EPT10 London: Madcon head the cast of characters as Day 1B begins
The television set in the middle of the EPT London tournament room is, it's fair to say, difficult to miss. If it descended into a field on the outskirts of Vernal, Utah, we'd have ourselves the beginning of a Steven Spielberg film.
And in an odd way it may seem more appropriate in that setting than it is today, where it's deposited in the centre of an ornate grand ballroom, with chandeliers dangling above it and a row of stately busts decked with gold crowns peering down from rococo cornices. Lord Connaught would likely be turning in his grave, if only to get a better view.
The stage has a catwalk spilling out from it, jet black and shining like a oil slick. And within about 60 minutes this morning, that small podium hosted a remarkable cast of unlikely characters, as if they had indeed poured out of some alien craft. There were presenters, comedians, interviewers, bloggers and Norwegian hip hop duos, all filming various segments for their TV shows, websites and bemused Ukrainian viewers (of which more later).
First up, James Hartigan and Joe Stapleton of EPT Live fame took to the stage to record the introduction that will preface the television show from EPT London. The average lead up time for a television broadcast is about three-and-a-half years, so it won't ruin the impact too much if I reveal the gist of Hartigan and Stapleton's intro. In short: Hartigan played it straight and Stapleton made a crack about perving through the window of Liv Boeree's apartment. In the poker commentators' own word: "Standard" -- even if it may never make it to the edit.
After poker's familiar Kang and Kodos departed, it was time for those hip-hopping Norwegians to step up. Yosef Wolde-Mariam and Tshawe Baqwa are better known as Madcon, an ebullient pair of rappers from Oslo who are legends of the Scandinavian music scene.
They have had number one hits in Portugal, France and Russia, as well as the Nordic region, and are reality show regulars, with Dancing With The Stars (Norwegian edition) titles to their name, and a support slot at the Eurovision Song Contest. They have worked with Kelly Rowland, Snoop Lion and now the European Poker Tour.
Today they were being interview by the Inter television network in Ukraine, by the extraordinarily patient Marina Pecherna. "I was a little bit scared when they shouted," Pecherna confessed. "But that's great for TV."
Wolde-Mariam and Baqwa play a kind of loud-cop/louder-cop routine, in which they quietly exchange pleasantries until they see the red "record" light go on on the camera, at which point a kind of Saturday morning kids' TV beast is unleashed.
"We're Madcon!" they bellowed, with excitement and volume growing with every breath. "We're coming to your town very soon!! We just want to say to all our fans, 'We love you!!!!!!!'"
The "record" light then goes dark and they return to the pleasantries, before it flickers to life again. Baqwa turns to camera and imitates Borat.
"For me, this is first time." (He's talking about playing poker.) "I am virgin. The first kiss, the poker first kiss. I'm going to kiss everybody...It's the eye of the tiger! The first time!"
Light goes off. Pleasantries. Light goes on.
"Look at this face! You will remember this face! Thank-you!!!"
The cameraman turns away and Baqwa enquires of Pecherna, "Are you married? So you're single? That's great. We can have a drink here."
Oh to be in the music business. Ukraine has no idea what is about to hit it, quite literally. The show's producer confessed to me afterwards that she had never heard of Madcon.
After that, Laura Cornelius, of PokerStars.tv, and Rick Dacey, of PokerStars Blog stepped up to record their day-start segment. In comparison with what had gone before, even the sizzling chemistry between the duo known as Rickaura could do to get anywhere close. They chewed the fat, they scuttled back to the press room, and then Edgar Stuchly, of the European Poker Tour, stepped up to welcome to Day 1B players.
About an hour after play began, it was over for Baqwa of Madcon. His debut on the poker circuit was less than auspicious, but he seemed to have fun. That's the main thing, right?