Travel Diary: London

ept-thumb-promo.jpg The third stop of the eighth season of PokerStars' European Poker Tour was my home town of London. I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to be more excited by this, or less so, because it meant I didn't get to travel anywhere. I realized in due course, it was definitely to make for more excitement as there were so many familiar faces knocking about, and I truly felt that now, after six months of working in this poker bubble, not only London was my home, but poker was too.

Before the tournament began, we always get to have some fun in the city for our location video. I was quite stumped at the prospect of shooting this, just because of the vast array of opportunities and attractions available to anyone who comes to London. There was just too much to shoot everything, so I had to pick wisely. After a few phone calls, I had secured a free ride and a pod all to ourselves on the London Eye. I was starting to get the hang of obtaining freebies and realized I was pretty good at it. The weather had bizarrely gone completely bonkers too, and we Londoners were finding ourselves in the midst of an Indian summer, with it over 27ºC in October. So we had all the components for a fab location video. Take a look at the result!

The PokerStars party is usually always on the first night, prior to Day 1a, but this time they had chosen to have it on the penultimate evening of play, which I believe worked out much better, so I had the evening to chill out a little before play began the next day. As I was staying at the Hilton on Edgeware Rd (where the tournament was taking place too), my boyfriend popped up to see me and we made the most of the fantastic Lebanese food in the area. It was weird as I had driven down Edgeware Rd many times before in my car, but it was a part of London I was very unfamiliar with and had never walked around (I live in South London). It seems as if it's like a little pocket of the Middle East and this is exactly what I love about London, you can go anywhere and feel like you have visited another part of the world as so many different cultures and religions all mix together in various areas. I love Brixton (where I live) for the market on the weekend and the reggae music that gets blared out as everyone tucks into their jerk chicken. This is London. Seriously.

As Day 1a got under way, the usual bets were going around as to how many players we thought we might get. London is a seven-day tournament and last year broke all records with 848 players, but who was to know if we could break last year's record this year? The day ran smoothly with many faces from poker showing up at the felt, but we knew it would be Day 1b that was the busier out of the two. We ended up not quite breaking last year's record with a final total of 691 players.

I had some very enjoyable interviews at EPT London including Vicky Coren. I was excited to meet her as I had seen her on many TV shows and read her books and articles in newspapers. She seemed like an interesting lady, extremely intelligent, as well as knowledgeable and indeed, she didn't disappoint.

Here is the interview for you in two installments.

Unfortunatley for Vicky, it was not to be her year again at EPT London. But she already won it in Season 5, so another win would just be greedy. She did quite well in the Ladies Event which took place at The Vic (down the road from the Hilton), but I believe bubbled near the money, which I'm never sure is better or worse than being the first one to bust.

Days went by, the cards got turned and the chips were rustled. It was good to see so many British players and recognizable faces wandering about the floor. In typical English style, I went through a lot of tea. One player I won't be asking to make my tea again is Jonathan Duhamel. Lovely bloke. Amazing poker player. But terrible terrible tea-maker. Check it out!

It was great to see a British pal of mine, Martins Adeniya do well, and keep up in the chip leaders for Day 5 and make it to the final table. Also James Mitchell, did well close to the final table, but was eliminated in 11th place. Both players I had partied with on separate occasions, not that much could be remembered from these evenings, but both very accomplished players.

Before Martins was to take a seat at the Final Table, it was party night. I was excited for the party as it was taking place at Kensington Roof Gardens which was a really cool venue in the heart of London. I was so surprised to see everyone I knew from on and off the EPT circuit, and it came to a point where I actually thought, 'Wow I know a lot of people in poker!'

The conversation never stopped flowing that night, neither did the free alcohol and I can say with conviction, it was the best EPT party I have ever been to -- and I usually stay right until the end! After the part, we went on to another club in Soho with a few others, so were really letting our hair down and I knew a headache may be likely for our final table. There was a lot of dancing, a lot of drinking, and I am in no doubts that I was not the only one with a sore head the next day! Here is our video of the party, in case you didn't make it, you can feel like you were there too.

The final table was set. The players were ready. There were some great young aggressive players at our final table including German pro, Benny Spindler who had been chip leader after Day 1b and had come third at the PCA and runner-up to Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier in the High Roller at the Madrid Grand Final. Also American player Kevin Iacofano had made the cut, who was already at his second EPT final table this year alone. Martins Adeniya was way out in front as the chip leader going into the start of the day, but all went haywire as his ace-king was unable to hold up against the strength of Spindler's hand and he crashed into the rail in seventh place.

The final table was fast-paced and full of aggression and we lost players faster than I could lose chips in a poker game. Nothing compared to our marathon 17-hour session at the final table of EPT Barcelona. Spindler had shown control the whole way through the tournament and was showing no sign of stopping as he sailed into heads-up play with American player Steve O'Dwyer.

I was convinced Spindler would win with his fearless style of play and indeed I was right. Heads-up play did not last long at all, as O'Dwyer found himself all-in with K♠J♣ and Spindler snap-called with a hugely dominating A♣K♠. Not only did Spindler take the first-place prize of £750,000 but rumors on the poker grapevine were circulating that he had percentages in the two German players who had finished first and second in the High Roller event. So this was to be a ridiculously lucrative tournament for him.

Here is his winner interview

And before we knew it, our seven-day stint at The Hilton Metropole on Edgeware Rd had come to an end. The days had been hot and sunny and I had enjoyed seeing a different side to the London I already knew. But inside, there could only be one winner. Until San Remo....


Laura Cornelius
@PokerStars in European Poker Tour