EPT9 Prague: Shepherding the High Rollers into position

One of the implications of the new "mega-festival" format to EPT events is that sometimes there are just so many tournaments going on simultaneously that players can get lost. Frequently we watch the poor lambs wander into the tournament room clutching a cashier's receipt for a seat in the game and yet not have any idea where they are supposed to be sat.

They amble through the masses, peering quizzically at the receipt, then around the room, then back at the receipt. It's only a matter of time before we employ an official EPT shepherd to guide the flock into place.

Today is the first day of the €10,000 High Roller event, the biggest buy in of the week and among the most prestigious tournaments to take down. But typically the higher the stakes players tend to play, the more primitive are their navigational skills. Tournament officials were today engaged in the desperate attempt to ensure there weren't stray high rollers wandering aimlessly into the hotel kitchen, or dangerously into the car park, and even began improvising signs.


This way for the big bucks

As it turned out, a decent bunch of high rollers (collective noun "wealth"), did manage to find their way to the tables in the corner nearest the stage and began this three-day event. It's a healthy, wealthy field, numbering more than 65 already and with registration open for four hours.

The usual faces are out in force: Jonathan Duhamel (sporting Sparta Prague hat), Eugene Katchalov (sporting game-face), Juha Helppi (fresh from success in a side event last night), Philipp Gruissem (High Roller specialist), Todd Terry (out of the main event, spinning up a min cash), Sorel Mizzi (sitting next to Steve O'Dwyer), Steve O'Dwyer (sitting next to Sorel Mizzi). You get the idea.

There is also Andrew Chen, who had a brief main event, but who has been booked in to play the High Roller all week. Like many of the best players on the circuit, Chen has sold a lot of his action here via a staking thread on the poker discussion forum Two Plus Two.

Chen had initially offered pieces of his action based on a "one-bullet" approach - ie, not accepting the optional re-load should he go broke before registration closed. But after Andrew "tufat" Teng observed that there was no entry fee attached to a second bullet, and Chen's potential backers said that was fine by them, he relented and said he would re-buy if necessary.

Eventually Chen sold about 37 per cent of his action, rounding off his final post on the subject with the cheery salutation "GL us".

Although it is not documented quite so publically, there's a significant chance that many other players in the High Roller event are also being backed, at least in part. Staking and backing is one of the most successful ways for top players to not only reduce the variance inherent in tournament poker but also to have an interest in the game when they are not even in the country.

There's a chance that somewhere in Costa Rica, or Vancouver, or Berlin or anywhere, there is an anonymous investor with more wagered on the High Roller event in Prague than many of the players actually sitting here.

GL them.


Chen, by the way, lost an enormous pot to Konstantin Puchkov in the very early stages of the day, surrendering what seemed to be more than two thirds of his 50,000 starting stack. The structure is exceptionally shallow (blinds are still only 150-300 (25) in level four) so there's chance to build back up and keep the investors happy. If not, there's always the second bullet.

The field, by the way, has now reached 100 players and is a who's who of the best in the game. Also now spotted: Martin Finger, Benny Spindler, Anton Wigg, JC Alvarado, Kevin MacPhee, Faraz Jaka, Olivier Busquet, Martin Kabrhel, Sergey Baranov, Mike Watson, Dan Smith, Paul Berende and Davidi Kitai.

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour