EPT9 Prague: Best of frenemies with 40 to go

One assumes poker to be a cut throat pursuit, perfect for the individual with an isolationist approach to near neighbours. It's certainly easy to believe this as you watch each player eliminated. The departed will stand up from their seat, watch their last hand play out and then pause for a second, confirming in their own mind that this is actually it and that their four day saga really is over. Then they realise it is and look around for some kind of reassurance from those they'd been pally with for most of the last week. But elimination turns a player back into a civilian, to be kept behind the rope line. Besides, "busted" is a condition that can be caught from a handshake or kind word.

But even with fewer than 50 players left, and several million Euros at stake, there are still miniature alliances amid the playing area, forged by nationality and from years of travelling the poker circuit together. It's enough to warrant supportive fist pumps and pats on the shoulder (depending on age), even when each departure makes them even bigger rivals.

Fabrice Soulier and Manuel Bevand are veterans of the EPT. Soulier most recently finished third at EPT Campione while Bevand came fifth in a $10,000 buy-in pot-limit hold'em event at the World Series this past summer. Both know the pressures involved in making it this deep in an EPT event, and pump fists after a successful hands.

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Manuel Bevand

The Russian players are equally close, or at least some of them are. While Iosif Beskrovnyy qualified online and is relatively new to the scene, his compatriots Denis Pisarev and Mikhail Petrov know each other from the live circuit, making these trips together. Even Sergey Kuzminskiy, who is not known to the major Russian players, will be able to count on at least some support from the others should he go deeper.

Elsewhere Ramzi Jelassi and Eddie Tasbas from Sweden keep tabs on each other's performance. The youthful Jelassi is the tour veteran despite appearing too young to have been playing major events in 2005. Then there's Tasbas, who looks too young to have the full Alaskan gold diver beard that he wears. They sit on adjacent tables.

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Eddie Tasbas

Norwegians Johnny Lodden and Mads Amot are familiar with long distance travel and the business end of a tournament such as this. They spend the breaks talking to each other, and the levels apart, as the playing field drops from 50 to 40.

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Johnny Lodden

They play on, as do all of those mentioned above. It remains to be seen at which point camaraderie turns to estrangement.

Follow hand-by-hand coverage, plus latest chip counts, in the panel at the top of the main EPT Prague page.

Stephen Bartley
@StephenBartley in European Poker Tour