EPT9 Monaco Day 1A: Monte Carlo survival skills: Breakfast, and basic toilet training

Monte Carlo is a town of surprises. Around every turn there's something you've never seen before, as two players rather touchingly discovered while in the gents toilets.

"You can pee on the toilet seat and it cleans it for you," said one to the other who then disappeared behind a stall door. Sadly for those here, I cannot tell you which stall he went into, for I have no doubt that he was about to put that claim to the test.

He was right of course. The toilets here do indeed clean themselves. I suspect the grass cuts itself too and the tramps maintain a position just over the border. The litter here doesn't tidy itself away; that much is true. Instead cleaning staff carry plastic rubbish sacks hidden discreetly inside elegant shopping bags. Their appearance suggests they merely wanted to pick up a few empty bottles of water on their way home from the mall.

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Tower blocks in every shade of beige

Other surprises include the prices. Of everything. Monte Carlo is a glorious mixture of functional tower blocks of varying shades of beige, and elegance, in the form of casinos and hotels. You'll probably even stay in one, but you'll never sleep, living in fear that someone might sneak into your room at night and steal the €15 spirits from your mini-bar.

If you think that prices are artificially high so that people like you cannot afford them, then you'd be right. Usual economic standards don't really apply here and inflation is not based on the money supply. It's based on spite instead; just enough to make you rationalise spending ten euros on a cheese sandwich and then wonder where all your money has gone when you get back to the Travelex desk at the airport.

At breakfast you feel compelled to eat as much as you can, returning to the cereal counter even when you've swallowed all the coco-pops you can manage. While doing so you consider that it might be a good idea to sneak a few bread rolls into your bag for later, maybe even some cake, maybe all the cakes. But after stuffing your face you feel like you'll never be hungry ever again, so you leave the buns behind, only to regret it four hours later as you queue up to spent €10 on a sandwich.

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It takes balls of steel to survive the week at the Grand Final. Luckily they can be found here, in the Old Town

But then the poker is good. A full card of side events to suit most budgets, or at least the budgets of poker players, and the playing environment is superb. It's why the tournament room is currently full of players, not main event players but those filling the rest of the day with side events before they take their seats on Day 1B. It looks and feels good inside the Salle des Etoiles. The buzz is back to the Grand Final.

It's enough to make you forget about all that other stuff and marvel at what is taking place. Come on, let's get another sandwich.

Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.

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