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Learn more about Hossein Ensan, the player featured in Episode 1 of ‘Between the Lines’


The average age for a Formula 1 driver to retire from competitive racing is 37.

But Hossein Ensan – who has won over $13 million playing poker tournaments – didn’t even begin to play poker seriously until he was 39.

That’s what makes poker such a fascinating and unique endeavour, and Ensan is proof that it’s never too late to take up something new.

In this game, age is just a number. Players of all ages and backgrounds can meet around the poker table to pit their wits and test their skills. Everyone is welcome.

It’s no surprise, then, that many former athletes and sports professionals use poker to fuel their competitive drive after they’ve hung up their boots (or helmet) for the last time.

You probably saw Ensan featured in Fortune Favours the Bravethe first episode of Between the Lines — which focused on early aggression – something he used to great effect on his way to the European Poker Tour (EPT) Prague title in 2015, which he won for €754,510.

But who is Ensan? Why did he start playing poker later in life than most? And how has he amassed more than $13 million in career earnings?

Find out here.

IT BEGINS WITH CARS

Hossein Ensan was born in Iran in 1964 but moved to Germany in 1989. The 25-year-old studied civil engineering at the University of Munster – where he lives to this day – and it was during his studies that he met his wife. The couple had a daughter, and this put some financial strain on Ensan, who was forced to drop out of university in order to provide.

He began working a string of odd jobs – painter, waiter, taxi driver – but says he was always searching for a way to build a better life for his family. 

In 2002, Ensan bought three cars and started his own taxi company. Although small, the company gave the Ensan family the financial stability his family needed, while also allowing him the time to work on his poker game outside of work. He’d been playing 5-card draw since he was a kid and loved the game of no limit hold’em.

“I was only playing small buy-ins four or five times a month, and I thought I was quite good at the game,” Ensan told somuchpoker.com. “I managed to reach many final tables.”

Hossein Ensan

Ensan then sold his taxi company and began to play poker professionally, using strict bankroll management.

“I really wanted to try the life of a professional player and manage my bankroll correctly to play bigger events, because I was convinced that I was good at the game,” he said.

He was, and for the following few years, that’s exactly what he did. 

BREAKING THROUGH

His breakthrough came in 2014 in Barcelona at the PokerStars European Poker Tour (EPT) – the world’s richest poker tour and one of the most prestigious titles a poker player can win, alongside a World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet and World Poker Tour (WPT) title.

It was there that Ensan, then aged 50, took down the €220 buy-in Seniors Event for €4,535.

But that’s not the breakthrough result we’re talking about. As we said, in poker, age is just a number and Ensan wasn’t limited to events only open to certain age demographics.

Ensan almost won EPT Barcelona in 2014

Later that same week he played the EPT Barcelona Main Event – a massive event open to everyone, one that attracted 1,496 entries – and finished third to win a whopping €652,557.

“That score changed my life,” Ensan said. 

But it was also just the start.

HOSSEIN ENSAN BECOMES EPT CHAMPION

With his poker bankroll now firmly bolstered, Hossein Ensan continued to travel poker’s live circuit, playing in tournaments across Europe.

In December 2015, he was at EPT Prague playing the Main Event, a tournament that garnered 1,044 entries to create a prize pool of more than €5 million, the lion’s share of which was reserved for the winner.

Ensan battled his way through the ample field and found himself on yet another EPT final table, his third in as many years (Ensan had finished sixth in the EPT Malta Main Event in March 2015 for €153,700).

At this point, based on Ensan’s incredible ability to make EPT final tables, you’re probably thinking it’s not a difficult thing to do. But let us tell you, it absolutely is. 

Some players – world-class players – can play for years without enjoying the results that Ensan did. Tournament poker can be cruel, and the variance involved can take a long time to even out.

But this time, in Prague, Ensan wasn’t going to let the title slip his grasp.

Third time was a charm for Ensan

IN POSITION TO WIN

As you see in the first episode of ‘Between the Lines’, Ensan came out swinging and used early aggression to chip up and put himself in a position to win. After making a deal with his heads-up opponent, the talented Russian player Gleb Tremzin (known on PokerStars as “Ti0373” ), that’s exactly what Ensan did.

He was now an EPT champion, complete with a shiny new trophy and €754,510.

Despite now being in his mid-fifties, Ensan continued to enjoy astonishing success, winning a WSOP Circuit Ring (a smaller WSOP prize given out in the build-up to the WSOP’s bracelet events) in 2017 for €184,812.

He also finished third in an EPT High Roller – a €10,000 buy-in event often comprising the world’s best players – in Prague for €242,000, yet another big score.

But that amount pales in comparison to what he achieved next.

WINS THE WSOP FOR $10 MILLION

In the summer of 2017, Ensan – along with much of the poker world – descended upon Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker (WSOP).

It’s not known how many WSOP events Ensan played that summer, but the one tournament he did cash in… boy, did he make it count.

The WSOP Main Event, often referred to as “the big one”, is a $10,000 buy-in tournament that’s considered poker’s crowning jewel. Think of it as poker’s Super Bowl, Wimbledon, or the Monaco Grand Prix (i.e., the biggest and most prestigious tournament a player can win).

Previous champions include Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan and Stu Ungar (the only players to have won the big one three times), as well as Phil Hellmuth and Chris Moneymaker (whose 2003 victory sparked the infamous poker boom of the noughties).

The 2019 WSOP Main Event had a colossal field of 8,569 players ranging from complete amateurs to all the game’s greats. At the start, Ensan was just a speck in the ocean, one player among thousands.

But after a week of poker play, he was at the final table, guaranteed at least $1 million.

Ensan on the WSOP final table in 2019

“BEST MOMENT OF MY LIFE”

“Supported by a cadre of some of the best German high rollers, Ensan was determined and ruthless in adding the biggest title in the game to his EPT Prague title, becoming the first player to triumph in the WSOP Main Event as well as on Europe’s leading tour,” we wrote from the tournament floor.

It took a steely nerve to close it out. When they got down to three players, Ensan saw the chip lead he’d held for much of the late stages go to his two opponents: Alex Livingston of the USA, and Dario Sammartino of Italy. 

“But at 1.20 am, and having worn Sammartino down in heads-up play after Livingston was knocked out in third, Sammartino got the last of his chips in with a flush draw and an inside straight draw, but could not beat Ensan’s pocket kings.”

That was it. The 55-year-old had not only won poker’s biggest event but banked an eye-watering $10 million in the process.

Hossein Ensan won the 2019 WSOP for $10M

“For me, it is the best moment of my life,” Ensan said, clasping the bracelet in his hand. “Unbelievable. I am so happy I am here. I am so happy, I am so happy…I must go to sleep and then wake up. It’s maybe a dream, I don’t know.”

Hossein Ensan remains a professional poker player travelling the world to play in the biggest poker tournaments. To date, he has more than $13 million in career earnings, according to Hendon Mob.

You can listen to an interview with Ensan on the Poker in the Ears podcast below.

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