Boatman and Moolhuizen Triumph in France

  • PokerStars brought the carnival atmosphere back to Le Palais des Congrès
  • In the FPS Main, Mateusz Moolhuizen led an extraordinary comeback to win
  • Barny Boatman demonstrated dignity and grace, claiming the EPT Main Event
Barny Boatman
Poker legend Barny Boatman (pictured) took down the EPT Main Event in Paris. [Image: PokerStars Live X]

Europe’s oldest traveling poker circus broke records

The venue for EPT Paris 2024 was Le Palais des Congrès, a convention center in the 17th arrondissement, built by architect Guillaume Gillet and inaugurated in 1974. It was previously the location of Bastion 51 of the Thiers Wall but after the destruction of that fortification in 1920, it became a wasteland, occasionally used by carnival folk who built temporary summer amusement parks.

Boatman was the last person standing from a field of 1,747

If PokerStars’ objective was to bring the carnival atmosphere back to the location, then they did so in spades as Europe’s oldest traveling poker circus broke records in the French capital. Mateusz Moolhuizen outlasted 4,148 players to be crowned the France Poker Series (FPS) Paris Main Event champion while UK legend Barny Boatman was the last person standing from a field of 1,747, clinching the coveted European Poker Tour (EPT) Paris Main Event title.

There were emotional scenes at the climax of the Main Event and a moment of pure catharsis as it reached its denouement. Boatman, holding a trophy he so richly deserved, enjoyed a moment of quiet in the eye of the confetti storm. At 68 years young, he is Renaissance Man who has enjoyed something of a renaissance in the past decade. 

Moolhuizen’s spin-up

There were bankroll boosts for lots of players in Paris, including side event winners Henrik Juncker, Duco ten Haven, Stephen Chidwick, Thomas Santerne, Daniel Dvoress, Ram Faravash, and Santhosh Suvarna. However, the first big story was the extraordinary comeback of Dutch pro Moolhuizen who bagged up one of the shortest stacks at the end of Day 1.

Having cockroached his way into the money, Moolhuizen returned for Day 2 with low expectations. Little did he know what was about to take place.

Speaking exclusively to VegasSlotsOnline News, Moolhuizen gave the details of his phenomenal spin-up:

“First of all, I was lucky that they rolled back the blinds so I had six big blinds instead of four. Then I won every flip and hit every single flop for the next two hours. It was one of those things that happens sometimes in poker. I just couldn’t miss. I ran 36K up to 960K in the space of two hours.”

There was plenty of work to do from there but Moolhuizen is an excellent front-runner who likes to dominate with a big stack. There is a reason he has won two Unibet Opens, a Venetian Deepstack title in 2019, and a second in the 2022 World Series of Poker Monster stack. Down the home stretch, he ran well but also played well, pulling off a couple of huge bluffs to take home the €470,830 ($510,166) first prize. He continued:

“The result comes at the perfect time because I had a bad year last year and I’m about to get married.”

Plat principal

The FPS Main might have been a filling hors d’oeuvres but there was still room for the plat principal. The EPT Main Event drew an enormous field, the largest ever outside of Barcelona. Six days of poker ultimately boiled down to an engrossing final six featuring an eclectic cast of characters. Canadian businessman turned poker player Eric Afriat took on the role of heel while Boatman was the babyface.

a heroic call by Boatman the night before had put him right in the mix

David Kaufman was the final day chipleader but a heroic call by Boatman the night before had put him right in the mix. Both men got off to good starts and the field quickly whittled to three, Afriat succumbing to the pocket Kings of Boatman and Owen Dodd rivered by Kaufman while Peter Jorgne fell to the dangerous Aleksejs Ponakovs.

Three-handed play was a hard-fought grind with Ponakovs proving difficult to dispatch. Boatman was always pulling away but the deathblow kept eluding him as race after race went the way of the Latvian. In the end, it was Kaufmann who would send Ponakovs to the rail in third, setting up a showdown with the beloved Hendon Mobster.

In victory, Boatman’s dignity and grace shone through

On the second hand of heads-up play, Boatman 3-bet to Kaufmann who called with A♦️9♣️. The flop came J❤️9♠️6♠️, Boatman bet about 30% of pot and Kaufmann made the call. The turn came the 5♦️, Boatman put Kaufmann all-in with a bet of a little over pot. Kaufmann tanked briefly but eventually made the call. Boatman showed the J♦️2♦️ for top-pair.

On the precipice of victory, you could tell that Boatman was tingling with excitement. Wearing his heart on his sleeve, he told interviewers at the start of the day how much winning would mean to him. The river came the Q♣️ and Boatman, with tears of joy in his eyes, embraced his opponent, congratulating him on a terrific performance. 

Moments like this are special but they can also be restorative. The game has its trials and tribulations, its bad actors and its existential threats. One man’s victory doesn’t erase those things but the manner of a victory can nonetheless be powerful. Boatman carries himself with dignity and grace. He shows his respect for all people, even those who seem to be his antagonists. Respect of that nature reminds us of our interconnectedness and of our differences.

Paris nourishes the soul

I reached out to Boatman just after the win. I recalled something he said several years ago.

DL: “You told me that before you finally won a bracelet, you had come round to the idea that you just might not be a player who would ever win one. Since then you won your first and second bracelet, you made the WSOPE Main FT and now you’ve won the EPT. Does that stoical mindset seem like a distant memory or are you just too aware that but for a few kind river cards, you could still be that guy, no better or worse at poker than the decorated man you are now.

BB: “Of course, there are plenty of excellent players who never got their day in the sun. But for myself, it’s hard to say whether I’d still have been grinding away if I hadn’t had a result or two along the way, or whether my confidence and self belief would still have been intact without some positive re-inforcement. I think it’s fair to say I’m more stoic than most, but there are limits, both spiritually, and for that matter, financially.”

Victor Hugo once said “Breathe Paris in. It nourishes the soul.” Last night, the poker world inhaled deeply as this EPT fed our imaginations, catered to our expectations, inspired our better angels, and reminded us that the good guys sometimes come out on top. 

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