EPT9 Berlin Day 3: The bubble. Or: What did the Romans ever do for poker?
A crowd, a camera held up on a big stick, and then nothing. Such is the period of play known as the bubble. It's also a period of great hypocrisy, as the interest shown in those whose tournament life is, we admit, wholly false.
There were a few notable points about today's bubble. First, Ali Azabdaftar survived it, as did Boris Becker, securing his second EPT cash. There was also a rare glimpse of a laughing Alex Kravchenko with players at his table, which photographers leapt on as though on a big game hunt.
It was also another occasion when the bubble has burst while the rest of the field was on a break. But all that would come after nearly an entire level of waiting - monotony interrupted only by unnecessary fuss and excitement.
As always the worst part of bubble play is the waiting. At times it dragged so long that you wondered if everyone had forgotten what they were there for. But then you would see a hand still playing on in the far corner and grumble that they couldn't hurry up.
Dealers would push, moving from one table to another. One dealer, who looked like a young Maria Callas had her shoulders rubbed by another dealer who looked like Wayne Newton.
Tournament staff in general had others things to worry about other than boredom.
Railbirds, keen to watch their friends earn a guaranteed €8,000, regularly snuck over the rope line, one in particular with annoying regularity. Italian tournament director Luca Vivaldi patrolled that area and, after throwing the same man out a third time, channelled his Roman ancestors and threatened to punish the player he was visiting with a one round penalty should he jump the rail again. We never saw him again.
The instructions to players are always the same. They are not to show their cards in the event of a called all-in. But inevitably someone forgets, such as Aku Joentausta, who called an all-in on a board of A♦5♠3♠2♠ with 6♦4♥. The crowds gathered and waited what seemed like ten minutes to see what Kyosti Isberg, from Finland, playing his first EPT, would turn over. A crowd amassed again, and looking round you figured that if the Luca Vivaldi rule was universally applied half the field would be sitting out.
Isberg turned over a flush and doubled up, and suddenly nobody was interested in him anymore.
Other players looked on anxiously as their own stacks dwindled. The popular, attractive, friendly, young and talented Natalie Hof pretend-sulked about her lot in life, cursed and down to 60,000 (15 big blinds).
Then another all-in, from Sven Krieger with three chips left. Rather than let himself be blinded out he took the "pistol and bottle of whisky" approach, getting four callers. He showed pocket kings and flopped a full house.
By now time had run out on the tournament clock. Lematsch called for one more hand which most folded, skipping out for the break. But as the dust cleared one hand was still going on.
On a flop of 6♣3♣T♥ and a turn card 7♠ Theodoros Aidonopoulos had put Martin Hruby all-in. The Team pro had pocket sixes for a set but Aidonopoulos showed A♣4♣ for a flush and gutshot straight draw. The 5♠ on the river duly filled it.
Martin Hruby (in white, standing) departs
Disaster for Hruby, but relief for everyone else, into the money at last.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter