Most experienced poker players know better than to believe in fate. But sometimes you just hear a story that makes you wonder. Do the poker gods have a plan after all?
For Manuel Alonso, a 49-year-old founder and owner of an electronics company from Madrid, there seemed to be something destined about his trip to EPT Barcelona.
It all started earlier this year, when his son Manuel Jr was born. Alonso and his wife, Evelina, decided they wanted Evelina’s sister to be Manuel Jr’s godmother. But she was in Belarus, under some travel restrictions, which meant she could not fly directly to Madrid for the christening.
However, she could get to Barcelona via Lithuania, and so with the baptism date set for September 9, Alonso and family knew they would be visiting Barcelona towards the end of August so they could greet the new godmother.
It just so happened that this coincided with Alonso rediscovering poker after a few years away from the game.
A well-timed transition
“I like chess and normally, to relax, I watch videos on YouTube for chess,” Alonso explains. “But I was a little bit bored because I was not progressing in chess, so I went back to poker. I watched videos of poker on YouTube.”
He saw an advertisement for EPT Barcelona, with qualification available on PokerStars.
“I said, OK, because we have to go to Barcelona anyway, I said OK I will play a satellite,” Alonso says. “It was €2, just for fun, one Sunday. Then I went to €10, then from the €10 satellite I went to €50. Then from €50 I went to €250, then when I was in the €250 I said to my wife, ‘Wow, so I guess there’s a chance to go to Barcelona, with everything paid.'”
By this point, it was past midnight but the whole family was now engrossed in Alonso’s progress. Manuel was not sleeping, so Evelina was comforting the baby in her arms as she was watching her husband go deep.
He continues: “I said, ‘There are four people left, and I am No 1 in chips!’. She said, ‘Great!’ but the baby started to cry like crazy. So both of them came close to me as I was sitting at the computer.
“At the end it was very funny because it was the last hand and I said, ‘What should I do? Should I raise? Should I put in more chips? Or all in?’ She said, ‘What are you asking me for? I have no idea about poker.’ I said, ‘Just choose something.’ She said, ‘All in.’ So I went all in, they paid and I won. The baby was right there too.”
This Sunday shift — from 7pm to 2am — earned the full package for Alonso to Barcelona. And it all started with that €2.
Enjoying time off the felt
As Alonso was relating the story, his family — wife, son, sister-in-law and incredulous old friend who also came to Barcelona because he thought the story was so great — were on a bus tour of the city. Alonso, meanwhile, was playing Day 1B of the Main Event.
He previously played here in 2018, attempting to spin up another online win, but he thought at the time that it would be his last major tournament experience.
“I made it until the third day, but I said I would never come back to a tournament because it was more stressful than work,” Alonso says. “But this time I qualified and it’s not the same as it was six years ago. Poker is just for fun now.”
Alonso is accustomed to stress. Back in 1996, he started a small company with two other people, with his mother guaranteeing the €7,000 he needed to establish the firm. After numerous ups and downs in the intervening years, the entrepreneur now owns a company worth €60 million, with factories in Spain, Brazil and Mexico, providing materials for the electronics industry.
“I could write a book about stress,” Alonso says. “When you start a company it’s inevitable that you have stress. Many situations have been stressful, but today the company is going very well. I am very, very happy.”
A trophy winner already
He is also making the most of this return to the EPT, joining some of the off-the-felt activities available to PokerStars qualifiers. On Saturday, he noticed there was a padel tournament listed on the activities calendar and, as a keen player back home in Madrid, he tried to get involved.
Unfortunately, the tournament was sold out but he asked if he could come along anyway, in case a last-minute slot became available. You can probably guess where this is going.
“In the end I went, someone did not come, I played and I won the tournament,” Alonso says. “They gave me a PokerStars trophy. It was raining and very late in the afternoon, but it was OK. I won the padel, and now have to win the poker.”
And if he doesn’t win the poker? That’s OK too. His family is here, he’s having the time of his life, and he is freerolling the biggest poker tournament of his life.
Alonso says: “My friend told me, OK, breathe, relax, do some exercise. I’m not doing any of this. But I’m having some fun.”
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