EPT London: Lift off
It doesn't quite have the instant poker cache of, let's say, Texas, but there's really nothing new about the game that can be taught to denizens of the Grosvenor Victoria Casino on London's Edgware Road. Nothing at all.
These players were shuffling up and dealing before most of the new breed of poker professional were even born. In fact, they were probably riffling chips at the very moment that some of these new kids were on their way into existence. And even if these players had been the fathers, they'd probably more likely have been in the line for some pot-limit Omaha than at the maternity ward.
Poker is a passion at the Vic at least the equal to any venue across the world. And as the PokerStars European Poker Tour (EPT) rolls into town for the second stop of season four, the locals lie in wait.
The EPT has been dominated throughout its three-year existence by players from the Nordic countries. But the London date has always been the exception. In season one, everyone shipped it to John Shipley. Season two saw the emergence of Mark Teltscher, who has since become a familiar face around the final tables of the world.
And last year, the homecoming queen was Victoria Coren, such a familiar face that they named the place after her. Or so history should be rewritten to confirm.
Vicky will be among a host of top-ranked players wearing the PokerStars livery in London this week, most of whom joined a welcome party on a boat on the Thames this evening. We left Westminster Pier at 7.30 p.m., bobbing down Old Man River in the company of World Series bracelet holders, former EPT champions, as well as those in with every chance of joining the esteemed ranks.
Representing Team PokerStars, we found many familiar faces: those of Chris Moneymaker, Daniel Negreanu, Katja Thater, Noah Boeken and Luca Pagano. Also joining them for their first outings as members of this exclusive club were Dario Minieri, the sensation from Italy, and Hevad Khan, he of a million consecutive sit and gos and a World Series final table.
Oh, and Khan can add another title to his resume: yesterday he won the fabled, fabulous Hold 'Em 100 tournament in London, a well-known charity event with the proceeds going to the Royal Marsden hospital. Khan bested a field of more than 120 to take the prize - including seeing off Gavin Griffin, EPT Grand Final winner, who finished 10th. Griffin will play on Wednesday at the EPT.
Also in the line up are the usual vast number of online players who have either won their seats on PokerStars or cashed in their W-dollars for a seat. And there are plenty in their ranks who know a thing or two about live events. Mats Iremark, Brandon Schaefer and Thang Nguyen are previous EPT champions. Keith Hawkins, Iwan Jones, James Dempsey, Mel Judah and Osman Mustanoglu are well known pros.
The game begins tomorrow at 1 p.m. GMT. Pull up a chair. We'll have all the stories and pictures right here.