerts – €55,330
2. Peyman Moradi – €34,380
3. “Mandrake” – €23,710
4. Bryan de Riddere – €17,560
5. Kevin Wuytack – €13,510
6. Maarten Verhaegen – €10,390
7. Nicolas Joseph Robert – €8,310
8. Yves Vloebergs – €6,650
9. Tom Lenaerts – €5,320