EPT Prague: Peter and friends
After Peter Eastgate had completed his shuffle up and deal formalities, all eyes tracked the World Champion to determine who got the first chance to cross swords with the nine million dollar man. Under normal circumstances, Eastgate's table-mates might have been overawed, but these are not normal circumstances. Awaiting the Dane were Nicolas Levi, Pascal Perrault, Stuart Rutter, Thomas Brolin, Aniol Alcaraz, Peter Traply, Matt "Ch0ppy" Kay and Niko Hanninen.
World champion Peter Eastgate
Some of those are household names - Perrault is a former EPT champion; Levi is an EPT sensation; Brolin is a former professional footballer; Rutter is a prime-mover on the UK poker scene. Others need little introduction: Kay, for instance, is best known as "Ch0ppy" and his Pocket Fives poker profile shows three recent online MTT results: $91,770 from a $750 buy in, $52,500 for $200 and $42,600 from $300. Not bad.
We had already reported a big hand that went the way of Hanninen, and by the time I dropped by most recently, Perrault had been eliminated (final hand, Perrault's A-K beaten by Levi's 5-2. "I did my best to double him up," explained Levi, having busted his fellow Frenchman. "We have a code.") But in Perrault's seat was William Fry, the champion from EPT Budapest last month, and hardly a soft touch on this increasingly cut-throat table.
It seemed like a good choice, therefore, as a table to loiter around for a few hands, giving us the latest instalment in an occasional series named "A round with..." Today's episode: A round with Peter Eastgate.
Context: Blinds are 75-150, and these are the opening stages of level three. Only Kay is under threat: he has less than 3,000 and when his friend walks past, he says: "What do you reckon? Do I shove with this?" Eastgate and Hainninen have close to 20,000; the others are all hovering around their starting stack, although it will seem a lot less or the Hungarian player Traply. He recently lost a huge pot when his flopped full house (with 4-2, obviously, after he defended his blind) was outdrawn on the river by pocket eights, which spiked another eight on the river to make a bigger full house. Traply was licking his wounds. We join the action with Thomas Brolin on the button.
Hand one: Button: Brolin; Small blind: Fry; Big blind: Alcaraz
Stuart Rutter raises from mid-position and takes the blinds.
Hand two: Button: Fry; Small blind: Alcaraz; Big blind: Traply
This time, Hainninen raises to 400 and he takes it. Fry begins a conversation with Levi. "Where are you from," says the Englishman. "France, but I live in London. I miss France." Fry adds: "I live in Nottingham, but I don't know how much longer." This soon becomes a cereberal discussion of escalating crime rates comparing the midlands town and the French and English capitals.
Hand three: Button: Alcaraz; Small blind: Traply; Big blind: Rutter
Fry continues his conversation, but bets 375 as he's doing so. It's good for the blinds.
Hand four: Button: Traply; Small blind: Rutter; Big blind: Kay
Fry finds a groove and this time raises to 425 pre-flop. The result is the same and he takes the blinds.
Hand five: Button: Rutter; Small blind: Kay; Big blind: Eastgate
With the world champion in the big blind, all the players decide to respect him. Like hell. Fry calls from early position and Alcaraz bumps it up to 600. All get out the way except Fry, who pays to see the flop of Js-2s-2d. Check, check. The turn is 4c, check, check. The river is the Kd, Fry checks, Alcaraz bets 600. Fold. Job done for the Spaniard.
Hand six: Button: Kay; Small blind: Eastgate: Big blind: Hainninen
It's folded to Eastgate's small blind and he raises to 450. On a previous level, I'd watched this exact manoeuvre, which Eastgate had accompanied with the words: "I always do this, and you always call." That time, as with this, Hainninen did indeed call, and they looked at Js-5s-Qc. Eastgate fired 500, Hainninen folded.
Hand seven: Button: Eastgate; Small blind: Hainninen; Big blind: Levi
By this point, the crime problems of Nottingham, London and Paris had presumably been solved by Messrs Levi and Fry. Either that, or their attention had been seized again by the poker. Plenty of them got involved on this hand, though, especially after Thomas Brolin sneaked in a flat call for 150 from under-the-gun. Alarm bells tend to ring at these moments, but there's also always a massive carrot dangled in front of most players, eager for the chance to crack aces or kings. Seven of them called and saw a flop of Qc-2d-2c. It looked like a rotten beat could be coming up here - had anyone dared limp with a deuce in their hand? - and so Brolin bet to find out. It was in the region of a pot-sized wager and each hand hit the muck as soon as it could.
Hand eight: Button: Hainninen; Small blind: Levi; Big blind: Brolin
It's folded to the small blind of Nicolas Levi, who adds the extra 75 to make up Brolin's big. The former Sweden international striker is having none of that though and raises it up. Levi wants none of it and filds.
Hand nine: Button: Levi; Small blind: Brolin; Big blind: Fry
And now, amazingly, William Fry gets a walk in the big blind, ending a surprisingly cagey round with the world champion and all the pretenders. It remains, however, a table worth watching, which we will continue to do throughout the day.