Soulier: This Might Be Last Big Buy-in Tourney in France for a While

Fabrice Soulier
Fabrice Soulier (right).

There are few people as qualified to comment on the state of poker in France than Fabrice Soulier.

His success on and off the felt speaks for itself but it's the fact that he's still in the game - and thriving - 15 years on that might say the most.

Back in Normandy to battle the blustery weather and famously soft (if dwindling) fields at EPT Deauville, PokerListings caught up with him for a quick chat about the state of the game in France, the demise of the Avaition Club and a creeping shift to the extreme right in his homeland.

PokerListings: Numbers for EPT Deauville have been going down for several years. Do you think it’ll stay on the schedule?

Fabrice Soulier: I sincerely hope it’s going to stay. I like to have an EPT in France because I think the country deserves it and because it’s a big poker market.

Soulier 4
"I think the country deserves it and because it’s a big poker market."

I just think it’s the wrong time of the year, because the weather is so bad in February.

I guess the players in France would prefer to have medium buy-in tournaments. 2,000 or 1,000 are working pretty good.

PL: Can you suggest any alternative place to Deauville?

FS: Unfortunately, I can’t. I’m afraid we might have seen the last big buy-in tournament in France for a while.

All the events that used to be in Cannes in September are cancelled for a number of reasons, so there won’t be any big event there in autumn.

PL: What about Monaco?

FS: I would love to have more events in Monaco. Everest Poker should set up something big there, but again there are diplomatic issues.

If it was only me, there would be tournaments with 10,000, 50,000 and 100,000 buy-ins twice a year.

There is a lot of potential there and it’s close enough to France to call it a French tournament.

PL: What do you think about Malta as a new stop on the EPT?

FS: I love it! I love it, because I’m moving there in March, so it’s going to be a home tournament for me.

fabrice soulier bom7
Soulier at Battle of Malta 2014

I went to the Battle of Malta last year, which was really cool, and I’m happy to see Malta emerge as a new poker country.

Also, my sponsor Everest Poker has an office there.

PL: In cooperation with the EPT, the GPI and Alex Dreyfus are organizing the Global Poker Masters. Does a team event make sense? All previous attempts failed.

FS: I think it’s good that someone even tries. I don’t see why a game like poker should not have a big team event.

PL: Allegedly your sponsor won’t allow you to play although you are nominated for France.

FS: It’s not my decision, and I can’t give you a straight answer. There are implications which are over my head.

PL: The police have recently shut down the Aviation Club in Paris. Are they closing in on French poker players?

FS: I’m trying hard to contain myself and say something nice about my country, but it’s getting harder.

At the moment they are just killing everybody. It’s becoming increasingly harder for anybody to do any business.

PL: So it’s not only about poker.

FS: No, it concerns business in general! Anything entrepreneurial is getting suppressed.

If you just live on small money, you get your social security and everything, you’re ok, but if you want to start some new business and turn over some money, you had better go somewhere else.

When I left my country in 2003, I had a lot of regrets, but now, I’m happy I don’t live in France. It would drive me crazy.

fabrice soulier malte2
"I'm happy I don't live in France right now."

PL: France has been shocked very recently by the terror attacks on Charlie Hebdo. Do you think this will have a lasting effect on the country and life in it?

FS: This is a big question and a deep issue. Actually, my nine year old daughter is called Charlie, what do you think it feels like to see her name in this respect in the papers all the time?

I hope that this tragedy will help to explore new visions and new possibilities, but I find it very hard to give a proper response here.

PL: You’ve been working for the media yourself for a very long time. Do you feel personally affected?

FS: Of course, it does! I am 45 years old and Charlie Hebdo has been a companion for me for many years.

What I don’t like is when people tell me what I’m supposed to laugh about and what’s not good to laugh about. I say, if something’s funny, you can laugh about it.

I’m supporting freedom of speech, that’s for sure, and I feel deeply affected. I was in Brazil when I heard the news, and it made me cry, I’m not going to lie.

I spent the whole night on the internet and it was very painful to see what was happening.

PL: Did it ever occur to you that a poker event could become a target for terror?

Fabrice Soulier
"Voting for the extreme right at the moment is definitely not the solution for our problems."

FS: Yes. To be honest, I thought about it when I came here to Deauville. I was checking if there was security and cameras and stuff.

At first you think there is nothing but of course there are personnel. But this is the same for every meeting and event in the world.

These terrorists are single people or small groups. There is no big organization, so it’s impossible to find them all, and that means there is always a risk no matter where you are.

PL: How is our society supposed to deal with this threat? Do we need to be more tolerant? Or less?

FS: That’s a big, philosophic question. For myself, the more things happen the more I believe in peace.

I can’t really give a simple answer. We’re living in a world that’s driven by money, there are a lot of things where we don’t know what’s going on, like is the CIA behind Al-Qaida or not.

It’s going to take time to find a way to deal with terrorism, and that’s the same in France as internationally.

PL: But you wouldn’t go for a radical solution like “let’s end immigration."

FS: No, of course not. Of course, not! I’m an entrepreneur, and I’m definitely not politically right wing.

If you want me to make a political statement: I think the extreme right, which have about 30% of the votes, is deeply hurting our country.

Voting for the extreme right at the moment is definitely not the solution for our problems.

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