EPT Barcelona: Greetings from Barcelona!

The big bang

Greetings from Barcelona, heart of Catalonia, whose proud heritage of fierce independence is upheld to this very day by the taxi driver who delivered me from the airport - it was hotter than a camel's armpit, but your man, with all his rugged, uncompromising spirit, gamely refused to either turn on the air-con or crack a window, as we stuttered through the rush-hour towards the sumptuous Hilton Diagonal Mar Hotel, Poker Stars central. Hats off to you, Senor!
Fitting then that European Poker Tour Season III is already shaping up to be the hottest ever, with the opening event attracting its biggest prize-pool, and the biggest tournament field in the history of the EPT.
A maximum-capacity 480 players will be duking it out for their share of a total pot in the region of 2.4 million euro, the winner collecting the thick end of 700,000 euro.
To get that in perspective: the field outnumbers the previous EPT record of 434 players (Deauville, Season II); the Barcelona prize-pool is up from 1.3m euro, and the winner's share dwarfs the 416,000 euro that France's Jan Boubli (below) trousered last season. This year's winner will need a bigger briefcase.

No surprise that there were players literally camping out in the Hilton's lobby, hoping to snap up any spare seats that come available. They'll be lucky.

Consolations of a sort abound for those left out: the late summer sunshine bathing one of Europe's most vibrant cultural centres, the warm sea breeze caressing the marina and boulevards that surround the Gran Casino, great art and fine cuisine....they'd swap it all for a chip and a chair.

The lucky ones who make up the 480-strong field are the usual heady brew of poker royalty, seasoned professionals, internet titans, and of course Poker Stars online qualifiers from all over the globe - here on an all-expenses paid jolly-up, with the chance to lock horns with the world's best players. Perhaps one of them will turn a few bucks for an online qualifier into a massive six-figure payday. It wouldn't be the first time, would it?

You can follow all the action here in words and pictures direct from the gaming floor. Over the next four days and nights, I'll be counting the chips, keeping tabs on the movers and the shaken; celebrating the players great and small; lending a sympathetic ear to the losers, and trying to wangle a drink out of the winners.

Good luck all!

Cultural peculiarity no.1
Barcelona taxi music: 1979 punk-pop hit My Sharona, by The Knack.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in European Poker Tour