It’s difficult not to imagine what you’d do with the money if you won an enormous poker tournament. That is especially true when you’re faced with a reporter’s question asking just that thing.
But for Salim El Mamouni, the answer comes easily — although it is prompted by perhaps the saddest moment of his life.
“I would like to make a donation to an association for research against congenital heart disease,” El Mamouni, a first-timer on the European Poker Tour, says. “We learned that my pregnant wife was expecting a baby with incurable congenital heart disease. We are devastated, and would like that we can find a remedy to avoid that other families live the same trauma, and that we offer them the treatment that we would have liked to have had.”
The devastating loss of an unborn child is something that would break many people. But El Mamouni explains that his faith has allowed him to accept what happened to his family, and to try his best to live the kind of life that would make anyone proud.
“It’s life,” El Mamouni says. “I’m a Muslim and I trust in every step of life. Death is one of the steps of life, and we have to accept it. It’s not very easy, but life is short. We try to take steps forward. It’s part of me now.”
He kisses a pendant hanging around his neck and says, “She is always with me.”
A DEDICATED LIFE
Even before his family tragedy, El Mamouni was committed to helping others. Originally from Morocco, he trained in medicine and is now a general practitioner in a working class area of France. By the job’s very nature, it brings him face to face with people at a low ebb, but again it is something that he takes in his stride — even during the punishing working hours with which he is often faced.
“One of my mentors told me that there is nothing more important than the patients, and that’s true for every good doctor,” El Mamouni says. “I can be at work until midnight if one of my patients is unhealthy. But I don’t count my time…I work 80 hours in a week, but I like my job. I don’t feel time passing, like in poker. We have been playing six or eight hours and I didn’t feel the time go.”
El Mamouni was speaking during a break in play of Day 1B of the EPT Barcelona Main Event, where he had enjoyed a positive start to his debut appearance on the tour.
Although he doesn’t get much spare time, poker is another passion for El Mamouni. He first learned the game when he was 15, transitioning from a variant named Ronda, which is played with a Spanish-Moroccan deck.
He has played Texas Hold’em for more than 12 years and has had his ups and downs, including a win in the Micro Millions Series on PokerStars, among some other successes in low buy-in events.
INSPIRED BY BENNY AND YU
He says he first became interested in qualifying for the EPT after watching the live streams from Monte Carlo, where he become a huge fan of the French commentary duo Benjamin “Benny” Bruneteaux and Julien “Yu” Brecard. That gave him the inspiration to try to qualify for an EPT, mainly as a holiday for himself, his wife and their 1-year-old son.
“It’s a chance to have some rest and some vacation,” he says. “As a doctor, I don’t have a lot.”
He is a self-confessed micro limits player, and didn’t have an enormous amount of money in his PokerStars account when he began his qualification journey. He attempted to register for a €5 satellite, but accidentally ended up in a €50 version, which he said was a bit beyond his bankroll.
“I made a mistake signing up, registering, and I chose the wrong tournament,” he says. “I was playing a €50 tournament, so I guess I got very, very lucky and I won the tournament and the package. It’s incredible.”
But things went very well from the outset and he bagged close to 170,000 chips at the end of the day, more than a three-fold increase on his starting stack.
“I play for fun,” he says. “I am just a recreational player. It’s a big dream for me.”
With nothing but good things planned for any money he wins, it’s very difficult not to root for El Mamouni.
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