Last month, Roman Hrabec busted the World Series of Poker Europe Main Event in Rozvadov and immediately jumped in a car with his girlfriend to make the nearly six-hour drive home to Vienna. Upon arriving home, Hrabec and his girlfriend jumped back in their car and made the trip back to Rozvadov and that led to what Hrabec, one of the top-ranked online players in the world, having what he describes as the “best poker experience of his life” – and he didn’t win a single hand, bluff a single person, or win a single Euro.
Instead, he was on the rail watching one of his best friends, Max Neugebauer, win the WSOP Europe Main Event for €1,500,000 ($1,631,588 US).
“We lived together for over a year, so we were very, very close,” Hrabec said on Day 3 of the WPT World Championship, where he was amongst the big stacks with less than 200 players remaining.
The pair met through poker and eventually shared an apartment where Hrabec was able to coach and stake Neugebauer.
“I was playing higher than him and I used to stake him and stuff. I gave him lot of advice and taught him a little bit and introduced him more to the good poker world and the high stakes and stuff like that,” Hrabec said. “So I feel like I was proud of him, like having a son and someone is right. So there was kind of this feeling, I can sort describe it that way. When I win, obviously I’m happy, but this was just very different feeling.”
While watching Neugebauer’s win may be his best poker experience to date, Hrabec has had plenty of success of his own at the poker tables. In 2023 alone, he’s surpassed the $2 million earnings mark in live tournaments and now he’s got a chance of winning $5,678,000 and the WPT World Championship.
“I can’t complain. I’m obviously very, very grateful for everything. I had a bunch of nice scores. I’m just enjoying life playing fellow of poker and just having a good time,” Hrabec said. There is one thing missing from Hrabec’s resume though – something that Neugebauer has now – a live win. Despite having cashed 90 times and having made 16 final table appearances, Hravec has never won a live tournament. He does have second-place finishes, including finishing one spot behind only Chin Lim in a $25,000 No Limit Hold’em Triton event in Vietnam last March for $653,600.
“I got a lot of final tables but never managed to win it. I mean it would be obviously amazing,” Hrabec said. “That’s probably the dream of every poker player to win some massive main events.”
Neugebauer and Hrabec have more than just poker in common. Both are former professional athletes. Neugebauer played professional basketball before finding poker, while Hrabec was a pro hockey player. Between 2015 and 2019, Hrabec was playing in the Swiss pro leagues when an injury forced him away from the ice.
“I was kind of injured and I was playing a little poker and then I was semi-pro hockey and semi-pro poker,” Hrabec said. “But I was doing the two things together and then I quit ice hockey and then I basically right away started playing poker professionally.”
After enjoying some massive scores online and putting together the type of consistency that many of the game’s top grinders can relate to, Hrabec decided to see where he stood on PocketFives (now PokerStake), the site that tracks and ranks online poker players. After he created his account and added his screenames for tracking he was given a surprising result when he appeared at #2 in the rankings.
Second place. Again.
While Hrabec isn’t driven to chase down that #1 ranking, he’d be more than happy to leave Vegas with $5,678,000 first place prize money and get that funky runner-up monkey off of his back.
For the record, second place pays $3,772,200, though – just in case.