EPT8 Prague: Day 1A, level 1 & 2 updates (75-150)

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2.12pm: Break
We have a 15 minute break coming up. Join us in the new post when you can.

2.10pm: Gerbi gets there
Raffaele Gerbi has joined the lively table two and took little time in making it livelier. He got all his chips in when behind versus Eoghan O'Dea but managed to suck out to more than double up.

The action was four-way to a 3♣2♠8♦ flop and Christian Friedrich's 1,500 c-bet was called by the November Niner on the button and the big Italian in the small blind. The turn was 4♦ and it was O'Dea who bet first (3,000) when the action was checked to him. Gerbi was next to act and moved all-in for 19,925. Friedrich folded quickly but O'Dea snap called.

Gerbi tabled 4♣3♠ for two-pair but was behind to the Irishman's A♦5♦ for a straight. The river came 3♦ to improve O'Dea's hand to a flush, but it also filled up Gerbi. O'Dea is down to around 3,000 now. -- MC

2pm: A glance across the floor
A brief taste of the tournament:

- Reigning champion Roberto Romanello sits in the corner of the room at the opposite end of the table from fellow Season 7 winner Kent Lundmark. Romanello sports the fake shock of silver-tipped hair that he wore on his way to his €640,000 win last year.

- A table loaded with talent and players not afraid of playing a big pot includes Eoghan O'Dea, Chris Brammer, Fatima Moreira de Melo and EPT7 Barcelona third place finisher Konstantin Puchkov. Action soon to come from this lot.

- Last year's third place finisher Team PokerStars Pro Marcin Horecki successfully won a small pot with a button three-bet. Starting as he means to go on. -- RD

1.50pm: Keeping control on table 12
Florian Langmann opened from early position before Antonios Papadopoulos raised to 1,150. Langmann called for a flop of J♦9♣J♥ which both players checked for a T♦ turn.
Langmann tossed in another 1,300 which Papadopoulos, who waits his turn with both hands palms down on the table, called for a 4♥ river. Langmann reached for his chips again making it another 4,000 to play. Papadopoulos sat up a bit and foraward a bit, then called. Langmann though showed Q♣J♠, much to the silent irritation of Papadopoulos.

"Nice flop," he said, albeit in German. He said a few other things beyond my limited translation skills which seemed less friendly.

Sometimes losing a hand and putting it down to your own bad luck ignites a self-destructive drive that can send a player to the rail in no time. Was this what Papadopoulos was about to engage in?

Papadopoulos opened the betting for 400 which Pratyush Buddiga called in the big blind for a flop of 5♣8♥9♣ . Buddiga thought a bet of 525 might change things but it just seemed to irritate the wounded Papadopoulos who raised to 1,500

Buddiga, who was adopting the defensive posture of "chronic fatigue" underneath his hood, thought, then folded. There will be many small battles today but this wasn't his to win. Papadopoulos has perked up a bit. - SB

1.40pm: Skampa bluffs away and will have to reclaim his title another day
Jan Skampa bullied his way to the EPT Prague title two years ago and that same tactic has just cost him his place this year.

He was sat in the cut-off and was the only player to call Michael Keiner's 375 raise from early position. The flop fell 4♦T♥7♠ and Skampa bet 550 when the Team PokerStars Pro checked to him. Keiner called before he check-raised his opponent's 1,400 bet up to 3,200 on the J♣ turn. Call.

The last card to come was the 2♥ and the German led for 5,500 only to see Skampa move all-in for 14,575. He got a count and made the call with A♦J♥. He was easily good as Skampa could only table a missed straight draw with 5♦6♦. Keiner is up to around 50,000 now. -- MC

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No further Czech glory for Jan Skampa

1.35pm: Massaging egos
You can always tell who thinks they are a player in these early stages by picking out who is getting a prolonged massage. The two people that I can spot so far are Dan 'Jungleman' Cates and Jason Tompkins. High stakes cash game player Cates needs little introduction if you have even a passing interest in online poker; he's played he the biggest players in the biggest games and come out on top. Tompkins, unless you follow the UKIPT, is likely to be an unknown but certainly not one that should stay off your radar. The Irishman finished fifth at UKIPT Dublin but had looked a likely winner using an aggressive game that stands a good chance of building him a large stack here in Prague. He's certainly one to watch. -- RD

1.25pm: Akenhead all-in
James Akenhead was all-in on the river versus Armin Mette and was called only for both to table the same hand.

The action was four-way to a 5♠6♥K♠ flop and Stefan Verhage, the pre-flop aggressor, c-bet for 725. Mette called but Akenhead paused before making it 2,125 to play. The big blind folded but the other two players called to the 9♦ turn.

Verhage checked to Mette who decided to lead for 4,500. Akenhead called but Verhage and seen enough to scare him away. The river came 8♣ and Akenhead snap shoved for 31,000 after his opponent led out 10,175. Mette called and both players tabled seven-eight for the same straight. -- MC

1.15pm: Getting your priorities right
There are priorities in these early stages of the day, establishing a table presence might be one, establishing a good working relationship with the waiting staff though is even more pressing. Alfonso Amendola tried to, getting the brush off as a waitress dealt with another player. He still has his hand in the air as I write. Others piggy-back onto other orders, like those sitting next to Luke Schwartz who got in early with an order of soup.

One player who could probably do with a little less waiting on is Taoufik Chaieb who just had a cup of coffee poured over his Ferrari jacket with is draped over the back of his chair. It looks machine washable, but Chaieb was predictably not happy. You don't pay €5,000 to get hot beverages poured over you, at least not at a respectable poker tournament.

