EPT London Day 1A: Red Spades rout the Professionals in heads up challenge

When you set foot into a place like the Vic, you are essentially going back to the start of poker in the UK. The players who appeared on the pioneering Late Night Poker were almost all drawn from the Vic's cash-game pool and strolling around the tournament floor this week will mean bumping in to pretty much everyone who has ever been anyone. Some still are, even if some have seen better days.

Today, however, we also saw how relevant and innovative this place remains, in particular when the EPT comes to town. If you had told some of those old cash-game grinders that in ten years time, the place they were sitting then would be filled by spectators five rows deep watching people play poker on their laptops, they would have slapped you in the face with their egg sandwich. Laptops had barely even been invented back then, let alone heads up, battleships-style poker.

And even if it had, surely no one would want to watch it.

The rail assembles for the heads up duel


Gus Hansen and Daniel Negreanu, with rail in place

But that was indeed the scene this afternoon in what is usually the high-stakes, VIP cash-game area at the Vic. In front of a massive banner bearing their larger than life-size images, six of modern poker's undisputed titans did battle.

This was the grudge match between the Red Spade and the whatever you call the Full Tilt Poker logo. It was Team PokerStars Pro's Daniel Negreanu and Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier, plus Team Online's Isaac Haxton, taking on Gus Hansen, Viktor Blom and Tom Dwan, otherwise known as The Professionals of Full Tilt.

You have probably heard the deal by now. It started after Hansen directed an idle tweet at Negreanu, in which the Danish player publicly gibed Negreanu about a pot he won once on the High Stakes Poker TV show.


Gus Hansen and Daniel Negreanu: Get a room

Negreanu essentially told Hansen to put his money where his Twitter mouth was and suggested they settle it on the felt, at EPT London. Even if it wasn't exactly heads up for their enormous rollz then it was certainly for rollz bigger than you or I will ever have.

They settled on $50,000 each, plus $10,000 of sponsor's money, and then they escalated it into a full on "my mates" versus "your mates" brawl. Hansen enlisted his two Full Tilt demons and Negreanu recruited ElkY and Ike. Flash forward a few weeks, and he we were.


Tom Dwan eyes Ike Haxton

Now, a tournament report is supposed to give a balanced overview of what went on and to offer a fair assessment of the merits of all. But even though we are horribly biased towards the Red Spade on PokerStars Blog, you really must believe us when we say this: it was a total rout.

The format of the event was that each team member would be matched against another and they would play three heads up tables simultaneously. The first player to win two tables would, by necessity, win that match.

ElkY won the first two of his matches against Isildur, Haxton won the first two of his matches against Dwan, and then with the overall match already won, Negreanu came along and won the first two of his matches against Hansen.


ElkY and Viktor Blom

Oh, and it should be noted, that ElkY and Negreanu won the third match they played too, to clean sweep their opponents. The total match score was 8-1, with only Dwan winning a single, solitary point. Yeah, yeah: variance. Yeah, yeah: running good. But come on, statistics like that rarely lie.

"It was a really amazing feeling to win, especially three in a row," said ElkY. "Viktor is one of the best, if not the best, heads up players in the world."

Negreanu was even more direct. He headed straight to Twitter to proclaim his delight at victory.

(The "time out" Negreanu was referring to occurred when he stood up to celebrate Hansen shoving into him when Negreanu had the nuts. The only problem was that Negreanu hadn't clicked call yet and was timed out and folded.)

But Negreanu rallied to won all three of his matches and complete that exceptional victory.


Ike Haxton watched over by his team-mates

Dwan said that he would be up for playing something similar again, but preferably not after he had just got off a plane from a far-flung time-zone. For fairly obvious reasons, Negreanu, Haxton and ElkY are also more than happy to have a rematch, so I don't suggest they pack away that branding particularly quickly.

If you want to catch up on all the ribbing, as it went down before, during and after the match, you should follow @realkidpoker, @elkypoker, @ikepoker as well as @GusHansen, @TomDwan and @ViktorBlom. The former three are a little bit more chatty than the latter.


The victorious team (l-r): Ike Haxton, Daniel Negreanu, ElkY


Follow live coverage of the EPT London main event on the EPT London page. Follow the final stages of the UKIPT main event on the UKIPT page. Follow the @PokerStarsBlog Twitter account to keep up-to-date with all the EPT action. Follow the bear.

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour