Baltic Festival: The first couple of Tallinn
Chad Brown and Vanessa Rousso. Christer and Birgitta Johansson. Thomas and Marina Kremser. Max and Maria Stern. Katja Thater and Jan Von Halle. The roll-call of poker-playing (or poker associated) married couples is not too lengthy to keep tabs on, but there are more than you might think. In Estonia they have their own first couple: Imre and Kairit Leibold, who have both racked up some notable results in the past few years, and who are both in today's field in Tallinn.
Imre has results listed back to 2004, and a resume that features in-the-money finishes in locations as far-flung as Ireland, Australia, the Czech Republic as well as the home of poker, Las Vegas, and the home of Leibold, right here. He is second on the all-time money list for Estonian players, having made final tables at the World Series and at a circuit event in New Orleans, as well as taking down a €1,000 no limit hold 'em event down the road at the Olympic Casino in May of this year.
Some of this has clearly rubbed off on Kairit, who stands ninth in the all-time Estonian winners' list, and the most decorated female player. Her biggest result came in Madrid last May, when she finished fifth in a €1,500 hold 'em event won by the EPT cash-sensation Joao Barbosa. And Kairit's trips with Imre have rarely been about standing watching by the rail. She also cashed in Melbourne and Vienna.
They haven't had it all their own way today, although both are still playing. Kairit endured a few hours on the same table as Shaun Deeb, emerging with about 11,000 when that table broke. Imre has 5,600.
We are now entering level six, where the blinds go up to 200-400 and we see our first ante of the tournament: a shiny green chip each, worth 25. The field has already slimmed to 87, and now there's enough in the middle pre-flop to make it worth plundering. And once the pirates come out to play, people are going to get hurt.
Most of our big names survive -- and they're accumulating chips. Shaun Deeb has 29,000 and JC Alvarado is also flying up the leaderboard. The Mexican player has about 48,000, much of it earned in a recent hand against a player buried so far under a woolly hat that it would be impossible to get through to him, even if it was prudent. Alvarado was looking at a board of 5♠3♦3♣7♣8♠ and a bet of about 8,000 into a pot with at least 18,000 already in it.
Alvarado asked the clock to be called on himself, before making the call. His opponent mucked, but was forced to show A♣Q♦ by a tournament official. Alvarado had 8♦6♦ for one pair. Good.
Not quite as good as Ermo K. The Estonian who flew into a chip lead early in this tournament has only gone one way. He's now the first player past 70,000 and is looking formidable.