Travel Diary: EPT Prague

ept-thumb-promo.jpgI was really excited to touch down in Prague because I had heard only good things about the magical city. The Christmas markets were supposed to come alive with everyone sipping (or guzzling) on mulled wine, live bands playing and children excited and dancing around the huge illuminated Christmas tree.

I wasn't wrong.

Our first stop was the Christmas market and Town Hall Square, which was so pretty and festive. I didn't really want to leave because I could have finished off my Christmas shopping as well as soak up the whole festive ambience, but we were under the pressure of time.

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Our next stop was Prague castle, which I had taken a glimpse of in the dark on the way from the airport, but in the daylight, it was really unbelievable. This castle was supposed to be in the Guinness World Records for the largest ancient castle in the world. You can take a glimpse of it in our welcome video, but not only was it a beautiful castle, with breath-taking grounds and quaint little cafes and shops dotted all about it; but it had the most fantastic views of the city one could possibly get.

The downside?

It wasn't snowing. It was magical and picturesque, but would have definitely looked like it was from a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale if the gods had decided to let it snow for us. Ah well, there's always the poker. Here's the tour around the city!

So before we even started play on Day 1a, celebration was on the menu. First of all, it was PokerStars 10th Anniversary and to mark it, an event was taking place to try and crush 2009's world record for the biggest online poker tournament. Czech player Martin Staszko had just been announced as a PokerStars Team Pro after his runner-up place at the World Series of Poker and was among the starting line-up in a special reserved room in the Hilton for the event. Team SportStar Fatima Moreira de Melo announced the record had been broken, as confetti and balloons were let off and various Team Pros such as Martin Hruby, Pat Pezzin and Marcin Horecki got this tournament under way. We reached a total of 200,000 players in the $1 tournament and the first prize was $50,000. Not bad for a $1 entry and PokerStars was thrilled to once again hold the title to the biggest online tournament. Team Pro Dag Palovic was especially happy to make a min-cash for $4. We were sure he would remember that one! Here's the video:

We knew EPT Prague would be a big field as we were mid-way through the Prague Poker Festival and this EPT was always a popular stop. Day 1a saw 234 players take their seat, where as Day 1b, as always, was much busier with 488 to make a total field of 722, a prize pool of €3.5 million and first prize of €775,000.

As the tournament progressed, a few of our Team Pros chipped up including Jude Ainsworth, Liv Boeree and Juan Manuel Pastor. Slovakian Team Pro Dag Palovic just about made the money, but was disappointed at his exit on Day 3.
However, Day 1b had brought us many smiles, as he had lost a prop bet with Czech Team Pro Martin Hruby and turned up for a day at the felt in drag!

His alter ego was called Pamela and we believe she may have been modeled on Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson. Not sure Pamela would have been totally happy with Dag's attempt, but she definitely had some pretty gold shoes on her. Check out our interview with "Pammy."

Unfortunately we lost Team Pro Juan Manuel Pastor early on Day 4, but he still took away €17,000 for his efforts. It was his first EPT since London where he came fourth, so his track record hadn't been bad at all, what with a cash in Barcelona before that too.

Jude Ainsworth had me on the edge of my seat all the way through Day 4. Every time he seemed to win a pot, not long after he would lose at least half of it, but the luck of the Irish was certainly with him that day, as he had two huge suck-outs, bringing him a six on the river both hands to win the pot, when he was near enough drawing dead.

He made it to the 14th spot, busting just a few hands after the U.K.'s Chris Moorman, and taking a healthy €27,000 back to Ireland. There was nobody getting in Dutch chip leader, Patrick Renker's way as he maintained his lead all of Day 4 and sat firmly in the driving seat with, at times, over a million chips clear of anyone else. However, the poker gods were to play a part in Renker's fate, by near enough the last hand of the day, he shoved all-in with 2.9 million with queens against Martin Finger's ace-king and was cruelly eliminated in ninth place in the biggest pot of the tournament so far.

Soon enough the final table was set and Martin Finger led the way for the most part of the day. He played aggressively and solidly, commanding the table with his chips and eventually took down all the chips from his heads-up competitor, Dutch amateur player and Master Classics Champion David Boyaciyan with another classic coin-flip.

Yet again, a German online superstar had taken down another EPT. There's been World Champion Pius Heinz, Swiss- German EPT Tallinn Champion Ronny Kaiser, EPT Barcelona Champion Martin Schleich, EPT London Champion Benny Spindler and now EPT Prague Champion Martin Finger.

There was just one thing on my mind as the taxi drove off through the cobbled street in Prague towards the airport; when will this German invasion come to an end?

Laura Cornelius
@PokerStars in European Poker Tour