EPT9 Grand Final: Roll-up roll-up for the biggest (cash) game in town
The world of cash games is a lot different to that of tournaments. Forget all that strategy stuff, it just looks and feels different.
For a start the chips are different. This is big money. The yellow chips are worth "one" and the blue chips "five". Two or three of those blue ones will get you a sandwich in any Monte Carlo café. That's the kind of money we're talking about.
Not that you could tell that any of the players involved were rich enough to order a starter and main course at a local restaurant. Aesthetically there's not much difference between this and the one-two game at The Vic. The only difference is the presence of TV cameras, and an audience.
That exposes the world to Paul Newey's shirt, the sartorial equivalent of bringing a knife to a gun fight, actually a brightly-coloured shirt to a gun fight, featuring as it does the trinkets of gambling - cards, chips, dice - and a complete absence of menace. And yet Newey looks at ease.
The audience is also different to that of a tournament next door, watching the single table a bit like those sepia people who used to watch freak shows, with bearded ladies, fire eaters and sword swallowers. Some watch intently, others watch their telephones intently, while the rest watch the TV monitors intently, ironic given that the picture technically shows a table further away than it is from their chair.
Isaac Haxton is the man right now, having won a bucket list pot from Shakerchi, who disappeared, and then returned, presumably having raided the mattress in his hotel room, to take up a seat on the other side of Sam Trickett.
Haxton sent him there, winning enough to keep himself in Brylcreem for some time yet. Shakerchi sits opposite him, thin shoulders in a check shirt, with ordinary glasses, looking like a man on his day off.
Between them is Sam Trickett, in front of the dealer, royally enjoying himself in his natural hunting ground, the place David Attenborough would go looking for him. In contrast, this is the last place you'd look for Viktor Blom, who's not a stranger to the game necessarily, just playing it in real life.
The players talk among themselves, oblivious to the crowd, one of whom, a player sitting next to his girlfriend, watches their every move on the TV monitor. His girlfriend watches him watching the monitor then looks towards the players, perhaps wondering whether her man had applied himself to his chosen profession with enough vigour.
Looking on it was easy to see why there was such eagerness and anticipation. As a spectacle it has some magnificence; an anthropologically fascination. And yet despite all the talk on Twitter about whether to watch this or the main event, I'd side with the latter. A cash game is never ending, an end in itself, while the main event - or at least this main event - has a narrative, a story that needs its conclusion.
That's just my opinion of course. For now, if you're anywhere near Monaco it's worth stopping by to take a look. It's the best freak show in town.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.
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