Leon Tsoukernik isn't a 'star' in the international poker scene per se.
And he's not a poker "pro," as we traditionally know one. But he is quite a public poker figure.
The owner of the biggest poker room in Europe, the King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Tsoukernik was the amateur at the final table of the €50k Super High Roller event in Prague yesterday.
He surprised almost everyone - except perhaps his own rail - by defeating pro Charlie Carrel and claiming the last EPT SHR title on offer.
Tsoukernik Famous for Unpredictable Style
His King’s Casino has played host to hundreds of pros for games as high as €500/€1,000 heads-up and Tsoukernik has become infamous for his highly unpredictable playing style as seen on German High Rollers and the King's Cash Game streams.
EPT Prague has been his home EPT and he's played many of the high roller events but never managed a cash. Those in the know, though, knew that if his style would give him a big stack he’d be able to go all the way. And now he has.
Photo: Neil Stoddart, PokerStars
PokerListings: Is it special for you to win the very last EPT €50k Super High Roller event?
Leon Tsoukernik: This is one of the most prestigious poker tournaments in the world and it was done by the largest poker tournament organizer in Europe. It’s something incredible and almost invaluable for me.
PL: You’ve played a lot of high stakes in your life. I was wondering if this really means something for you.
LT: It definitely means more than 741,000 Euro.
PL: Is the trophy going to get a special place in the King’s Casino?
LT: We have a display case for trophies where we keep a lot of famous bracelets like the ones for Pius Heinz and Fedor Holz. That’s where it’s going to go.
PL: You made a couple of comments about “so-called pros” at the final table. Did you just try to needle Charlie?
LT: It wasn’t needling. It’s something that I keep explaining to all the pros all the time. I am the only real pro at the table.
PL: How so?
LT: Because I’m the one who’s taking the rake and they’re the ones paying the rake. That explains everything.
Of course this is just table talk, you know? I’m trying to tilt people and that’s one way to do it.
I like doing fun stuff like the seven-deuce game. I’ve lost a lot of money with it but it’s really great to win with it.
"It’s about what you represent"
PL: It creates a strange dynamic at the table sometimes because people play it like aces.
LT: It’s about what you represent. What do you think Charlie thought I had yesterday when I played seven-deuce?
I was representing a strong ace. If Charlie doesn’t hit second pair on the turn, he would have folded his ace to me.
PL: On the river your hand looked even stronger. Charlie just couldn’t find a deuce in your range.
LT: I knew one thing for sure. He wouldn’t call if I went all-in. So I quickly figured out a more conservative bet and he actually told me later that that was the maximum I could have gotten out of him.
[Editor’s note: Tsoukernik is referring to hand #39 of the heads-up. A memorable hand that you’ll see in a lot of recaps and that’ll surely be one of our Hands of the Week.]
PL: The EPT will soon be history but several major poker tours have already visited the King’s Casino. Will locations be more important than tour brands in the future?
Live poker has to be comfortable.
LT: Live poker has to be comfortable and it has to be convenient. When live players take a whole week to visit a big festival they want it to be affordable and comfortable.
They want to have decent food and good accommodation and that’s what we’re trying to offer in Rozvadov.
PL: independent of who’s actually hosting the event.
LT: We want to be a poker destination. You say EPT but you don’t say “Hilton." In Rozvadov we offer everything from multi-national tournaments to small local events with a 50 Euro buy-in.
There’s a reason why it’s already a globally known destination for poker. You travel for poker, like people travel for skiing, for golf, for any kind of activity that attracts your community.
PL: But poker also lives on attractive destinations. What are you going to do to make Rozvadov a more attractive destination?
LT: The King’s is already easy to access and the hotels are very affordable. For some events the King’s is the ideal location. Not everyone wants to spend 400 dollars a night.
The King’s is very much like American casinos. We have 5600 sq. m in gaming space, 400 staff and 160 poker tables.
In 2017 we’re opening another hotel with 500 beds and a 700 sq. m spa as well as another gaming hall with 1,800 sq. m. I guess you can see which way we’re going.