EPT10 Barcelona: "Check check... Ride on the River"
How do you best celebrate the start of the tenth season of the EPT? The EPT bigwigs put their heads together and decided that whatever it was it should be loud, it should sum up the last nine seasons and it should, if at all possible, have flashing lights. ONe bright spark suggested that rapper and sports fan Nick Javas was flown to Barcelona to be tossed into a dark room together with a dossier of EPT history and a whole load of light bulbs.
And this happened...
Whether rap's your thing or not, it's pretty entertaining stuff and you can tell that this isn't necessarily the first time that Javas has produced rhymes like this. If you're a fan of the NFL, NBA or MLB (American football, basketball and baseball respectively) you may well have heard Nick Javas before. The New Jerseyan's lyrics have been wrapping big Sunday night action for the last few seasons, some of which you can watch here.
While the EPT Main Event was playing out Day 1A just 50 metres away a small room was tightly packed with banks of brain-scrambling flashing lights and one large camera being pushed by an energetic camera assistant back and forth on a track towards an even more energetic Javas. Given the production equipment, lights and rigging there was barely room for six people to stand in there without getting in the way, but somehow EPT Photographer Neil Stoddart still managed to spring around to get some great 'making of' shots: he's wiry like a man-ferret.
"We're going to get right up in your face. It may seem weird, just don't move," said the cameraman.
Javas seemed to have little problem with someone, let along a camera, getting in his face - it's probably a rap thing - and instantly got into a head-bobbing, shoulder-shrugging zone to lip-synch along with his lyrics blasting out of the speaker.
"Just stay in the light. Don't go back," warned the cameraman, sounding all too like an emergency doctor or showman spiritualist.
The take - one of several - ended and director Ben Strivens, who's more usually seen circumnavigating between EPT poker tables in a Senior Producer role, said, "There was one moment when it was utter beautiful synergy."
"It sounds so much better when he says it," said Javas, referring to Striven's English accent.
Maybe, but not when rapping.
The making of Check check... Ride the river
The rapper from Union, New Jersey, has carved himself out a successful niche in the sports world but squeezing nine seasons of the EPT into just two minutes was never going to be easy. An abridged history of the EPT - partly compiled by EPT Presenter James Hartigan, we hear - was sent to Javas in the States.
"It was my job to find a way to tell that story within two minutes in a hip hop, rap, poetic way so it was challenging for sure... It's pretty much like a big puzzle. You get all the information in front of you and then you just zone out and let the OCD and the madness set in. The less distractions, the better. I personally write the best overnight because no-one's calling my phone, no-one's texting me. I'm just in my own world and I love it," said Javas.
While sometimes it can feel that lines write themselves Javas is well-prepared for those moments that the dreaded writer's block appears.
"In my studio I have a speed bag, a heavy bag and these hooks that go around my ankles that allow you to hang upside down. I do all three of those to help me break through that wall, because sometimes when you're doing an activity that doesn't take that much concentration it can spark some new creativity. Believe it or not. (Hanging upside down) stretches your back out and strangely gives you a new perspective. No pun intended," said Javas.
The world turned on its head
New perspectives are something that Javas has had to get used to. When a serious anterior cruciate ligament injury curtailed his playing career as wide receiver and kick returner for Rutgers University, which crushed his dreams of playing in the NFL, Javas threw himself into rapping. After graduating he hit as many industry events in New York City as he could and eventually got noticed by and signed to DJ Premier's hip hop label Year Round Records. DJ Premier is rated by many as the best hip hop producer of all time.
"At the time you feel that there has to be a reason for it (the ACL injury) but you just can't find any silver lining. Now, after time has passed and everything has come together as it has I wouldn't change a thing because it all makes sense now. Not only did that work out exactly the way it was supposed to but it's helped me deal with any rough patches in my life now. I have confidence and faith that there's a bigger plan that I just don't understand right now, but in time it will work itself out," said Javas.
There's a lesson in there somewhere that can be taken to the poker table because everything seems to be working out pretty well for Javas now, like one prolonged moment of utter beautiful synergy.
New to hip hop?
If you're new to rap, but like what you're heard, then maybe you should try out Javas' 'must listen' albums.
'Ready to Die' - The Notorious B.I.G.
'Reasonable Doubt' & 'The Blueprint' - Jay-Z
'Capital Punishment' - Big Pun
Executive Producer: Francine Watson
Producer / Director: Ben Strivens
Production Manager: Nicki Clarkson
Director of Photography: Frank Baglino
Jimmy Jib Operator: Neil Lammond
Lighting: Shaun Burnett
Audio: Reggie Gibson
Camera Assistant: Frank Baglino Jnr.
Editors: Richard Taunton and Gary Davis
Researched by EPT Presenter James Hartigan
Click through to live coverage of the EPT Barcelona Main Event. Check out all the festival results here or take a look at what happened in the EPT Barcelona Super High Roller. Follow the @PokerStarsBlog Twitter account to keep up-to-date with all the EPT action and check out the EPTLive webcast.
Rick Dacey is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.