EPT10 Grand Final: Slow rolling, perilous massage, and the Ivey threat

Daniel Negreanu and Dan Smith were talking slow rolling. Smith told a story of a hand he played online against Andrew Lichtenberger. "You know who Chewy is, right?" asked Smith who then told Negreanu the story of calling Lichtenberger on the phone prior to showing his cards in the hand.

"Just so you know I have quads," he'd told Lichtenberger. "You're gonna lose this pot." Negreanu laughed, so did Justin Bonomo, who sits between them. "He said when he saw his phone ringing he knew he was in trouble."


Daniel Negreanu

It's one of several super high roller tables featuring players in super high spirits. It's an irony of an event such as this, at least to the layperson, that the more money there is staked by each player the less they appear to care about it. Perhaps it's all a bluff, that really they're all scared rigid of putting a foot wrong. But if this is the case, they hide it well.

Defending champion Max Altergott is, as you might expect, back to defend his title. His girlfriend stands behind him, rubbing the back of his head and bringing him assorted berries from a punnet of fruit on the chair between Philipp Gruissem and Phil Ivey. Altergott looks more familiar to this scene now, not the newbie to the Super High Roller world he was last year, and as his record shows when he cashes, it tends to be for first place.

He plays on ElkY's table, whose pink highlights in an otherwise white head of hair gives him the appearance of a sheep that's been daubed in marker paint by its shepherd. Actually the Frenchman, who described the table as "super sick" on twitter, is one of the few players here who looks to have on a game face, rather than the happy go lucky frivolity of elsewhere. It's possibly because he is on his second bullet, like the equally serious Vanessa Selbst next to him, having been eliminated for a first time earlier.

Those at the table next to ElkY have a similar face. The table is full, not with players, but with the guests of those playing. There are five of them, each staring intently into the screen of a phone at close range. Soon they'll be six of them, one of whom looks at two phones. Oblivious to each other they are at least contented to rub fingers against the glass.

There's a lot of finger rubbing going on. Altergott's girlfriend, the table of visitors, and the massage therapist who worked on Chunlei Zhou.


Chunlei Zhou

Zhou, from China, is all bone, so the massage therapist goes gently on his shoulders, worried perhaps that not only might she hurt her fingers, but also that she might break him.

The Ivey bones on the other hand need no such relaxant. The larger than life American seems more animated than usual on what is his one trip to the EPT each year. He chats to Philipp Gruissem and occasionally jokes with Griffen Benger who pops over to chat. Benger, who himself appears to spend most of his time grinning, talked to Ivey about his girlfriend as one seat along the massage therapist held Zhou's arm aloft, rubbing it, presumably to try to get the blood to flow back.

"By the way," said Benger to Ivey. "My girlfriend is the new PokerNews video reporter, so do whatever she wants."


Philipp Gruissem sharing a joke with Phil Ivey (foreground)

Ivey, a grin forming on his face, turned to Benger. "I'll do whatever she wants," he said. "Whatever she wants!" Benger laughed, so did Ivey, his being the laugh of a man who usually gets whatever he wants.

Follow all the action from the Super High Roller event, including the hand that would eliminate Zhou, on our live coverage page.

Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.