Natalia Nikitina upset the form book to storm through the WPT National Series in Paris this week and come out as the first ever female champion. She took home a cool €243,830 and also carved her name in the history books.
The poker tournament held a €5,000 buy-in with 188 players starting on the first day and all of the pre-final table hype was about Nottingham-born high flyer, Sam Trickett. The Englishman has had chins wagging with excitement after some superb performances in 2011 that have seen him earn over $3m in prize money already this year with a double of top two finishes at the Aussies Millions Poker Championship. This tournament was set to really thrust Trickett into the spotlight and solidify his reputation as one of Europe’s finest poker players right now. Nikitina clearly had not read the script.
Benjamin Pollak entered the final table as the chip leader. It started as an arduous affair with almost 5 hours passing before the table’s first elimination occurred when Nicolo Calia lost all of his chips. Nikitina kept her head low as players continued to fall. Ingo Paulus, Sam Trickett and Tobias Wagner all exited the tournament despite high aspirations before the chip leader at the start of the session, Benjamin Pollak, saw his luck run out as he finished in 4th.
Nikitina was now up with the higher chip counts and she forced her way into the chip lead with a huge win over Jean-Louis Tepper. It wasn’t long before Tepper was sent packing leaving Nikitina to go head-to-head with the dangerous French professional poker player Alexandre Brivot. Brivot’s experience quickly showed as he began to dominate Nikitina and it looked like the title was only going one way.
However, as she picked up two big wins against Brivot, it came down to massive hand where Brivot went all-in with King of spades and Jack of hearts as Nikitina showed am Ace of clubs and 3 of spades. Nikitina’s hand came through for her and Brivot was condemned to a second place ‘nearly man’ finish whilst Nikitina took all the plaudits and made history as the first ever female winner of this National Series event. It might have been an unofficial WPT tournament but the prestige of the participants shows it was far from a nothing event and Nikitina’s success is still considered a tremendous leap for female poker players in the game.
As Trickett and Pollak will be wondering where it all went wrong, Nikitina will be hoping that this not only acts as a catalyst for her budding career but for the thousands of female poker players out there who are looking to stamp their mark on a game that is largely dominated by men… for the time being.