Magnus Carlsen cashed for the first time in such a prestigious tournament at EPT Monte Carlo.
– "Have you ever cashed in the EPT before?" The neighbors at the bubble TV table asked Magnus.
“That would be problematic, given that I've never played them before,” Carlsen replied.
He played in the tournament for three days and was eliminated in 63rd place, for which he received €15,000. By poker standards, the prize is quite modest, but Magnus managed to play at the TV table and noticeably increased interest in the tournament.
Magnus told PokerStars journalists that he had already attended this tournament, however, only as a spectator.
“I was in this hall in 2007,” Magnus recalls. – I was 18 years old, and I came to Monte Carlo for a chess tournament. I knew that there was a major poker series nearby and that Alexander Grischuk, who was in the top ten at the time and is now one of the best chess players in the world, was participating in the EPT Main Event. I went to go see.
This was Magnus' first exposure to poker. A couple of years later, in an interview, he admitted that he sometimes plays online.
After that, there was no news about his poker achievements for several years, but in recent years Magnus' love for the game has clearly received a second wind. In 2020, he signed a contract with Unibet, he regularly plays in the Norwegian Poker Championship, and last year he came to Las Vegas for the WSOP Main Event. Most recently, he was featured on the most popular poker show of recent years – the Hustler casino stream.
– What VPIP will you have today? Alexandra Botez asked him before the session.
– I don’t even know, it’s definitely less than 80.
– Well, at least more than 60?
– Not likely either. I really need money to pay for my expensive bad habits like alcohol. Therefore, I will play seriously.
– Then another question – during the game will you make more or less than three shots?
– And it already depends on how I play.
As a result, Carlsen turned out to be one of the tightest, which allowed him to play a small plus (they played $10/$25 with straddle).
Despite his obvious interest in the game, Magnus admits that he does not set big poker goals for himself.
– In poker, I have no ambitions; I enjoy it, it's interesting, but nothing more. I'm not working on the game in any way, although I should. But I like to discuss hands with familiar players.
As is often the case with celebrities, their game is immediately critiqued by experts.
Magnus understands that some of his actions deserve criticism and is not afraid of this.
“I don’t think too highly of my game myself. I try to learn something useful from every session. It is clear that sometimes I can do something outright stupid, this is expected. And it is quite logical that they will pay attention to this.
There are a lot of players in poker who have played chess at a high level in the past. When asked which of the current strongest chess players could achieve good results, Magnus said the new world champion.
“I think Ding Liren could be a very strong player. I am familiar with him, he is very strong in mathematics, and incredibly and quickly calculates the moves on the chessboard. I think it would be useful for him to be in poker too.
The main difference between chess and poker is dispersion. In poker, situations constantly arise in which the player cannot influence the outcome in any way. But Magnus is sure that poker and chess have much more in common than is commonly thought.
– Of course, chess is a game with complete information, but still, you often have to make a decision, realizing that your calculations simply cannot be perfect. And in this, these two games are very similar.
Carlsen's ability to guess was vividly demonstrated in one of the hands he played on Hustler's stream. On the board of , he called three barrels with and turned out to be right.
Both during the game and after it, Carlsen analyzed this hand like an experienced professional, suggesting that there were not many value hands on such a dynamic board that his opponent could bet with on all three streets.
“Yes, there were not so many obvious bluffs,” Carlsen recalls. “On the other hand, he is the kind of player who with many one-pair hands will try to get to showdown with checks. So I figured there was a decent chance he was bluffing. We weak players often play by our gut. And sometimes it fails.
For many, Magnus is the greatest chess player in history; some might even list him as one of the best athletes of all time. Does he have any sports idols himself?
– Great question. In general, I admire the actions of people, not themselves. But, if you need to name someone specifically, then I will choose Rafa Nadal. He has a unique style that fascinates me. He is incredibly stubborn, sometimes it seems that it is impossible to break him at all.
For many, online poker has become an outlet during the Covid epidemic, when people were forced to stay at home all day. It was during the lockdown that Magnus began to play a lot online. But the world champion in rapid chess will never get used to one feature of poker – the need to make decisions instantly.
"Shot clocks and time banks cause me a lot of stress. Chess is much easier for me because I know what to do and I make many decisions on autopilot. When I play blitz or rapid chess online, I like to listen to music. It helps me relax and my instincts work better. But poker is different. Here I have much less knowledge, so I have to strain more. The extra noise will only distract me. I just sit and carefully follow what is happening so as not to miss anything important."