EPT Prague: Check or bet in the Czech Republic
A first event of its kind greeted the Prague locals waking up this morning, although they may not all have realised it. The European Poker Tour has rolled into town, making its first stop at the Czech capital, with the task of bestowing a new crown.
The sun rose over the river Vltava, clearing the light mist from the valley and the heavy fog from the minds of everyone out late last night. Poker chips waited in neat piles of 10,000, hotel staff manned the registration desks and a new champion, unknown even to themselves, began to make their way to the Hilton hotel.
Like many cities on this far into Europe a stunning centre rewards those who travel in from dreary outskirts built during times of practicality above all else, and dictated by the arrival of Soviet rather than American tanks over 60 years ago.
But as any quick look through Wikipedia will tell you Prague boasts the title of most visited city in Europe, and a casual glance from any well directed hotel room window will explain why. Red tiled roofs span the horizon, scattered with spires and Christmas-perfect architecture - the product of soaring imaginations of years past.
The ‘City of a hundred spires’ spans the river Vltava drifting its way through Bohemia. The tag ‘Bohemian’ has connotations of an unconventional lifestyle; of art, music and poetry. But what the heck, for our purposes let’s tag ‘poker player’ onto the end of that - a lifestyle free from many of the restraints of day to day living, albeit balanced finely on how well your aces hold up.
Then there’s the geographical Bohemia that makes up half of the Czech Republic, a land of kingdoms, mountain ranges and of deep and dark forests, all of which will go unseen by this, the poker playing hotel generation.
But it’s the poker we’re here for and cut to deep inside the Prague Hilton you’ll find the wood-panelled marble-floored Congress Hall tournament area, where dealers sit armed for action, and players stand either in groups of alone looking for some kind of inner calm. Posture usually depends on whether you’ve played the EPT before, whether you’re a pro or keen amateur, and whether that cigarette you’re inhaling is to settle your nerves or simply to pass the time.
We’ll find out shortly.