By 2008, the poker wave had hit Europe big time.
Home games were running in every village from the north of Finland to the south of Spain and online poker was played in households from Galway, Ireland to Vladivostok, Russia.
The year before the WSOP had expanded into Europe with the first edition of the WSOPE, which was won by a young and shy Norwegian girl named Annette Obrestad. Europeans were also increasingly dominating online after the UIGEA in 2006.
Yes, the Europeans were starting to take over the American game of poker, and if the folks in Vegas hoped an American would capture the coveted title as World Champion of Poker, they'd end up disappointed.
To boost TV ratings and excitement, 2008 was also the year they decided to move the final table to November and give birth to the "November Nine."
It was a controversial move as the players all of sudden had to wait four months before they could finish the tournament of their lives. Some poker fans claimed the WSOP would never be the same as it was giving in to the power of capitalism.
This discussion still comes up every year, but the introduction of the November Nine immediately led to a huge increase in the number of viewers.
In 2008, those viewers watched a final table of five Americans, two Canadians and two Europeans - Peter Eastgate from Denmark and Ivan Demidov of Russia - who would end up fighting for the bracelet.
Euro Aggression Takes Over
American Dennis Phillips came in as the chip leader inthe November Nine while Demidov had the second-largest stack. Eastgate wasn't far behind in fourth.
The two Europeans played very aggressively and their strategy paid off as they careened towards a heads-up showdown.
Phillips’ chip lead didn't last long and he had to settle for third place. In his final hand he chose the wrong time for bravery as he made a huge bluff when Eastgate had hit a set on the flop.
Eastgate went into the heads-up with a 60-40 chip advantage and the duel was very interesting. Both played aggressively - especially Eastgate - and the final hand was also very good.
On a dry 2K3 flop the Russian caught a pair of deuces (42) but Eastgate had a gutshot draw (A5). The turn brought the 4 and then the real fireworks began.
Demidov had made two pair but the Dane had his straight. Here's how it ended:
Eastgate: The "Lazy" Champion
When Peter Eastgate won the WSOP Main Event he became the youngest champion ever – at least until Joe Cada took the honour the following year.
The 23-year-old Dane from Odense, the home town of fairy tale author Hans Christian Andersen, became an instant star. A golden contract with PokerStars awaited his signature and he had the poker world at his feet.
The fairy tale part was a relatively short one, though. He did go on to sign the contract with PokerStars and played quite a few tournaments with success, including a runner-up spot at the EPT London in 2009.
In 2010, though, he pulled the plug and announced he had had enough of poker.
He cut ties with PokerStars and instead focused on sports betting, where he – in his own words – bet on every single game in the English Premier League, Italian Serie A, the German Bundesliga, the Danish Superliga and the World Cup in 2010.
It wasn't a success. He ended up losing around $2.2 million on his new passion.
Since then he has made a few short comebacks to poker, including this year when he appeared at the WSOPC in Georgia, but he considers himself retired.
Just Your Average Copenhagener
What else has Peter Eastgate been doing since 2008? Nothing really, according to him. In 2013 he moved back to Denmark to study bio medicine but failed the majority of the exams. Since then he has been taking it easy. Very easy.
Eastgate has been very honest in interviews and admitted the big score is a pretext for inaction. He won't run out of money anytime soon and has lacked the motivation to get a job or an education.
Today he lives in an apartment in Copenhagen and lives far from a "luxurious" lifestyle. He doesn't own a car and gets around by bike, as most Copenhageners do. But to say he hasn't really done anything after his win is also a bit misleading. Much of the $9.1 million he won in Vegas is invested in real estate in Thailand, Germany and Denmark.
He also still has ties to the poker community as one of the owners of Denmark’s largest poker forums, Pokernet.dk. Here he did an interesting AMA session in 2014 where he even admitted how much he was paid by PokerStars (around $1 million per year) and how many girls he met from being the world champion in poker (1-3 according to his own estimates)!
Ivan Demidov: The Russian Moneymaker
Although Demidov didn't win it became a defining moment for the development of poker in Russia, and to a great extent in the CIS. Demidov became the Russian Chris Moneymaker. Thousands of young Russians began to study this new game to play with friends at home and then in online poker rooms. An effect still visible today. Demidov became a true hero, although he actually never received the the $5 million for second place! This he said last year:
"That second place completely changed my life, but it's not about the money - I did not get anything. The story is long and complicated. In short: The backer did not pay, so the prize money I have never seen."
Demidov’s backer at the time was Sergei Rybachenko, who has supported and helped many other young Russian poker players. The details of this history still remain behind the scenes and we only know that the two are still on friendly terms.
Rybachenko was the mentor and teacher for Demidov, who before poker had played for a professional Warcraft 3 team under the name of Soul. He also specialized in StarCraft and Age of Empires. Demidov also achieved the incredible feat of becoming the first player to reach final tables at the WSOP Main Event and the WSOPE Main Event the same year. Deservedly, he signed a contract with PokerStars and only as late as this year their cooperation came to an end.
Demidov and Eastgate do have one thing in common when it comes to their connection to the poker world today: A poker forum. Demidov is one of the owners and creators (again together with Rybachenko) of the most popular Russian poker forum Gipsyteam.
The Russian has traveled a lot and an active life for him and his family (Lika Gerasimova and little Grisha) is one of the main activities in their spare time. Two years ago, Demidov moved to Latvia and the seaside town of Jurmala:
"The area is perfect, only 15-20 minutes by car to Riga. The airport is 5-7 minutes away and an international school is within walking distance. In the summer it is really great! The nearby woods are full of berries, and what is important to me is that there are no mosquitoes!"
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