EPT Prague: Czeching into majestic Prague
There was a fairly simple plan to writing this welcome post to Prague, the latest stop on season five of the European Poker Tour (EPT). We landed early this evening, we quickly freshened up at the hotel, and then the idea was for a spirited scamper around the city to sample all it had to offer, and then to translate it to the page.
But the ruse was thwarted by an obvious hurdle: Prague is inarguably among the most spectacular cities in the world. To sample all it has to offer will take something like a lifetime and a half - and so it is that this is a belated welcome to the Czech capital for another five days of the finest poker action. When Prague is out there, the laptop is less attractive than it has ever been, and explorations have barely even scratched the surface; this place is worthy of all the accolades heaped upon it.
Day 1a of the latest high-stakes spectacular begins at the Hilton Hotel Casino in less than 12 hours. And by then it is hoped that the majority of the expected 550-strong field have also czeched out this city, a bewilderingly beautiful warren of winding, cobbled streets, alleys and bridges, lined by an unending procession of statues, period buildings and architecture rendered from the furious imaginations of 700 years of the finest visionaries.
The Vitava river slices through the middle of central Europe’s most celebrated capital, separating the magnificent Mala Strana region, loomed over by the millennium-old castle, from the addictive charms of the stare mesto (old town), the home of Wenseslas Square, and museum after church after market square after synagogue after museum after church, etc. Spanning the gap, and with mighty fortifications at each end, is the Charles Bridge, a structure so majestic that the Golden Gate or London's Tower Bridge seem barely fit to serve the same purpose.
Down every street and in the middle of the wondrous squares, there are Christmas decorations and market stalls, selling all the souvenirs you can stuff into a carry-on, or all the mulled wines you can quaff. Alternatively countless bars and restaurants are thronged by the beautiful people, with cheekbones sufficiently chiselled that you could pop the cap from a bottle of crisp Czech lager on them, then swill together long into the night.
Doubtless plenty are doing just that as the countdown continues to tomorrow's action, for which some might even be preparing with an early night.
It's going to be another momentously tough tournament. Poker's newest king Peter Eastgate will be playing his first EPT since being crowned World Champion in Las Vegas last month. And he'll be joined in tomorrow's field by the likes of the Team PokerStars Pros Dario Minieri, fresh from a third place finish in Warsaw; fellow Italian and EPT Player of the Year Luca Pagano, Norwegian baize shaker Johnny Lodden and from up north Marcin Horecki. Katja Thater, Alex Kravchenko, William Thorson and Noah Boeken will await their day of destiny on day 1b.
Also here are a few shooting stars. Barcelona winner Sebastian Ruthenberg will grace the field tomorrow, flanked by some of poker’s demolition experts – Gus Hansen, Mads Andersen and Theo Jorgensen. They're anteing up €5,000 each and the field will be one of the largest we've seen.