EPT9 Deauville Day 1B: An existential search for relevance
Much of the conversation at EPT Deauville yesterday centred on the decision to screen every day of the tournament on EPT Live, the first time the opening stages of a major event like this have got the live streaming treatment.
While viewers at home relished the chance to see the kind of action that almost never makes it to the television edit, it resurrected among seasoned reporters an age-old discussion topic, namely: What actually is the relevance of Day 1?
Let's take a moment to describe why this is even discussed.
Conventional wisdom (read: conventional cliche) has it that you cannot win a major poker tournament on Day 1, you can only lose it. This means, broadly, that no matter how many chips you accumulate during the opening exchanges, you are still long odds against to make it to the final table, much less to win the whole thing. In truth, and especially at a six-day EPT tournament, you are probably still odds against even to make the money.
To illustrate this point, just take a look at the numbers. Yesterday's chip leader, Jesper Feddersen, bagged up 188,900 chips, more than six times his starting stack. It was a good day by anyone's estimation. But when players assembled around last year's final table, Mick Graydon was nursing a desperate short-stack, even though he had 960,000 chips.
In other words, Graydon had five times what Feddersen has now, and yet was still the final table long-shot. Even to emulate Graydon, who went out in eighth, Feddersen will have to have three more trouble-free days, something that almost never happens in the volatile, variance-blighted world of tournament poker.
It means that leading at the end of Day 1 is far from a guarantee of success. But if we're going to render even the Day 1 chip leader's stack an irrelevance, then what is important? Why do we bother covering Day 1s at all, if even the identity of the chip leader is unlikely to be of lasting significance?
Dominik Nitsche is a WSOP bracelet winner and LAPT champion, so he knows a fair bit about major tournament strategy. First to sit at his table in the minutes before Day 1B began, he laid out all the possibilities that a top player must expect for the opening day, and described what he was thinking before a card had even been dealt.
"Obviously I would like to be at the top at the end of the day, but it all depends on the table," Nitsche said. "If the table is good, I'll try to play as many hands as possible and build a big stack. But if the table is not good, I'll sit here for eight hours.
"Being in the top ten would be amazing. That would be way above expectation. But right around average would be a pretty decent call for Day 1," Nitsche said.
Although he accepted that early elimination is always an occupational hazard for tournament players, Nitsche was keen to stress that he has modified his own aggressive instincts to prioritise survival these days, something that he did not necessarily do when he first burst on to the tournament scene.
"I guarantee I'll still be here at the end," Nitsche said. "I don't bust Day 1s any more."
Much of this discussion came up late last night as the PokerStars Blog team made its way back to the hotel. As regular readers will know, we write a wrap of every day of tournament action from every event we cover, but we have recently been wondering how to keep this recap fresh and relevant; what can we actually say about a day on which we are really no closer to discovering a winner than at the start?
Possibly a list of the vanquished players might even be more relevant than a list of the top ten chip counts. For instance, the only thing we learned for certain yesterday was that xxx of the 307 who started definitely won't be winning EPT9 Deauville. Their number included Eugene Katchalov, David Vamplew, Dimitar Danchev, Jonathan Duhamel, Nicolas Chouity, Ashley Mason and Marcin Horecki.
Should we start wrapping these days with a list of the busted players? Maybe we should.
In today's field
As expected, Day 1B will be significantly larger than Day 1A and the tournament information board already shows 449 players who have paid up and entered, 142 more than played yesterday. We should expect that number to increase further through the extended registration period.
Among today's players are:
Jose "Nacho" Barbero (Two-time LAPT champion and Team PokerStars Pro)
Anton Wigg (EPT Copenhagen champion)
Jake Cody (EPT Deauville champion and Team PokerStars Pro)
Patrick Bruel (French crooner and EPT final table-ist)
Davidi Kitai (EPT Berlin champion)
Lucille Cailly (EPT Grand Final runner up)
Victoria Coren (EPT London champion)
Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier (PCA champion and Team PokerStars Pro)
Lex Veldhuis (Team PokerStars Pro, long overdue an EPT final table)
Vikash Dhorasoo (Former France international footballer)
James Akenhead (Former November Niner)
Kent Lundmark (EPT Barcelona champion)
Salvatore Bonavena (EPT Prague champion)
If you wanted to put a face to the name Rick Dacey, whose prose you skim over on PokerStars Blog and whose voice you mute when he appears on EPT Live, you can with the video below. The wise decision is to focus on Sarah Grant, also in the video, as the pair look back on Day 1A and talk us through what to expect on Day 1B.