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The Safe Bet: Michael Schulze Wins EPT Polish Open
On Saturday night, Michael Schulze won the PokerStars European Poker Tour Polish Open in the dungeon of the Hyatt Regency in Warsaw. The 40-year-old German stock trader came into the final table with a commanding chip lead and, playing a risk-free (read: call-heavy) game never relinquished that advantage on the way to the title and the 2,154,000 PLN (€609,782) first prize.
PokerListings.com talked to Schulze just moments after he defeated Ricardo Sousa in heads-up play.
How are you feeling right now?
I feel very happy. Yeah, I can't realize what's happened, but, it's a very exciting day.
What does an EPT title mean to you?
What does it mean to me? I think it's one of the most amazing days in my life. It's not like anything I'll ever do again, in my opinion. It's very powerful knowing it will happen one time in my life and that's it.
Can you talk us through how the final table went down for you?
Like I said, it happens one time in your life. I'm not a professional; I do it for fun. Coming here, sitting with the best players in the tournament, it was a bit daunting. I played very conservative. I tried to play with[in] my limits and it worked.
You came in with the massive chip lead and seemed to focus on maintaining your chips rather than going after everyone else at the table.
Yeah, the thing is, I was playing very conservative. Without hands, I wouldn't have been able to match those guys.
I didn't want to play any big pots, so I never raised, just call, call, called, so there weren't so many chips in the middle and I could realize what was happening. The raising and the re-raising, that's not my style. But if I can see how much they're betting and keep the pots small, I can do better.
How did you amass such a large stack coming into the final table?
I started the day with $90,000 chips and kicked off six or seven people, because I was playing only 50-50 chances or better - pocket pairs, ace-king, ace-queen and so on. And I won every game, so it was a lucky day. It was really just luck!
How did you feel Ricardo played?
Yeah, like I said, I knew he was the better player and I just had to wait for my chance. I knew I had to play aggressive; I had to change my style. I had to say, "Okay, now when I get the chance, I have to raise, raise, raise and just play aggressively."
You and Ricardo both seemed eager to get it all-in on the final hand. What was going through your head?
Yeah, I think I knew Ricardo was the better player, in my opinion, and I was waiting for a chance to say, "Okay, that's it." I'd hoped to be nearly 50-50, and though it wasn't quite I still won. It was a lucky hand for me.
How were you feeling when you saw the ace hit the turn?
I kind of realized that was it. I was saying, "Give me a three or an ace," and when it came I knew I had won.
Yes, you had. Congratulations again.
"Conservative" probably describes Michael Schulze to a T. The man reportedly approached this trip as though he was going to be eliminated the next day, booking flights, hotel arrangements and meal vouchers on the assumption that the next day would be his last. This probably made Schulze a new enemy in his poor travel agent, but it is emblematic of his style at the tables - careful, calculating and rarely willing to take a gamble, especially against more experienced players. While it might not work for all players, it certainly proved useful in Warsaw, as on this occasion the amateur managed to snatch the title from a roomful of pros.