Baltic Festival: Stars of felt, screen and court
There's no such thing as a distant venue in poker these days. Just as the Latin American Poker Tour packed in the players even from far and distant lands, Tallinn this week has drawn some of the stars of the game from all across the world, even though it is almost certainly as far east as many players in this room have travelled.
Just to my right on the tournament floor is the PokerStars passport winner and all-round online tournament sensation Shaun Deeb, originally from New Jersey in the United States, but now living from a suitcase as he travels the live circuit. Fresh from a cash on the EPT in Warsaw last week, Deeb has joined the fray in the Main Event here, but will also have an eye on the High Roller tournament later this week.
Likewise the member of Team PokerStars Pro Mexico, JC Alvarado. He took a brief trip to Europe for the Warsaw EPT, but was persuaded to stay in the area by some juicy cash games in Poland, and now the prospect of making history* as the first Latin American to cash big in the Baltics. Alvarado too is in the day 1a crowd.
"Big" in another sense is the former NBA star Martin Müürsepp, all 6ft 10in of him. The former Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks power forward is the most imposing player in today's field, and his double umlauted "ü" is likely to cause me havoc all week, and I'm not even playing against him.
Müürsepp has a last-longer bet here with another PokerStars sponsored player, Mart Mardisalu, who is another familiar face in these parts. He's a television presenter on Estonian television and has had the local photographers snapping at him all day. He's on the same table as Deeb, representing stars from two different environments.
There are plenty more familiar faces here in Tallinn, and we'll be bringing details of the participants' progress as the tournament takes shape. A selection of notable chip counts will appear on the chip count page.
One more spot of tournament housekeeping: we're playing eight one-hour levels today, with a one-hour dinner break. There will be a 15 minute break at the end of every other level.
Players began with 10,000 tournament chips for their €1,000 buy-in. Registration is open until the end of level two today, and then the end of level two tomorrow. Only then will we know the full prizes and payouts. And when we know them, you will too.
*some more money.