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From a field of 1,747 entries, only six players remain heading into Sunday’s play at the EPT Paris final table. Learn some more about each of them below.

Seat 1: Owen Dodd, 31, Telford, UK – 2.95 million

Owen Dodd

What are friends for? In Owen Dodd’s case, they’re for persuading you to play tournaments on the European Poker Tour (EPT). The 31-year-old from Telford only started playing tournament poker six months ago at the behest of a couple of close mates. “They both kept telling me I would crush these tournaments,” he says.

It turns out his mates were right, as he’s now made an EPT final table on his very first attempt. But just because Dodd is new to tournaments doesn’t mean he’s new to poker. 

Formerly a groundworker, Dodd started playing around eight years ago (“More seriously for the past four”) and is now a high-stakes cash pro and a regular on the Dusk Till Dawn live streams where he battles in games as big as £50/£100. He hates online poker but loves live cash for its social element, regularly travelling the tournament circuit with friends despite not playing. “I’d just go, play cash, and rail them boys,” he says.

“Them boys” he’s referring to – the same friends who convinced him to play – are EPT London champion Ian Hamilton and Barcelona finalist Carl Shaw. Between them, they know a good player when they see one.

Now it’s their turn on the rail.

Seat 2: Eric Afriat, 54, Montreal, Canada – 2.525 million

Eric Afriat

A three-time champion on the World Poker Tour (WPT), Eric Afriat is making a rare appearance the other side of the Atlantic to his native Canada – and has secured the first EPT Main Event cash of his career.

His previous absence from the EPT was mainly owing to his business endeavours. He worked in the clothing industry and travelled from North America to China regularly, which meant he tended to play his poker more close to home. He has since sold his previous business and focuses now on real estate, splitting his time between his hometown of Montreal and Miami Beach, Florida.

Afriat has made an instant impact on the EPT, where he has spent plenty of time on the feature table and courted some controversy with some potential breaches of etiquette. But he says that he is acting when he sits at the poker table; how he appears is not what his real personality is. He also says that he thinks his WPT experience gives him an advantage while on the feature table. His first final there was alongside Phil Ivey, from whom he learnt a lot.

“When I’m on TV, seven out of 10 people will hate me, but that’s not who I really am,” Afriat says. “It just helps my game to be talkative at the table.”

Afriat is alone here in Paris, but says his wife watches the streams from home. He was full of praise for the EPT, saying he considered everything from the registration process to the dealers and organisation have been first class. He won’t be able to make it to Monte Carlo, but is already considering a return for EPT Barcelona in August.

Away from poker, he is a huge sports fan, particularly hockey, where he supports the Montreal Canadiens.

Seat 3: David “PlayinWasted” Kaufmann, 33, from Germany, lives in Vienna – 24.8 million

David Kaufmann

Originally from near Cologne, in Germany, David Kaufmann also lived in his wife’s home town of Mainz for some years before the couple moved to Vienna about a year ago.

Although this run at EPT Paris represents his best ever live tournament score, Kaufmann has already reached the pinnacle of the PokerStars online tournament hierarchy. Back in 2013, he conquered the WCOOP Main Event and won $1,493,499.

After that, Kaufmann says he played live here and there, but hadn’t cashed in eight years by the time he showed up last October at EPT Cyprus. The drought has a simple explanation: Kaufmann says he hadn’t played much poker – live or online – since around 2015 or 2016. “I lived off of that [WCOOP] score,” he says.

During the time he put poker on the sidelines, Kaufmann studied economics and psychology and graduated in the former. He also helped a few non-profit organisations and was an active Partei der Humanisten political party member. “I’m still a member but not active anymore,” he says.

Kaufmann eventually discovered that he didn’t enjoy anything as much as poker. So he is back – and has returned in style. The 33-year-old landed four ITM finishes in Cyprus (including in the Eureka Main Event, the Eureka High Roller, and the EPT Main Event). Then he added three at EPT Prague. And now he is gunning for the EPT trophy in Paris.

He’s been to a big final table with seven figures up top, but that was online. Playing on the live-streamed feature table is a different experience. “Honestly, I’m not as nervous as I’d have thought,” he says, adding that spending two levels on the TV table on Day 5 helped him settle in.

A monster chip lead coming into the final day should also make him feel quite comfortable.

