EPT London: Poker in Afghanistan?
As you hover around tables of hundreds of players, hoping to be in the right place, at the right time, to see a key hand, or eavesdrop on an interesting bit of table talk, it can sometimes seem like you're in the wrong place, at the wrong time, all the time... It can get a bit tedious. Don't get me wrong, I love poker, I love being around big tournaments, I love seeing the emotions on display. You know, the joy on the face of the hand winner..! Ok, have to admit this too, it's quite fun to hear players whine like spoiled kids when their overpair loses... But the dull bit comes in seeing so many players I don't know, and so many average stacks, and so many quiet guys folding and folding, or maybe raising - and then all the other quiet guys fold.
So I like to try to find poker characters. The star players are usually characters. It's often fun to watch them play. But when they're not up to much interesting I'll sometimes try to find a random player and a reason to think they might be interesting, like, 'Oh, he's from Bulgaria!'
I'll find someone like Christian Drechsler from day 1A. He is likely PokerStars first ever Bulgarian to qualify for the EPT. And so I was soon thinking, 'Bulgarian poker, well that must be interesting!' And I wanted to research Bulgarian poker, and talk to him about Bulgaria, only I kept getting busy, or missing him in breaks... And now this Bulgarian player is out, and I don't even know what happened to him... And suddenly Bulgarian poker doesn't seem so interesting anymore.
The practicalities of following 200 players is hard, the press-room people share information and they're all great, but sometimes no one's there to see a key hand or how some big player went out. Or sometimes three different poker press people will count chips and get three different figures. Usually then we'll split the difference and decide this is right.
Chips and who's out are important of course, but to be honest I like the people side of poker things the best... Breaks are good, I can talk to players then. Sometimes I don't need a break to chat to an interesting player.
I was taking photos at a table Joe Hachem and Katja Thater shared. Davood Mehrmand saw me standing there, and decided he'd rather chat than concentrate on his cards. Well, the blinds were low, nothing much was happening to most peoples stacks, he'd played lots of big events before, he was relaxed and happy here. He wanted a chat, he looked at his cards as they were dealt, but unless he had a very decent hand he wasn't going to play.
So as the possibilities of big hands simmered between other players at the table, as Joe Hachem concentrated on counting his chips, as Katja Thater raised twice in a row, this Persian player shared his views with me on US gambling legislation, and the fact that the stakes of online games were too low, and that he wanted to open an online poker site in Afghanistan. And I nodded, and I smiled, and tried to make out his strange accent and discuss his plan with him. Afghanistan? Well why not...
So I told him to offer me a job if his Afghanistani online poker site ever took off. And he said he'd consider it. Although I hoped he knew I liked PokerStars a lot and wasn't serious. And then I felt guilty for disrupting his game. I wanted him to play proper poker, not chat about Afghanistani tax breaks...
Because, of course, that's what it's about, cards and chips, and winning hands. And just occasional laughs about poker in Bulgaria and Afghanistan. They're both nice countries I'm sure. Poker in Afghanistan, why not?
Davood Mehrmand, potential Afghanistani Online Poker Baron?