The GUKPT London showed that the pandemic hasn’t dampened spirits or people’s desire to ante up in a live poker tournament. After 16 months of inactivity, Grosvenor’s tour came back with a bang last week.
The GUKPT London got underway on July 15 when there were still some COVID-19 restrictions in England. By the time the shackles were dropped on July 19, activity inside The Poker Room soared.
The £340 ($468) Mini Main Event attracted 804 entrants, making it the biggest GUKPT live event in history. The momentum continued with the £1,100 ($1,500) Main Event and a bumper field of 591 entrants.
Grosvenor bounces back bigger and better than before
To put that number in context, the final GUKPT Main Event before lockdown restrictions took hold in March 2020 attracted 316 entries. That tournament took place in Manchester, so comparing it to an event in London might not be fair. Even so, 2020’s GUKPT London Main Event only attracted 379 entrants.
The 55.9% increase in attendance for the first post-pandemic GUKPT is a clear sign that players were eager to get back on the road.
Although COVID-19 remains a threat, England’s successful vaccination efforts have severely weakened the link between infections and death. As such, Prime Minister Boris Johnson lifted all COVID restrictions on July 19, which meant Euan McNicholas was able to flash a smile for the camera after beating everyone in his way to the title.
The GUKPT first-timer outlasted a tough line-up of familiar faces from the British poker circuit. From Laurence Houghton to Jack Hardcastle and Antoine Saout, no one could touch McNicholas during Sunday’s final session.
McNicholas makes the most of his first outing
CardsChat grabbed a few words with the latest GUKPT London champion after he scored the largest victory of his career so far. “It was actually the first live GUKPT series I’ve played,” McNicholas told us.
He went on to say that the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions was a great reason to get out and play, and that he didn’t feel unsafe at any time. “I didn’t have too many concerns about playing live. I’ve been vaccinated and was keen to get playing again. The series was really well run,” McNicholas continued.
With COVID concerns the furthest thing from McNicholas’ mind, he was able to focus on battling with some of Britain’s best players. Maintaining that focus for three days wasn’t easy, however, particularly when it’s your first live GUKPT, which might have been why McNicholas almost lost his way late in the Main Event.
With 16 players left, he was down to 7.5bbs and sitting in last place before a series of successful all-ins got him back into contention.
The Final hand of the GUKPT London Main Event!
What a run out! pic.twitter.com/euLS0AlZDx
— Grosvenor Poker (@GrosvenorPoker) July 26, 2021
From there, it was all smooth sailing. Beating Tadas Budzeika heads-up earned McNicholas his first GUKPT title and a career-best payday worth £165,800 ($229,132).
“Winning the event was crazy. I had an awesome rail and am very thankful to have experienced it with a load of friends,” McNicholas said.
The GUKPT bandwagon will now plot a course for Manchester. With COVID restrictions removed and infection rates going down, it looks as though the next GUKPT could be just as action-packed as the London series when it gets underway on Aug. 4.