EPT8 Deauville: A surf, turf and celebrity town


Once a year Deauville buzzes to the sound of riffled poker chips, the call of an "all-in" and the anguish of amateur histrionics. But for the rest of the year the town is known for other activities, mainly cinema, and most obvious to the casual tourist, horse racing.

As visitors to Deauville will see if you can brave the channel breeze in the morning, Deauville is a horse town. The bars and restaurants are adorned with racing paraphernalia and you're never far away from fresh hoof print or dollop of manure.

In fact the entire region of Calvados, in which Deauville lies, is the centre of the French horse breeding industry, with stud farms everywhere producing the next generation of winners of some of the world's biggest races.

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Harness racing horses on the beach this morning

For Deauville that means the August season of Group 1 races, where black ink is spilled on new champions of local races such as the Prix Jacque le Maris, the Prix Maurice de Gheest and the Prix Morny, the former now granting direct entry into the Breeders' Cup Mile. In recent years that has meant the French trained mare Goldikova, four time winner of Deauville's Prix Rothschild and three time winner of the Breeders' Cup Mile.

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The next Goldikova?

For now though racing is a few months away and horse fans content themselves watching the thoroughbreds canter around the Deauville-La Touques Race course each morning, or the harness racers in their winter coasts trotting along the beach.

You don't have to look far to find comparisons between racing and poker.

Both are stocked with thousands of competitors, from countries around the world. Few of them will ever have a "1st" stencilled on their record, their name appearing on bold ink (the mark of a Group winner in pedigree records) despite an otherwise glittering career worth millions.

A horse may not be destined to win the Kentucky Derby but might win an allowance race or a maiden claimer. The same goes for a good regional player who might not win the EPT Grand Final but could win a €500 side event, although with a good trip, with no obstacles in their way and perhaps a slight tailwind, even the unexpected player can reach the finish line first.

Both worlds also promote a kind of hero culture. Famous horses like Secretariat and Seabiscuit are raised aloft to almost super-human level, as we marvel at their accomplishments and we do the same for our poker heroes, turning them into celebrity figures known as much for their work off the table as on it.

This leads into another world that Deauville is famous for - cinema.

Each year Deauville hosts the Deauville International Film Festival, with famous actors and film type people arriving here (probably by limo rather than the 4.23pm train out of Liseux) to celebrate American Cinema.

In fact, the bulk of these stars stay at the Normandy and Royal hotels, the same hotels PokerStars qualifiers and players are currently staying in. It means that if you're a qualifier here in Deauville this week it's just possible that the bed you sleep in tonight is the same bed slept in by Rita Hayworth, Bridget Bardot or Julia Roberts (or at the very least one of their assistants).

It makes Deauville perfect for poker players, not just the celebrity ones but for those looking for a slice of the celebrity life themselves.