Big poker tournaments allow certain players to suddenly rise to fame, the way the curtain of a stage rises dramatically revealing something spectacular. Such was not the case for 35-year-old Eric Koskas, a player from Marseilles who just finished fourth in the San Remo European Poker Tour at the beginning of April 2008. He had created a buzz well before he joined the Winamax team of professional players.
His online nickname is "Moumouth," and it was already famous among fans of high stakes online poker. Eric "Moumouth" Koskas plays in the realm of a number of zeros that is unattainable by most players. The success of his disconcerting and aggressive game varies wildly, perplexing those who cannot survive games where the stacks reach such colossal sums. Eric has never tempered his game, despite criticism, displaying a power that is only found in great players who adapt their game without ever changing it.
"Moumouth" doesn't owe anything to anyone. Observers are interested and intrigued by his unique game and his joie-de-vivre. This is probably one reason why he finds himself among the best.
Those who follow Eric are in for a series of free-falls and comebacks with constant flirtations with disaster. The action is continuous, the suspense allowing huge surprises. We therefore went to speak with this "Indiana Jones" of poker, both strong and fragile, after his Italian adventure.
[B]Pokernews : "Hello Eric. They say you are a math prodigy. You are capable of remembering bar codes or license plate numbers for a very long time. Is that why you don't play face cards?"
EK : "It's true that I have an affinity for small hands, it's a playing strategy. It's easier to create an accident or at least a surprise with those kinds of hands. On the other hand, I'm afraid to play big hands. They often bring disappointments and can be terrible, and they don't allow for bluffing which takes the spice out of the game."
Pokernews : "Professionally you can deal with pharmaceuticals, retirement homes, and you come from a medical background. Does this affect the way you play, with adrenaline rushes followed by homeopathic remedies?"
EK : "I have a constant need to heal myself. I'm not looking to win, but rather to outdo myself. The style should reflect a player's character. Many players play a style that is not natural for them out of necessity. They temper their impulses; they lie to themselves. Personally, I chose to be authentic and adapt my game to my character without predetermined models. I refused to be a copy, even though I risked criticism and even derision. I never backed down. San Remo is an important step which reassures my convictions without any pretension."
Pokernews : "Let's imagine that you win three EPTsâ€¦"
EK : "Today, I'm not at the point of perfecting my game. I haven't yet done enough to that end. For me, I'm happy to be in the circuit, event though I don't consider myself a pro. When we were down to four at the end, I had already won. I though that any one of is could win and my style had proven its effectiveness."
Pokernews : "Do you think you'll devote yourself more to the game?"
EK : "No, I don't think so. It's just a hobby. It's a pleasure to compete. I think I'm someone who's capable of ceasing to play because I've reached my limit. When it came to winning among the final four, I put strategy aside. I didn't have the will. If I lost, it wasn't a problem. I wanted to finish in the final four or five, as a matter of prestige."
Pokernews : "Did you have fans?"
EK : "I play mainly for myself. It's weird, that really didn't come into play in my head, I stayed within myself."
Pokernews : "If you're by yourself, it's just as wellâ€¦"
EK : "There was a wall between me and them, I played by myself. But on the other hand, I like to have people watching me, on television, for example."
Pokernews : "At the final table at one point you got up and you said, 'Either he has two queens or he's bluffing.'"
EK : "It was interior, to justify my call to everyone. They were talking about my game; I was talking to the worldâ€¦ I know he didn't have anything and that people would see that on television. That time I made a great call refusing to follow. Afterwards, luck was on my side."
Pokernews : "They say that you played your first poker game in Marseilles through the encouragement of Romain FÃ©rioloâ€¦"
EK : "He told me: this game is made for you. I saw him play in Monaco. I didn't fully grasp the importance of what he was doingâ€¦ Romain was playing his second tournament. The complexity of Texa Hold'em seemed to make it an ideal game to which I could apply my style."
Pokernews : "Would you prefer to go to heaven in a Ferrari or on a white horse?"
EK : "On a white horse. I prefer animals to material objects."
Pokernews : "Does the horse remind you of the tournaments of long ago?"
EK : "Nobility, execution perhapsâ€¦. The knight in shining armor thing. If someone is being antagonizing, I do feel like eliminating him. However, I didn't feel like eliminating the four finalists. The rest was destiny."
Pokernews : "Do you refuse mediocrity? Is your game a reflection of yourself?"
EK : "Absolutely. People who play well are generally good people. I don't know a good football player who isn't also fun to be around. I form my ideas of people as a function of how they play. That's why I can be difficult when I don't like a player. When a player pays others often, he is generous. When a player is aggressive, he's a human being. A tight player isn't a very sensitive one."
Pokernews : "If you wrote a book about poker, what would the title be ? Life's Lessons?"
EK : "That's too banal. I crave originality. 'Poker, Life's Light,' or 'Poker, Light of the Soul.' By playing poker, you can see the reflection of people's souls."
Pokernews : "During the San Remo final, you didn't shave. Is it superstition?"
EK : "No. But it's reassuring because it reminds me that it's a game. Kissing your ring, wearing the same jacket, taking the elevator with Antonyâ€¦ [Editor's note: Anthony Lellouche] It didn't go any farther than that, and it was fun. For many, though, they can't help but be superstitious."
Pokernews : "From now on you'll be sponsored by Winamax. What does that mean for you?"
EK : "I used to refuse sponsorship. I hadn't done anything or produced any major results. But today it amounts to recognition. I wanted to win first and then I hoped for a clear sign that would indicate that people believed in me. Winamax gave me that sign."
Pokernews : "What is the tournament of your dreams?"
EK : "The $25.000 Bellagio tournament. The Bellagio is a mythical place."
Pokernews : "The American dream?"
EK : "It still exists. It reached its peak in the 70s and 80s in France. Everyone said it was going to go away, but it's coming back. The American dream is a state of mind that is within France's grasp again."
Pokernews : "Can a good poker player be a good ambassador? Does he have a message for beginners?"
EK : "Well, there's the problem of humility. I can't pass a message along because it would be too pretentious. Poker is a struggle against one's self and the rest of the world.
You have to allow yourself to be like me, to accept losing money without betraying your inner convictions."
Pokernews : "In fact, with reference to the old adage : No pain, no gainâ€¦What kinds of things improve your game?"
EK : "When people say that Negreanu talks about me. When people criticize me and think that by doing so they're doing some goodâ€¦ the discussions with other playersâ€¦ when I go all in with nothingâ€¦ I confront each situation with a philosophical attitude, while trying to gain an advantage or learn a lesson for the next time."
Pokernews : "What do you think is the role of experience in this game?"
EK : "The problem with experience is that it sometimes stifles that seed of madness, if experience and madness have anything to do with one anotherâ€¦ The talented player has to be crazy. The great poker player should tend towards genius, which is the marriage of madness and talent."
Pokernews : "After dying, and before coming back, what would your last words be?"
EK : "The show must go onâ€¦ Gentlemen, I have not bluffed you enough! I will be backâ€¦"
Pokernews : "Thank you Eric. We were right when we imagined that poker is a show for you. A game on a giant screen where you can give free reign to your expressive style. Without a mask, without holding back, and above all without pretention, you play the game. Perhaps the ultimate conclusion would be that all geniuses are misunderstood before they become legitimate and without controversy."
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