EPT10 Vienna: World leaders, the odd sniper, and the EPT

There were uniforms and hardware on display around the Hofburg Palace this morning, with armed men in berets ceremoniously lining the streets that were closed to traffic and blocked by curious tourists eager for a peek. Despite rumours to the contrary, it was not for the arrival of British revolutionary comedian Russell Brand, who is apparently in town today, but a Serbian delegation led by their newly elected prime minister Aleksandar Vučić.

PokerStars events have a history of running into state visits. Or perhaps it's the other way around. Back in the early days of the tour when EPT Warsaw was a modest but popular spring fixture, the same thing happened, the tournament coinciding with an official visit from an American delegation. There were similar scenes in Lima, where Hilary Clinton's delegation threatened to ruin table service in the same hotel bar as the LAPT.


The Serbian and Austrian flags flying outside the Österreichische Präsidentschaftskanzlei

It becomes obvious quite quickly such events are taking place around you. In this case black SUVs whizzed past breaking the mandatory 30kmh speed limit, and the odd siren could be seen flashing its way through traffic. Then there is the presence of men in black, wearing sunglasses, with wires coming out of their ears.

This was the scene Head of Poker Communications at PokerStars Lee Jones once ran into in the Polish capital. Admittedly after several years the story had mutated slightly - for some reason I imagined Mr Jones "stepping over snipers" as they lay prone in the street. Jones was quick to put this right.

"I only have a few rules," said Jones, discounting my version of events. "One of which is never to step over a sniper. I never really want to approach one from behind in case I suddenly appear in his peripheral vision."

As rules go it's a good one, and while it removed a bit of romance from my version of events, the original still involved walking past snipers lying on top of SUVs, their rifles pointed at something or someone in the distance while tourists milled about taking pictures.

There were no snipers in Vienna this morning, or at least if there were they were being much more discrete. But the Hofburg Palace was dressed up in full military regalia, its soldiers polished, its roads closed, its outriders revving and its red carpets rolled out and vacuumed.


These men apparently danced and were applauded by a crowd of school children

Tourists clogged the pavements wondering what all the fuss was about, jumping out of their skins in unison as three busloads of soldiers were dismissed from ceremonial duties with a collective "yes sir!"

They had been in service for the Serbian visit. It was 100 years ago that these two nations set off a chain of events that led to the outbreak of the first world war, with documents signed in these very buildings. These days the two countries are close economic allies and Vienna a capital of peace and conciliation - the offices of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) are adjacent to the PS Live registration desk, a desk we like to think also serves a purpose of uniting people from various nations around the world in peace and harmony around a poker table. At least until the bubble.

Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.