EPT10 Deauville: Why poker will never be an action movie (aka: The Bubble, starring Stephen Chidwick)

Staring at the clock at a poker tournament is like watching the denouement of two very, very boring action thrillers. There are two countdowns on the screen--digital figures ticking progressively downward as if about to signal a devastating explosion. We never reach armageddon though.

That's why these thrillers are so tedious. When the big countdown in the middle gets close to zero, the figures may turn red and even start to blink, but it hits bottom and then just starts again. The smaller one on the side never gets lower than "1"--and takes about six days to get there.

I'm talking of course (in a very laboured fashion, I'll admit) about the indicator of minutes left in the level and players left in the tournament. We will never get to breaking point on the first of those because we'll just play as many levels as necessary in order to reach our goal. Meanwhile, the tournament is over when one player is standing and the countdown will end at that point. Seeking the champion is the only real purpose here, and everything ends when we get there.

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The Bourne Tournament Clock (it'll never work)

For all that, the scriptwriters behind EPT Deauville had a bit of fun at our expense this afternoon. Pretty much since Day 1, the countdown on the right side of the screen has been the most important. When it reached 95 (from its original 671) all the players still seated would be in the money, the first major landmark reached. And just as it ticked from 98, to 97, to 96 this afternoon, so the big countdown in the middle also ticked out the end of level 16.

Hand-for-hand play progressed, as it does when they are one off the money. And then a dealer on table nine uttered the first tentative "All in, call" of this particular bubble period. Thomas Lamatsch, the tournament director, asked one of his colleagues to stop the clock. When the downward ticking ceased, the figures were blinking red and white and read: "00:01".

We had therefore reached the target with one second to spare. How very Jason Bourne.

With the bomb timer thus halted, we only now needed it to be diffused. But that would spell bad news for Stephen Chidwick, who was the man whose tournament life was now under threat. Chidwick had K♠K♦ and was looking good against Tobias Wagner's A♦K♥. Chidwick's was the effective stack.

After the customary huddle of players, media, spectators and random blokes-off-the-street had assembled around the table, the dealer received the instruction to get the flop out on the table.

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The customary huddle round the bubble table

There, in true action thriller fashion, was the metaphorical clippers to snip the fuse. The A♣ was nestled between the 6♦ and the 9♠ on the flop.

"Stephen is looking for one king," said Lamatsch over the microphone. But the 5♦ and 6♣ on turn and river did not help.

Chidwick, who came third at EPT Prague last month and is among the very best players in the world, may or may not ever write a poker strategy book. If he did, it would be extraordinarily popular. He could include in it a chapter entitled, "How to Behave While Bubbling a Tournament" because his conduct was exemplary throughout.

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Stephen Chidwick: as dignified a bubble boy as you'll find

Without so much as a murmur, Chidwick got up, wound his headphones around his MP3 player and wandered to the door. The whooping started among those remaining -- and the random blokes on the street. Armageddon was averted once again.

"Congratulations, you are all in the money," said Lamatsch. "Please go on a 15-minute break."

Follow our coverage from EPT Deauville by heading to the main EPT Deauville page. There's hand-by-hand coverage in the top panel, plus chip counts, and feature pieces below. EPT Live also starts today, so tune in there for a close-up view of the action.

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour