EPT10 Sanremo: Surviving the bubble

A man in a bright yellow shirt, presumably a lucky one given that he'd worn it every day this week, was gesticulating and talking loudly. In short, the bubble had arrived and this was Spanish player Miguel Gurrea, arguing over something that might have taken away even more of his chips that he needed to hang onto in order to reach the money. He was one of many players hoping to turn a modest stack into hard cash, and facing a nervous time doing it.

The bubble affects players in different ways, determined traditionally by how many chips they have. Those without many of them live every hand under strain, and walk around watching others for signs that they might move in before they themselves are obliged to.

Others, like Andrey Lobzhanidze, who wears the jersey of the defeated Russian Olympic ice hockey team, opted to pass through the bubble in comfort, and with supple shoulders, being massaged for a third hour.

It was at the table alongside his that Piotr Shautsou from Belarus knocked out Iliodoros Kamatakis. Shautsou, who is dressed like a basketball player, immediately slapped the table hard, the sound reverberating around the room. Then he shook his fist in victory, although it's possible he was simply nursing his now sore fingers.

On the bubble

Nicolas Chouity was another player departing close to the bubble. He left without any fuss and used his phone - the poker player's best friend, which he started at intently -- to pretend he had other things this day to keep him occupied.

Raul Mestre tried and failed to send Alessio Sardone to the rail. Instead his king-ten was bettered by Sardone's king-queen. Mestre, not one for histrionics, talked to himself, saying that it was all okay, in a manner that suggested it was not okay.

Hand-for-hand play meant it was a while before the bubble finally burst. Each elimination-free hand was being co-ordinated by tournament director Toby Stone, who had the task of keeping 80 players in their seats, and keeping track of what was happening on the TV table, two flights down in the theatre.

When the hand finally came it was British player Mark James who departed. He'd got his chips in with ace-queen and his countryman Mitch Johnson called with pocket nines, which became a set on the flop.

James took it well. He stood and slowly packed what seemed like excess luggage - sunglasses, phone, and headphones -- into a bag as those around him celebrated. Then he put a sweater on before wishing those at the table good luck. They didn't appear to hear him.

Full coverage of EPT Sanremo is on the main EPT Sanremo page. There's hand-by-hand coverage in the panel at the top and feature pieces below.

Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.