EPT Monte Carlo: Day 1A set to begin

Sit with me, if you will, for just a moment as we wait. If you look up, you might think we're sitting in a planetarium. Uneven lights are scattered across the ceiling, unknown constellations on a semi-circular sky. It's quiet in here with only a gentle murmur of British accents, the quiet preparations of TV production crews and dealer assignments. Each table is covered in a light chamois-like baize. Half the walls are mirrored, giving this already large Salles des Etoiles an even bigger look. Bottles of Evian and Pellegrino sit beside every table, though at the moment, it would be hard to imagine why anyone would need a drink in such a peaceful setting. Age-old cliches about calms before storms come to mind, but the jovial tension in the lobby tells another tale. This room may be placid, but the air is far from calm.

We're set to begin the European Poker Tour Grand Final, an event that promises to be the richest ever held outside the United States. A mere 16 hours ago, players ate, drank, and laughed with one another. Newer players smiled and tried to get a glimpse of players like Greg Raymer, Joe Hachem, Chris Moneymaker, and Phil Hellmuth. Older circuit veterans sat among their peers, discussing days gone by. Today, the first half of this field will meet in this room, ready to do battle.

Last night as I sat among the poker glitterati, I spotted many a familiar face. I saw last year's champion, Jeff Williams, and his father Dave. We chatted briefly about Jeff's wise investments, and his relative youth keeping him from yet another WSOP. Against the bar I spotted Richard Shtrax. We followed him last year as he worked his way through the field. This year, due to some issues best left unspoken, it looked as if he might not make it. However, at the last moment, he entered a FPP qualifier on a whim. It was winner take all, and he took it.

Now, as we settle in for the final hour before play, I'm joined by my fellow bloggers, Simon Young and Ed Ramshaw (made famous by the now-infamous Ed Report from the Bahamas. We've positioned ourselves in a perfect place and have powered up our 'puters. Now, the clicking of drink glasses signals we're all but ready to start. As they say in the American South, the good lord willing and the creek don't rise, we'll be all set to rock and roll come 2pm Monte Carlo time.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in