EPT9 Barcelona: Qualifier of the Day: Paul Williams

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In this job sometimes you have to stand outside men's bathrooms. I'd caught up with Paul Williams at the break. Actually, just before the break. He was sneaking out a minute early to beat the rush for the bathroom. Then I got in his way, foiling that plan before we agreed to let him go first. So there I stood, watching Ilari Sahamies, just busted in ugly fashion from the Super High Roller, rush past in frustration on his way from the stage.

Williams serves as a useful reminder that, to someone playing one of their first EPT main events, this is the centre of the universe, even nine years after the tour's big boom. Listening to Williams I couldn't help agreeing. He's right. This is the centre of the universe.

"I really like it," he said, even pointing out how it takes a while to get used to something like the dealer speaking in another language. It's all part of the experience, as is the challenge of converting success online into a live environment. Williams is usually more at home in a $500 heads-up turbo.

"It's so much different," he said. "It's such a nice format here but obviously it means you've got to be a lot more patient. In hyper turbos you're opening so many hands but here I have to be a lot more disciplined."

The discipline so far has kept Paul above average in the early stages, while his friends who travel with him do the touristy stuff.

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PokerStars qualifier Paul Williams

Bringing friends is always a good idea. They can console you in defeat and celebrate with you in victory. At the very least it avoids the charming scenes of last year where a group of "fans" were relocated from the bar to cheer home Martin Schleich, literally. Rewarded with drink, they were still cheering him in the tournament room when Schleich himself had caught his flight home.

"We got a villa and are staying in the Olympic village five minutes away," said Williams, who is from Rochester in Kent, England. "They're all touring around." Not playing? "They're recreational players," Williams added. "They're all quite good but they don't have any bankroll management so they're doing the tourists stuff."

Gaudi and the Nou Camp are alright for some, but Williams wouldn't want to be anywhere else. Besides, he needs to do well if he's to turn this EPT experience, his second after a debut in London last season, into something more permanent.

"I don't play as many tournaments as I'd like to," he said. "I have a fiancé so it's not so easy to get around. But hopefully if I do well in this one I can justify the next one. I'll see how it goes."

His fiancée Louise, might not mind so much if he returns to Rochester with something like a million Euros in his luggage. Or, at the very least, something to help pay the wedding costs for next spring, even if the honeymoon is at the EPT Grand Final.

For now though the focus is on table draw rather than seating plans, and about keeping his head in the game.

"I'm hoping in the morning to have a little stroll, relax on the beach, then do the hard work in the day time," said Williams, who spend last Sunday playing online tournaments to get some practice playing tighter than he usually does.

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Williams in action

"I didn't play too many hands and found I did a lot better," he said. "Maybe I'd been too aggressive in tournaments. [This is more] long haul rather than done in one day."

Some would find some pressure in all this but Williams remains pragmatic, appreciating that the trip has been worthwhile regardless of the result. "I love it. I don't know anybody yet but I'm trying to meet people and just enjoying the vibe.

"I guess that's the good thing about these live tournaments," he added, unaware of the Sahamies moment. "If something goes wrong and you go out you're in an amazing city. So it's not too bad."

That's a pretty good sentiment on which to start the new season.