Seat 4: Aleksejs “APonakov” Ponakovs, 32, Riga, Latvia – 10.05 million

Aleksejs Ponakovs

Aleksejs Ponakovs is arguably the sharpest player at the final table. That alone tells a lot, considering he one of online poker’s most decorated players Ami Barer was also there, finishing seventh. But Ponakovs is a bona fide superstar who has thrived in the toughest and highest buy-in events in the world.

Ponakovs has a stellar online background – in fact, he has an even higher tally of winnings than Barer. Among two dozen reported six-figure online scores is a victory in the PokerStars Sunday Million from October 2017, and it felt inevitable that Ponakovs would eventually join the ranks of the high-stakes crushers on the live circuit.

His first Hendon Mob entries date from 2011, but his live career truly took off after the Covid hiatus. Ponakovs has become a staple in Super High Roller events, competing in the best-versus-best tournaments nearly every week. Last year, he accumulated $8.3 million in live tournament earnings, and there seems no way to slow him down.

The undisputed #1-ranked player in Latvia with over $14 million in documented earnings, Ponakovs is currently in 79th place on the all-time money list, where he continues to leapfrog some of the most famous names in poker history. An elite player by all metrics, Latvian fans couldn’t hope for a stronger contender to get a shot at the first EPT title for the nation.

Seat 5: Peter Jörgne, 51, Sweden (Lives in Marbella) – 2.4 million

Peter Jorgne

Some people retire early and dedicate the rest of their lives to relaxing. But not Sweden’s Peter Jörgne.

The 51-year-old Stockholm native has been an entrepreneur his whole life and sold his financial technology business–which automated currency trading for banks–in 2018. He then moved to Marbella, Spain to enjoy his retirement, but after a few years of sun and sea on the Costa del Sol, he decided to give poker a proper try.

For years, Jörgne had played poker at home games with friends and in Stockholm cardrooms. “It was just for fun,” he says, “I really knew nothing about it.”

But two years ago, a conversation with his friend–the Swedish poker player Peter Kvisthammer–changed everything. “He told me that if I really want to be good at this, I had to take it seriously,” says Jörgne. So with Kvisthammer and another Swedish player, Michael Bartov, as his coaches, the three got to work.

They started at EPT Barcelona in August 2022, and Jörgne managed to cash in two events. “We’re like a team,” Jörgne says. “I was only going to do this for one year and the goal was to reach a final table in either an EPT or a WSOP event.”

Just ten months later and on his third attempt, Jörgne did it, finishing runner-up at the inaugural EPT Paris for €780,100. He’s travelled the EPT circuit ever since and has enjoyed a few cashes here and there – but nothing quite like this second final table appearance.

By reaching the final eight, Jörgne becomes only the eighth player in EPT history to make back-to-back final tables in the same Main Event. Now let’s see if he can go one better than last year and take home the trophy.

Seat 6: Barny Boatman, 68, London, UK – 9.675 million

Barny Boatman

For several decades, Barny Boatman has been among the best known and most respected British poker players and now, aged 68, he comes to the EPT Paris final table with the chance to become the tour’s oldest champion. 

Boatman has been playing on the EPT since its very first stop, and was a prominent pro player even before then as a founding member of the Hendon Mob. Despite humbly claiming to be not even the best poker player in his own house — a reference to his brother Ross — Barny is nonetheless the only Hendon Mobster still playing regularly at the top level. 

He has two WSOP bracelets, won in 2013 and 2015, and more than $4 million in documented tournament cashes. But he has also earned his stripes as a commentator, writer and poker ambassador; alongside brother Ross, Joe Beevers and Ram Vaswani, the Hendon Mob were some of the first poker players ever to land sponsorship deals from an online operator. Of course, they also lent their collective name to what is now the leading database for live poker tournament results. 

Here in Paris, Boatman vaulted to the chip lead at the end of Day 4 when he picked off an enormous bluff from Eric Arifiat. Boatman called for all his chips with a pair of jacks and a low kicker, later quipping: “It’s my tournament life, not my actual life. There’s always another tournament.” 

He steered his big stack through Day 5 and returns to an EPT Main Event final table for the first time since October 2011, when he finished fourth for €225,000. No one in the Boatman household has an EPT title (Ross finished sixth in Monte Carlo in 2006). But there would be few more popular champions if Barny can finish the job on Sunday.


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