Thomas Middleton’s transition to “notable”

butterfly cycle

And so the European Poker Tour is back in full swing and the first event of its tenth year is now in the books following ten days of play in Barcelona. There was no double winner, and no outstanding performance by an established pro, at least in the Main Event. But it did include the conversion of one young player from the ranks of “random dude” to the esteemed status of “notable”.

Few may realise it, but losing “random” status is one of the biggest leaps a player can make as a professional. This sudden acknowledgment usually comes only after a big win, or perhaps a humiliating episode on network television. But it can change the future of even the most anonymous of player,

Several near misses can also do the trick, but a major title will fast track your application. It leads to a lifetime of seeing your name appearing on chip count pages, sometimes even with a hyperlink to more information about your recent results. Maybe even a picture.

Tom Middleton was hardly unknown when he flew to Barcelona. But while part of that pack of British players who travel the circuit, he had yet to have his coming out party. That changed on Saturday, when he won €942,000.

Middleton showed class, patience and enough self-belief to overcome the Finn Kimmo Kurko in a lengthy heads-up. But it was also a curious performance, with something of the “loan shark” about it.

Middleton would start the last four days as chip leader. Then, shortly after play began, he would allow others to borrow his chips, using them to advance their own cause, before calling in these loans at the end of the day with outrageous rates of interest. He’d then repeat this all the way to the final table. As a plan — however inadvertent — it worked brilliantly.

The new champion was staked by British pro Toby Lewis, no small sign of the faith others have in him. Lewis was then entitled to half of what Middleton earned, in this case €471,000. Forget Wonga, that’s, well, a lot of interest.

But it’s a fact of the game players are of course accustomed too. And thank goodness, as otherwise the talents of players like Middleton, who drew on Lewis’s experience as the final rumbled on, may never have reached the stage they deserve.

Middleton will now play on in this new league, complete with hyperlinks, heightened reputation and some financial clout of his own. He just got a lot richer. So too did the poker community at large.