AN AMATEUR poker player won £60,000 in an international competition – after earning himself a place with less than a tenner.
David Mander, who had never competed in a major poker tournament before, beat hundreds of players and played for around 25 hours to place third in PokerStars Festival London’s main event.
The 22-year-old, from Horspath, said he had expected to be knocked out within the first hour and is still getting his head round his success.
Mr Mander described his performance last month as a ‘one off’ and said the experience was ‘unbelievable’.
He added: “Even now I’m still struggling to come to terms with it. I just can’t believe it.”
Mr Mander, who works part time in property maintenance, claimed his place in the event after entering a competition online for $11.
Many of those playing would have had to pay nearly £1,000.
After winning entry to the tournament, Mr Mander was excited for the experience – never expecting to last very long.
He said: “I told all of my family and friends that I had qualified and said I’m probably going to get knocked out straight away.
“I don’t consider myself to be a good player so I just had the mindset of enjoying the experience.”
Travelling down to London on the Oxford Tube, Mr Mander was shaking with nerves – but they began to settle after he got down to playing.
On day one, he played against nearly 150 others. When several hours passed and he remained at the table, Mr Mander started to alter his original expectations.
He said: “As everything progressed it started to become more realistic that it was going to go somewhere.”
From the total of 852 entrants, only 297 made it to day two – and Mr Mander looked close to defeat.
With few chips to his name it seemed he was circling failure when he was given the fourth best hand in the game: pocket jacks.
Deciding it was a now-or-never moment, Mr Mander went all in, staking all of his money on the hand.
It seemed like the end of the road when one of his competitors called him, matching his bet and revealing a hand of two aces.
But luck smiled on Mr Mander as the last turn card gave him a flush – one of the top hands – and he was thoroughly back in the game.
On day three, Mr Mander made it to the final three, but had fallen far behind.
He went all in on another hand but, on this occasion, it was close of play for Mr Mander – and £60,000 in the bank.
He said: “I didn’t feel hard done by because I did the best I could. They’re better players than me.”
As for the cash, Mr Mander is avoiding the temptation to buy into dozens more poker tournaments.
He added: “I’m obviously mindful of the fact that it may well have been lucky – so I’m not going to go absolutely crazy.”
Mr Mander said his love of poker goes back to time spent playing cards with his late grandad Archibald as a child.