There's more drama at this table as Cengiz Ulusu is given a penalty for folding and standing up before the action reaches him (possibly to dodge the coffee cups being thrown all over the place). Ulusu, who became an EPT trivia question after flipping a coin at the final table of EPT Dortmund to determine whether or not he would call a hand (subsequently losing this "coin-flip"), took his penalty with good grace. -- SB

LEVEL UP: BLINDS 75-150


1pm: Another one bites the dust
Tariel Robanishvili threw his hands up in the air after he saw he was behind when he got around 270 big blinds in on a 5♠4♥6♥ flop, only to find out he was behind. Antonio Buonanno was his opponent in the hand and made the call with 5♣5♥ for a set. The Russian tabled A♥A♠ and the board ran out 6♥Q♠. Both had around 27,000 but the Italian had a few hundred chips more.-- MC

12.48pm: Strictly bum hunting
The early stages of tournament poker is much like the early episodes of Strictly Come Dancing/X-Factor/insert your cash generating syndicated pseudo-reality TV show here. You know these opening forays make little difference to who will come out on top but the potential of calamitous collapses and ridiculous blow ups makes for some fantastic car crash viewing.

If that is the case, I think I probably picked the wrong tables to watch. At one Martins Adeniya check-folded [a][t] on a A♣T♣K♦7♦3♦ board to a 2,850 bet from Tomas Hajek, at another Steve O'Dwyer passed to a 500 c-bet from Luke Schwarz. A few of these players are among those that you expect to see dancing/singing/eating bugs at the end of the series. Stay with us and we'll follow them through the highs and lows. -- RD

12.35pm: Seat open table 5
The sign of a well-travelled individual is the state of their passport. As one took his seat, handing his documents to the dealer (who checked them and authenticated them on the turn of a hand) the image of the front of his passport was completely erased, the years of being in a back pocket taking a toll. No longer a citizen of country "X", this player was now a citizen of the world, of the poker world. Home is where your next buy-in is.

All this was taking place as Manual Bervand was playing his first and last hand of EPT Prague, becoming the second player eliminated in a hand against Oleksii Khoroshenin. With a buy-in of €5000 Bevand's bill worked out at €312.50 per minute played.

With the board reading A♠3♣2♥3♠ Khoroshenin had bet 3,200 which Bevand now raised to 7,550. Khoroshenin re-raised before Bevand announced all-in. Khoroshenin had called before the dealer had had chance to toss the triangular "All-in" marker at the Frenchman. 2♦2♣ for Bevand who seemed to have spotted the inevitable. A♣A♥ for Khoroshenin.

Bevand made a kind of "Chhh" noise as Michael Keiner a few seats along said "Set over set," not entirely helpfully. The river came 4♠.

"I saw it coming," admitted Bevand who a few second later was on his way to the rail. -- SB


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Early bath for Bevand


12.30pm: Set over set produces our first casualty
It didn't take long for the first player to be eliminated today. We don't know his name yet as all the media lists are still being sorted so for now he's going to be known as player 802. He had pocket fives and flopped a set against player 810 who flopped a set with pocket queens. -- MC

12.20pm: The nearly men
Martin Staszko is the newest member of Team PokerStars Pro and is representing the company for this first time in his home event here in Prague. He is sat next to Steve O'Dwyer and the two were deep in conversation as we passed the table. They do have a lot in common as both have been runner-up in major tournaments in recent months.

Staszko, of course, was runner-up to fellow new Team Pro Plus Heinz in the WSOP Main Event and O'Dwyer finished second to Benny Spindler at EPT London. Topic of conversation? How to close out a tournament, maybe? -- MC

12.05pm: Cards in the air
As this is the fifth visit of the EPT to Prague we're marking the occasion with a five minute delay to the start of play on Day 1A, one minute for each EPT champion.

One of those minutes plays today, the Season 7 winner Roberto Romanello who takes his seat wearing the same spikey wig that he wore wire-to-wire last year - the wig being surely one of the many things that makes poker unique on the world competitive stage.

Also here is recent EPT Loutraki champion Zimnan Ziyard as well as Martin Slazko, runner-up at the November Nine and newest member of Team PokerStars Pro. Slazko, from the Czech Republic, made a pre-tournament speech that pretty much summed up the mood of the room: "Welcome to Prague. Shuffle up and deal." -- SB

12pm: Welcome to Prague
Welcome to the next leg of the European Poker Tour, in Prague in the Czech Republic. That's actually the fifth time we've said that, the tour first swinging into town (it was icy) back in season four when an aviation-glasses-and-leather-jacket-wearing Frenchman by the name of Arnaud Mattern flummoxed everyone to become the city's first EPT champion.

Mattern wasn't the only thing to flummox the hundreds of player that have since gone on to make Prague one of the most popular stops on the tour, and I'm not just talking about Salvatore Bonavena. The town itself amounts to a kind of winter wonderland, complete with a fresh chill in the air with the scent of mulled wine in the breeze and the sound of a school choir carolling their way through the morning in the town square.

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Prague, by night

It's the kind of atmosphere that attracts some four million tourists to these parts every year. But it takes a little more than Santa, some clockwork toys and a couple of elves to flummox the several hundred players arriving in at the Prague Hilton now for Day 1A. For that they depend on one of the biggest fields of the year, one of the biggest prize pools of the year and one of the biggest smoking areas too.

Those are the preliminaries, the fine detail is on the way. -- SB

PokerStars Blog reporting team in Prague: Rick Dacey, Marc Convey and Stephen Bartley.