EPT8 Deauville: Difficult to reach, hard to beat
You could say that Deauville is the Edelweiss of the European Poker Tour. Edelweiss, as well as being a hit for Rogers and Hammerstein, is a plant that thrives in climactic extremes, growing mostly above 1700 meters on the sides of mountains for example. Because of its unique habitat possession of Edelweiss usually means the bearer has been roped up a mountain somewhere, cramponed between a rock and a hard place, their spirit of adventure seeing them safely back to the ground with their badge of honour.
The same could be said for Deauville.
Asleep on the Normandy shores, Deauville is largely closed for the winter; its hotels boarded up to withstand the rigours of wind and plummeting temperatures. Not only that but it's not exactly easy to get to. If you fly it's to Paris, then the train from Paris to Trouville, a mile or so away, and from there a taxi. If you're lucky enough to live within a few hundred miles you can drive here, assuming the snow hasn't blocked the roads. If you play EPT Deauville you put some effort in to get here.
Morning in Deauville
Regardless players still come, playing here being an indication that you've turned your back on the southern hemisphere and warmer climes in favour of western Europe and its unpredicted winter.
The rewards though are plentiful. There will be close to 1,000 players, many of whom will be here for their once a year assault on an EPT crown. Then there is the timescale. The extra day inserts a leisurely feel familiar to the French, permitting early finishes and long dinners. Deauville may be closed for the winter but there are still enough steak and good claret to be had.
Past winners have also enjoyed some of the tour's big paydays, with last year's winner Lucien Cohen, whose stuffed rat mascot divided the crowd watching with love and hate, earned a first prize of €880,000. He topped a field of 891 to win it. Rumour has it that this week the field could be even bigger.
Either way, for those following from the rail, or from the armchair at home presumably next to a cosy fire (or a radiator perhaps), Deauville is one of the original spectacles on the modern poker calendar. Most tour events throw up a few surprises; Deauville just as much. But then the effort to get here serves as an empowering aperitif, a dash of something extra to make this hard-to-reach corner of Europe the centre of the poker world.
It's the EPT's Edelweiss.