EPT Berlin: Day 1A, Level 1 & 2 updates (blinds 75-150)
2.20pm: Break time
That's the end of the level. Play restarts in 15 minutes.
2.10pm: No win for Lellouche?
Not only will Madrid host the EPT Grand Final next month, it will also be the venue for a special Champion of Champions event, a finale to the season that might just exceed the Grand Final itself for star quality.
Since the EPT began, way back in 2004, there have been 68 champions, with three more to add to that tally before the event begins on 13 May. It makes for a pretty spectacular invitation-only line-up, like an All-Star game or Pro Bowl. Even Joseph Mouawad might play.
But parallel to that roll call of champions is a list of players who you would swear were guaranteed a seat. Antony Lellouche is one of them.
The Frenchman is without an EPT win, it just feels like he's won one. He's cashed nine times on the EPT, four of which were final table appearances, the deepest being his second placed finish to Jason Mercier at that memorable Season 4 EPT San Remo final. Alas, the first win is still out of reach.
He plays today though, up early but back down to 34,000 after a hand against Frederico Bossi. The Frenchman made it 800 from the cut-off on a board of 5♥J♠T♣ which Bossi called from the button. Then on the 9♥ turn he bet another 2,200, also called for a 8♦ river. Both players, resigned, checked, Lellouche's A♣J♥ unable to better Bossi's J♣T♠.
Still, three chances left for Lellouche to reach that Champions of Champions finale. - SB
2pm: Blain will need some magic today
Dermot Blain has run bad in table draws today as he the uber aggressive Ronny Kaiser and Giuseppe Pantaleo sat directly to his left. Pataleo just defended his big blind all the way to the river against Blain but lost the pot.
The two were heads up to a A♠Q♦2♥ flop and Blain c-bet for 700 from the button and Pantaleo check-called. The turn came 8♠ and Pantaleo check-called a 1,075 bet. The river came 6♠ and both players slowed to check. Blain tabled A♥9♣ and took the pot as his German opponent folded. The Irishman is up to 35,000 and Panatleo is 500 chips above his starting stack. -- MC
1.50pm: Wice thinks Britto isn't so nice
Alex Wice came 3rd at EPT Deuville for €330,000 and he's back on the EPT to have another crack at a final table appearance. That may be trickier than he planned though as he has Fernando Britto as a table mate. Britto is atop of the Season 7 leader board standings and plays with the careless abandon of a player that has everything going his way.
Wice raised to 400 from early position and Britto peeled from the big blind to head to the 7♣4♣7♦ flop. Wice quickly bet 600 in his unique style but was check-raised to 1,200 by Britto. Call. The turn came 3♣ and the Portuguese led for 1,700 and took the pot as Wice folded in a frustrated manner. He's up to 33,000 whereas Wice has dropped to 26,000. -- MC
1.41pm: 'Hero fold' from Mattern
Who said that the French didn't have a sense of humour? It took me a little while to realise to realise that EPT winner and Team PokerStars Pro Arnaud Mattern was being droll when recounting this hand.
"I was in the big blind with jack-ten offsuit when there had been a raise and call, but I didn't call. All the factors were not right. I hadn't slept a certain amount of hours, I didn't know how the dealer plays, one of the guys was on a heater - he'd won like two hands - so I knew I had to fold," he explained with a wry smile.
Mattern went on to claim that he would have turned the nut straight but his opponents would have hit a flush and a full house respectively, before he slapped himself on the back and said, "Well done." All because I asked him if anything exciting had happened yet.
Back in reality Mattern is sat on 27,000, just shy of his starting stack and has the unfortunate situation of having Nasr El Nasr directly on his left. The German has had three deep runs at the EPT, which includes one final table, and has been quite a handful whenever I've watched him play. -- RD
1.30pm: The next in a long line of hands
As alluded to earlier, players in the upstairs portion of the tournament area have the better deal in these early levels. It's a different environment altogether up there, complete with the courtesy of enough space to move, the civility of an air-conditioned smoking room, and the comfort of a bar at the far end, it's colourful bottles arranged along shelves back lit by a view over Marlene Dietrich Platz; all served with nibbles.
Up there enjoying the view is Michael Tureniec.
There was a telling moment in Snowfest last week when Tureniec, who weeks before that had won EPT Copenhagen worth DKr 3,700,000, was eliminated in 65th place.
The hand was a close one, the similarity in stacks making it uncertain whether or not the Swede was covered. Tureniec was already walking away when an official called him back - he might not be out and that meant there was still a chance, and the official wanted to give him hope.
It soon emerged that Tureniec was out, but as the official apologised Tureniec merely shrugged, as if to say he knew and what's more didn't really care.
Tureniec flashed a similar expression a few moments ago, losing to a massive full house, and showing little sign of being all that bothered. Tureniec had watched his opponent make a big bet on the river, removing his sunglasses and grinning before throwing out a curiosity call.
It's not that Tureniec has no interest in the game, just that thinking pragmatically, the poker tournament he plays is just one long game, not one that will be over with today, at the final on Sunday, or beyond. -- SB
LEVEL UP: BLINDS 75-150
1.19pm: The Wasek whistle
Artur Wasek's head is ensconced in some large headphones, noise cancelling from what I can make out. I arrived as the large Pole dropped a tiny 100 bet across the line on a multi-way Q♠6♥9♥ flop. He was raised to 500 and made an incredibly quick call. With a third heart dropped on the turn - the A♥ - Wasek, perhaps not realising, started whistling. Both players checked.
Wasek, still whistling, chucked 700 across the line and took the pot. Maybe headphones aren't for everyone. -- RD
1.15pm: Linde's line is an aggressive one
The poker world got to know all about Per Linde (if they didn't already) at EPT Copenhagen this year as he guided a big stack, accrued early in the tournament, all the way to second place and $447,892. He's off to a good start here as well, as he took down a three-way pot to increase his stack to 38,000 chips.
Cristian Dragomir, again, opened the pot to 250 before a player in mid-position three-bet to 550 before Linde four-bet to 1,500. Both players called to see the 4♣A♠7♠ flop.
The action was checked to the Swede on the button who continued the aggressive line with a 2,800 bet. Dragomir snap folded but the other player called after a couple of minutes of thought. The turn came J♣ and Linde upped the pressure with a 6,500 bet when his opponent checked to him. He thought long again but this time he decided to back out and fold. -- MC
1.05pm: Table space at a premium
There are around 23 tables squeezed onto this floor of the casino and perhaps another 14 or 15 upstairs. Both sets are tightly packed.
The tournament room
It's difficult to reach a number of tables, while on this floor there is little room for manoeuvre, period. Unfortunately for us - but fortunately for the players - the blind structure means that we will get but a handful of fallers in the first few levels, which means the crush is going to be a protracted issue. I knew I started that diet for a reason. -- RD
12.55pm: Against the wall
Jack Ellwood is sitting with his back to the far wall, which given the confines of the Spielbank playing area, it's not a bad place to be. He was under-the-gun and in a hand against Alaa El-Chami.
Ellwood is all fresh-faced-angles and stubble, while El-Chami looks like he spent a few minutes getting ready this morning, his hair pomaded and parted, clean looking.
With a board reading 6♥K♣7♥Q♠ Ellwood made it 1,900 to play. El-Chami called for a 3♦ river. The small blind was still involved up to now and checked to Ellwood. The Englishman bet 5,350 which El-Chami showed no hesitation in calling in the seat next to him.
The small blind asked how much. Mistake. The dealer, Marco, told him, speaking with a thick German accent. Then he told him again, this time saying each number individually. Then a player translated.
The small blind called, immediately wishing he hadn't, not even bothering to turn his cards over against the pocket sevens of Ellwood and the victorious queens of El-Chami. - SB
12.45pm: Straight out of Hinterglemm, Austria...
A little more than a week ago Cristian Dragomir was at the Snowfest final table competing for a first prize of €390,000, a campaign that ended in fifth place and €81,000 in consolation.
Back then the Romanian proudly flew the flag for his homeland, demonstrating a passion that a player from a country such like the United States or United Kingdom perhaps wouldn't; shoveling raw blend of emotion and volume into the mix when things get tense.
With 20 minutes played there are the signs that Dragomir is playing every hand with the same determination; determination and contempt for anything that doesn't follow a rigid formula of poker logic.
Now he's raising to 325 in early position for a flop of 2♠Q♥J♦ against Alexia Portal and Fabrizia Gonzalez. He followed that with a bet of 100, more out of curiosity as to what the others would do than any attempt to take the pot then and there. Portal passed but Gonzalez fired out 3,100 which, despite appearing ready to do the opposite, he called, wearing an expression that said he wanted to get to the bottom of things.
