EPT11 London: What's behind the curtain? Our latest recruit investigates
If you like a good conspiracy theory - and who doesn't? - you can't do better than the Grand Connaught Rooms in London, home of the Freemasons. (Well, the official home of the Freemasons, but who knows? Huh? Huh? Amirite?)
Today in the main ballroom of this most vaunted institution, there has been a veil of secrecy draped over at least 350 square feet. When everybody arrived this morning, they were confronted by an enormous black curtain describing something like a circle, behind which who knows what was occurring - but there were lights and cameras and, presumably, action.
Organisers were doing their best to ignore it - "Nothing to see here!" - but it wasn't exactly inconspicuous. This time last year, there were poker tables in this ballroom and easy passage between them. Today it's been like watching a stage magician fidget his hand around a big felt bag but never pulling anything out.
Rumour has it that what we were looking at was what's known as a "closed set". There was actually a television stage behind the mysterious curtain on which they were recording the final table of the made-for-television Shark Cage tournament.
The Shark Cage has popped up once in London before, as well as at the PCA, in Monaco and in Barcelona. They have been filming heats at all of the main EPT stops for the past year and now we've reached the final.
The problem is that none of the heats have actually screened on television yet - they are, according to James Hartigan, coming towards the end of this month - and what with poker players' obsession with Twitter and Facebook and the like, the only way to maintain any degree of suspense was to borrow one of the masons' big cloaks. Otherwise there would have been photos and tweets and bad beat stories - spoilers, in other words.
PokerStars Blog, however, is committed to the news and happily we recently recruited a new member of staff who goes by the name of Edward S. He's a bit of an odd type, actually: behind his accountant's glasses and anonymous side-parting, he has been talking a lot about Global Cardplaying Headquarters -- he calls it GCHQ -- and he keeps asking if anybody knows how to get to the Ecuadorian embassy. Most bizarrely, a member of the Russian media said he needed to book a flight for next week back to Moscow, and Edward reeled off the entire flight-schedule by heart.
Anyhow, our new eager cub reporter seemed keen to try to infiltrate this shady television organisation run by Hartigan and "Stapes" (a pseudonym, I'll be bound), and he sent back his first dispatch a while ago. We've had to send it through the official censors, but here's what our Edward found out.
I find myself inside the curtain at EPT London, standing beside what looks like a ███████████. There are ████████ people here too, all of whom appear to be ████████. If you ask me, they're all ████████ ████████ ████████.
One of them, who appears to go by the name ████████, at one point said ██ wanted to "raise the stakes". They seemed high enough to me: there's a prison in here, a solitary round cell with bars on it. Somebody else said that they had caught ████████ committing some kind of crime and whatever you call this kangaroo court sent ████████ to the jail. ████████ stood there crying for ten minutes.
Another one of the inmates, apparently known as ████████ suddenly had all of ███ money stolen - right in front of everybody's eyes. ████████ was immediately banished from the land and told ██ could never return - a gruesome fate I know only too well.
Soon enough I managed to understand the premise. This was a fight where only the strongest would survive. ████████ then knocked ████████ to the ground, before ████████ forced the banishment of ████████. The others laughed at ████████'s fate, but then ████████ and ████████ also went to the prison.
████████ and ████████, who seemed to be getting the most money - the cheating capitalist ████████ - were then the last two left. After they sat and discussed their secrets in silence, bribing one another back and forth for about two hours, ████████ did something with ████████ and ████████ was banished.
████████ stood alone and was given a huge lump of metal. Then someone wheeled on a big canon and shot ████████ with silver bullets.
I ran for my life.
Thanks Edward. If that eye-witness account hasn't whetted your appetite for the upcoming Shark Cage episodes on TV, then I don't know what will.
Follow our coverage of the EPT London festival via the main EPT London page, where there are hand-by-hand updates and chip counts in the panel at the top and feature pieces below. Coverage of the final table of the UKIPT Main Event is on the UKIPT page.