Norwich poker player pockets thousands at European event

An amateur gambler from Norwich has played his cards right and pocketed more than �50,000 in a European poker competition.

Kevin Thurston played for 38 hours and beat 300 players to secure second place in the Grand Series of Poker Live (GSPO) in Seville, Spain.

The 27-year-old owes some of his winnings to lady luck who dealt him pocket aces - the best cards you can have at the beginning of a game - during a nail-biting final against the world's poker elite.

Meanwhile, regulars at his local pub, The Cellar House in Eaton, followed his every bet as they watched the match live from their bar stools.

Now, the punter plans to spend his winning on a trip to Las Vegas to contend for a �10m prize at the Betfair World Series.

Mr Thurston, of Threescore, Colney, said he was close to not taking part in the competition because he did not want to miss the Champions League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid.

He said: 'The whole experience was surreal - I was really buzzing. In the final game a player raised, a player went all in and I had pocket aces- I was clear second with half a million chips.

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'At one point during the final I decided to buy four bottles of champagne and give everyone in the front row glasses to thank them for watching for such a long time.

'When I got to the final two we had a 20 minute break and I looked at my phone and got all the messages of support from people in The Cellar House. It made me think - 'I can do this'.

'At the end I couldn't help thinking how close I was to winning it, but I soon realised just how much I had won.'

Kevin Thurston was first introduced to poker when he began playing above his dad's pub in Brighton.

Since then, he has gone on to compete in poker tournaments in America as well as winning competitions at the Norwich Poker Club.

He decided to take part in the GSPO competition with his friend Sean Rowe after the pair won places, worth �3,500 each, on an online gambling site.

The event was held at the Gran Casino Aljarafe where more than 300 people spent four days competing for the first prize jackpot worth more than �80,000.

Mr Thurston, 27, who is a call centre manager for PLT marketing based in Norwich, said: 'I had a feeling I was going to do well, but when i heard people back at home saying it, I started to believe the hype.

'My Facebook just exploded when I was on the final table. The guy who beat me was a world series bracelet winner, which is the highest tournament you can achieve, so I felt I did well to get that far.'

Landlord for The Cellar House pub on Eaton Road, Paul Malynn, said he was thrilled to see Mr Thurston do so well.

He said: 'I am delighted for him. His friends were watching him in the pub and cheering him on. He has always been keen on his poker and he has even given up five-a-side football so he could concentrate on getting better.'

But Mr Thurston hasn't been the only big Norfolk winner at the poker tables this year.

Spencer Benjafield, 24, of Great Yarmouth took home $75,000 at poker competition in February.

The off-shore worker beat celebrities including Gun 'N Roses guitarist Slash, German tennis player Boris Becker and former England striker Teddy Sheringham at an event in the Bahamas.

Meanwhile, a Norwich band also struck lucky when they won enough money to record an album after a trip to Las Vegas.

Musicians Al Rapp and Pete Lee of the Black Sharks won $10,000 at the tables and secured a contract with world-renowned producer Nick Brine, who has worked with Oasis, Arctic Monkeys and The Stone Roses.

Do you have a story for the Evening News? Contact reporter Ben Woods on 01362 772 439 or email