Michel Molenaar Wins Record Breaking Tournament!
Last week the third edition of The Festival Series was organized in Bratislava. It promised to be a real spectacle with an epic €500,000 guaranteed prize pool in the Main Event, not bad for a €550 buy-in. With 1,271 entries, this prize pool was even expanded to €603,725, of which a staggering €126,650 was reserved for the winner. A large group of Dutch people made their appearance at the Banco Casino in the capital of Slovakia, which resulted in a dream scenario. Two Dutchmen would cross swords for the win!
Michel Molenaar, rising star of Dutch poker and only 23 years old, managed to win the Main Event. The player from Volendam, a fisher town close to Amsterdam, bested everyone and was able to score his biggest cash ever and even doubled up his all-time cashes. We spoke to him:
Hey Michel, have you recovered from The Festival Series? How were the first days back in our little country?
Yes, I have arrived back in Volendam since last Monday and I was able to get some rest. Volendam is not that big with 22,000 inhabitants, and then you soon have the ‘’everybody knows each other’’ story. When I cycled across the village on my bike, I already was congratulated by people who recognized me, that makes it extra beautiful. Funny detail is that I had been to my hairdresser a while ago and had promised to step in there again once I had achieved a great result. I kept my word.
How long have you been playing poker? And how has it all gone so far?
In the Netherlands you can legally play real money poker from the age of 18 and you can start straight away from that age. When I was 19, I put my studies aside and I fully focused on poker, I am also a big fan of chess, so I spend the necessary hours on that too. I picked up live poker immediately and some nice cashes in Barcelona, Rozvadov, Nottingham and Marrakech, I can say that it has gone quite well so far.
The Festival Series had its 3rd stop. How did you get there?
A friend of mine, Jeroen Aarts, was already in Tallinn (Estonia) in June and told me that it is a beautiful series where not only poker is high on the agenda, but especially the fun is paid a lot of attention to it. That combination appealed to me, especially if it is also held in a country like Slovakia, the safe side of Eastern Europe. I stayed there for the entire week for the series and was able to combine the mixed games with the No-Limit Main Event and some other side events.
How did the Main Event go for you up to the final day?
In fact, I was doing well throughout the whole tournament. On day 1 I finished with 177K (start 30K), running hot and made good plays quickly before I qualified for day 2, so I could focus on the necessary side events such as the Heads-Up tournament and the NLHE High Roller. Unfortunately, no cash because in the High Roller I got it in good for about half of the chips in play with 16 people left. 11 Would reach to the money and with 3 million chips it would have been very easy to grind to the top spots. Unfortunately, A J could not beat Jx 8x and Qx Qx on a flop with two spades. I had already played TheHendonMob Challenge before the Main Event and I was able to score a nice cash with a 14th place.
Day 2 started well, and I was able to add a ton to my chip stack. Until then, the table was quite soft and ideally with a big pile of chips, then Norwegian Espen Sandvik came to sit at my table, and I knew already he was quite an aggressive player. He was soon able to hit the showers as I was running well and got it in against him with my Qx Qx against his Jx Jx. It all really ran like clockwork, and I could not lose anything that day. I knocked out Johan Huisman with flip Ax Kx vs Tx Tx, river A. Did not have to do much and eventually expanded my stack to 5.7 million.
I got to know you at the beginning of the week, found out during the week that you had known as ''Lord Barre II'' in the Netherlands, and thought you came across as very calm. Do you have any special preparation for such a final table?
The last two tables did not take too much time, and we quickly got to the unofficial final table. There we got a little break, and when 8 players were left, there was a 30-minute dinner break. Too much on the short side to be honest, could barely finish half a portion of spaghetti. Although the hunger had disappeared a bit due to healthy adrenaline from the final table. Too bad about the short breaks, because then you are just a bit in your game against the players where you eventually compete for the first places.
The final table I did not know anyone in terms of playing styles. But had already spoken a bit with Gerianne Dijkstra (runner-up for €77K), but that was it. I had seen a little bit of play at the other tables around me, and a little bit of how they played. The Icelander, Leo Sigurdsson, and Hungarian, Peter Kamaras, seemed reasonable players to me, considering they had some nice moves. I saw many players making some blunders when there were 8 players remaining and then you notice that the level was not too high. It all went smoothly, until we were with three players left, then it stopped a bit. And the stacks were also somewhat even. Luckily, a few good bluffs against Gerianne Dijkstra, and I got in perfectly against the Leo Sigurddsson with Ax Ax against his Ax Qx, which also almost meant practically the end for him.
Heads-up when two hands were counted, came the joy and happiness. This was your biggest money ever, what are your plans in the future?
Yes, the heads up did not last too long luckily, and it fell my way. €126K is a huge amount, but whether I have some plans for it now, I cannot really say yet. Probably a little more investment and clicking online than usual would be the usual run out. Playing semi-professional without a job is already stress-free and with some chess on the side, then such an amount is extra tasty.
I am going to play the Master Classics of Poker in Holland Casino Amsterdam anyway, because I already know a lot of people there. I have been active in Dutch poker for five years and then such an outing is always a party. I cannot say anything about the next The Festival Series yet. Nottingham, Dusk Till Dawn poker club, I have been to, but because of taxes it is not that attractive for Dutch players. Malta, Portomaso Casino appeals to me enormously, especially because of the large numbers of Dutch people who always go there.
Michel, congratulations again and thanks for the conversation, we will keep in touch. Any closing words?
Shout out to Dominik Nitsche and DTO poker. It was the first event where I forgot to wear my patches, but luckily a win made up for that.
Main Event Payouts