With a 5♣ on the river Portal smiled, sharing a joke with Dragomir (who may not have known he was in on it) as he bet 6,625. Gonzalez thought, then passed. Dragomir looked over at Portal, at the same time hoiking a hitch-hiking thumb in the direction of Gonzalez.
Dragomir is back, picking up where he left off. -- SB
12.42pm: Eames up early
EPT Copenhagen third place finisher John Eames has got off to a good start. The Brit opened for 250 from middle position and was called in the small blind before he found himself with a fantastic 5♦K♣8♦ flop. He held 7♦6♦ for an open-ended straight flush draw.
Eames called his opponent's 300 lead and promptly hit the straight half of his monster draw with the 4♣. He faced a 500 lead this time and raised it up to 1,800. Call. The board paired with the 4♥ which didn't slow Eames down. He pushed out a 3,300 value bet and was called by K♥6♥. Eames up to 36,000. -- RD
12.40pm: Sarwer defends well
Marc Gork just took on, and was defeated by, Jeff Sarwer in a small pot. The German made it 225 to go from second position and Sarwer defended from the big blind to see a A♥7♦9♠ flop. Gork continued for 250 and Sarwer called to see the 7♣ turn card. The action was checked to the 8♦ river where Sarwer led for 625. Gork had already removed his card protecter and his cards were soon sent to the muck. -- MC
12.30pm: A report from upstairs
The second half of today's field is located in a room directly above the main tournament area. With fewer tables it has a quiet and cool feel compared with the congested main room.
The two Deans, Sanders and Lyall, are sitting next to each other, as are Ludovic Lacay and Matthew Frankland. It's another table that has captured our attention as one of the trickiest, with Jeff Sarwer, Marc Gork and Jakob Carlsson occupying three of the four seats surrounding the dealer. Our legs will get plenty of exercise covering this room today. -- MC
12.16pm: Cards in the air
Play has started at EPT Berlin. -- SB
12.15pm: Clocking in
If you turned up for work this morning to hear the boss say you have to put in a 13 hour shift, you'd probably fall to your knees and weep. Not here. There's something about the mass produced poker player that revels in this kind of endurance challenge, and today they won't be disappointed.
We'll be playing nine one-hour levels today, with 15 minute breaks every two. After six of those levels play will pause for a 90-minute dinner break, before players return for three further levels. Then it's story time, then bed.
So it's now time to call in sick, send the kids off to the pictures, and get ready to press refresh all day. Play is about to begin. -- SB
12.12pm: Faces in the crowd
We are situated on a stage just a feet away from the players in what is going to be a cosy couple of days. From my vantage point I can see a few EPT regulars including APPT winner Dermot Blaine and Guiseppe Pantaleo, who final tabled EPT Barcelona earlier this season. The aggressive Pantaleo has position on Blaine. -- RD
Gloria Balding introduces Day 1A of EPT Berlin, with a little help from Team PokerStars Pro Arnaud Mattern...
12pm: Still minutes away
We will not be starting on time...
11.50am: Minutes away
Players are taking their seats, tucked up nicely into the bijou confines of the tournament room, or at least one half of the tournament room. Some players are a floor up in the overspill room. Yes, this is a duplex event.
While we wait for the start here are a few pictures from last night's festivities...
Girls "on fire"
A winged goddess, mid-spin
11am: Welcome to Berlin
After a week of fresh air high in the hills of the Austrian Alps the European Poker Tour woke up in urban surroundings this morning, having rolled overnight into the busy streets of Berlin for the next event of Season 7.
It's only the second time the tour has been to the German capital following last year's action-packed event, won by American Kevin MacPhee, who earned a guaranteed €1,000,000 first prize.
Yesterday evening the hard-core poker revellers stepped out to take on a damp Monday night for an EPT welcome party. It had all the hallmarks of such a night; free fizzy drinks, food served in jars and dancers. The first act featured leotard-clad girls on fire, standing on wind machines (I'll let the pictures, currently being developed, tell that story). They were then followed by a squadron of winged goddesses, who span around for a while, a picture last seen when Brian Blessed ordered his Hawkmen to dive.
The Brandenburg Gate
That was then, this is now, and the reality of that if you're a player is a long queue to register. The consequence of that is likely to be a late start at the Spielbank. I know that because I'm writing this from the back of the queue.
Play "starts" at 12 noon. - SB
PokerStars Blog reporting team in Berlin (in order of position in the admission queue): Marc Convey, Stephen Bartley and Rick Dacey.