Travel Diary: EPT Barcelona

ept-thumb-promo.jpgWhen we touched down in Barcelona, I was well and truly ready to get away from the rain in the UK, so to feel the warm breeze across my face as the plane doors opened was just what I needed. As I drove in the taxi to the hotel, night was falling and it was clear to see this city was a vibrant, alive place to be. We headed straight to Plaza Catalunya to breathe in the intoxicating atmosphere, experience Las Ramblas where all different street performances were taking place from day to night, and to eat some of the fantastic Spanish food everybody loves. We decided it best to take an early night since our first day shooting was set to be extremely busy. We had to get around four different places in the city to shoot our welcome video, including Las Ramblas (again), Gaudi's famous church La Sagrada Familia, the Barceloneta Beach and the Casino, which luckily wasn't too far from the beach. Our day was hot and sticky but filled with many delights.

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Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia Basilica

I had visited La Sagrada Familia before back in 1997, where I had in fact, climbed to the top of one of the spires. All I could remember was the drop down the narrow, spiraling staircase, the dizzy spells, and the fear I felt. So, no, I wasn't doing it again! However, it was possible for me to admire the beauty of Gaudi's work from afar this time. Also, it's not like you only have to go to La Sagrada Familia to see his work, as there are examples of it everywhere, from the gothic looking houses and museums nearly everywhere in the city, to the lamp posts on the streets.

Take a look at the final product!

Once the location shooting was done, I had lined up some interviews which we would use in later videos. Our first was with Juan Maceiras, who I had met briefly at the EPT Grand Final in Madrid as he had gone very deep there. He was a pleasure to interview then and he was still a pleasure now; a very down to earth Spanish man, who had his feet firmly on the ground and answered questions very professionally. It was a quick cab ride after, back to the hotel, whilst the hot and humid day had climaxed into a very passionate, Spanish thunder storm and we had to get our party clothes on for the PokerStars Party. Many famous faces from the world of poker had congregated already at the party, as we went about, got some interviews and had a boogie on the dance floor. From all the faces already arriving, this tournament looked like it was going to be a busy one!

Here is the video from the Party:

Days 1a and 1b were filled to the brim with players from all over and throughout the two, we saw 811 runners take a seat at EPT Barcelona, breaking all records and making it the largest ever poker tournament in Spain. However, it wasn't the largest prize pool, because that was EPT Madrid Grand Final where the buy-in there was €10,000 as opposed to €5,000. Vanessa Selbst sailed through Day 1, as always, intimidating all around her, including me with her aggressive style. It seemed as if no one could stop this woman; she was on a mission as she glided through the chip counts.

However, as some Team Pros seemed blessed with luck and good play on their first days; others didn't. Chris Moneymaker was on his world tour; Barcelona was his penultimate stop. It appeared he was to experience the "outside world" more than others on this one, because he busted straight out of the tournament on his very first hand. He got it all in on the flop, with the best hand, a full house, to be called by another and then rivered with a higher full house. He then entered the €1k side event and bust out of that as well. Poker can be vicious and one must remember you can't win 'em all!

Here's Chris though, basking in the sunshine on his tour!

As the days went on, the field diminished, but still there were many Team Pros doing well to this point. It was the first time we saw PokerStars Team SportStar, Boris Becker make the money for a min-cash and also the delightful Victor Ramdin, I was pleased to see do well and take home some dineros. I had the pleasure of meeting PokerStars brand new and ever-so-pretty edition to Team Spain, Ana Marquez, as well, though her debut appearance as a Team Pro was not a successful one. However, Ana was a pleasure to meet and though she was nervous, I hope I influenced her with a few pointers on how to come across on screen and to think of the media as her friend. I'm sure she'll be as much a Pro on camera soon as she is at the poker tables. Mind you, I wish I had Bryn Kenney as my own personal tutor too!

As we sailed through to Final Table day in Barcelona, I wasn't quite sure where the time had gone. I always find once Days 1a and b are done, the tournament moves into a fast forward motion and it's over before its begun! Days were fun-filled at the poker tables, but also long and I was finding myself working 13 to 14 hour days most of the time, so there was no time to explore any more cultural Spanish activities or find a fiesta, but my mind was firmly focused on the poker. It was probably a good thing there wasn't too much time to explore the great outdoors as we had heard countless stories of players and media going for a swim and having all their belongings stolen from them off the beach. One poor soul had even lost his passport and had to walk back to the hotel with not a stitch of clothing on! So, a good reminder once again: if you come to this wonderful city, keep your belongings close to you! But back to our final table and Eugene Katchalov had been the only Team Pro (from the Ukraine) to go through. Matthias De Meulder from Belgium and Andre Akkari from Brazil had both made it very deep, but it was only Eugene who was to take a seat (though the short-stack and distinctly lacking in sleep) at the final table.

To check out the other contenders, here is the Final Table Preview:

Nothing had prepared us for the energy we were to muster up to get us through the Final Table. It was a high-adrenaline roller coaster of all-ins and double-ups that saw us cheer Eugene on from becoming the short-stack to chip leader at one point. We gradually lost our players until it was down to just three. It was 2 a.m. and we had been three-handed for hours. The players were exhausted, and we still had no clue as to who was going to take this EPT title and €850,000 down. It was between Eugene Katchalov, German player, Martin Schleich and Spaniard Dragan Kostic. And suddenly Katchalov was out and walking away with €315,000, and very ready for bed. I knew as soon as it went to heads-up, it wouldn't take too much longer. It was already 3:30 a.m. by this point and we all had to be out of the casino at 5 a.m., since that was when it closed, so they really had no option. Before we knew it Kostic's [A][7] was all-in against Schleich's dominating [A][9]. It was 4 a.m. and the fat lady had finally sung.

Schleich then announced, as he picked up the prestigious trophy with pride, on a scale of 10, his tiredness was an 11! However he had no time to sleep since his plane was to leave back to Germany just 2 hours later at 6 a.m. He would have to celebrate in the sky!

Barcelona had been emotional. Such a vibrant and alive city, and me dazzled by the bright lights of the casino and the sound of rustling poker chips. I was saddened a little I didn't have a little more time to spend in this fantastic place, as my flight also was beckoning me home. However, as The Terminator always likes to say..... "I WILL BE BACK."

Laura Cornelius
@PokerStars in European Poker Tour