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Poland Knocked Out of Euros While Polish Poker Struggles
A flash flood hit Las Vegas on Thursday and the storm knocked out the the Poland v. Portugal game in the Rio.
It was the last few minutes of the game and the teams were tied. When service was back up, Poland was out of the Euros.
They lost to Portugal in penalties, 5-3 It was the furthest Poland had ever made it in the UEFA Euro Championship.
They first qualified for the tournament in 2008 and didn’t get their first victory until earlier this month. Arkadiusz scored against Northern Ireland in Poland’s first game and the Northern Irish couldn’t respond.
Poland went on to tie against Germany and won their last group stage match against Ukraine. They kept the dream alive when they beat Switzerland in the round of 16, but it all came to an end in the quarterfinals.
Things looked good for Poland initially though. Robert Lewandowski scored the second-quickest goal in UEFA EUro history and put Poland in the lead 100 seconds into the game.
“I bet Lewandowski to score first,” said Team PokerStars Pro Marcin Horecki. “And I bet Poland to win 3 to 1. So I thought I was going to be rich. It was like I had an open-ended royal flush draw in the first few minutes.”
But then it bricked. Renato Sanches hit the equalizer in the 33rd minute and Portugal took it into penalties. Horecki had a shining moment of glory only to be shot back down.
Poker Struggles in Poland
He’s afraid the same might happen with poker in Poland. The Law and Justice Party in Poland won 51 percent of the seats in Polish parliament last October and now they have their eyes set on poker.
The previous government banned online poker in 2009 and imposed a 25 percent tax on live games, but Polish players say the law didn’t have teeth.
Horecki says the ban was a knee-jerk reaction by the government after three politicians were caught plotting backdoor casino dealings in a cemetery.
Other politicians dropped the hammer on casinos and saw no difference between gambling and poker. The online ban was more of a “ban.” Online poker is illegal, but the law isn’t enforced.
Local reporters say that tens of thousands of Poles still play online poker.
The new government wants to capitalize on this and establish a closed market, state-run poker site and ban all other sites from the country.
Horecki is part of Free Poker, an organization dedicated to help legalize poker in Poland.
These days he looks weathered. He’s petitioned his case to a number of government employees, but the uphill battle seems to get steeper every year.
Horecki: "Authorities Have No Clue"
“The problem is that the people in charge have no clue about poker,” Horecki said. “We started getting to know the previous members of parliament and they started getting a better understanding of the game.
"But now we have new members of parliament that know nothing again.
“The Polish authorities that should be in charge have no clue. It’s not easy working for them.
“I’m afraid what might happen even in the next two months.”
The battle worn Horecki has been on the forefronts of Polish poker since its early days.
Horecki started playing poker in Poland in 2004. Back then, Horecki said it was hard to draw 15 to 20 players for a national tournament.
Horecki was a fan of the game though and one of his Magic: The Gathering friends, David Williams, introduced him to online poker.
Horecki then went pro in 2006 and has since amassed $1.4 million in live tournament earnings since.
The Next Generation
There’s been a few young rising stars since.
Dominik Panka became Poland’s top-earning player after he won the 2014 PCA and $1.4 million. The young Panka followed up that win with an EPT High Roller victory a few weeks later.
Panka’s live tournament earnings now sit at about $2.4 million.
Then an even younger Pole with slightly curlier hair popped onto the scene and started scoring multiple six-figure scores.
Dzimitry Urbanovich won the EPT High Roller in Malta last year and finished 2nd in the EPT Barcelona and EPT Monte Carlo Super High Rollers a few months later.
Then Urbanovich won EPT Dublin this February. The 21-year-old Urbanovich is now attending his first WSOP with nearly $5 million in live tournament earnings already.
Horecki said Urbanovich and Panka’s results helped propel the idea that poker was a game of skill, but nothing stemmed from it.
“We’re a country of really smart, talented players,” Horecki said.
“We’re good at chess and we’re good at bridge and it’s easier to be a winning player poker player in Poland."
Representing the Game
“It’s easier to live cheaply in Poland so you don’t have to make as much money as if you were living in London," Horecki said.
"So you get young, smart people who start playing poker in Poland.
“But now, with these laws, Poland is kind of discriminating against itself.”
Polish poker reporters say there will probably be an exodus of Polish players if the changes take place.
Urbanovich says he’s not aware of the legal battle surrounding poker in Poland. He only has one goal in poker: win.
Polish reporters say Urbanovich only spends his time in Las Vegas playing or sleeping, but many Polish players wish he would help Horecki hoist the poker mantle and tell parliament that poker is a game of skill.
“I would say about 95 percent of people in Poland don’t know what poker is,” Horecki said. “But a lot of people see poker as something something bad.
“A lot of players try to hide, but I’m proud that I’m a poker player and we as poker players have to promote it and show its good side.”