EPT11 Barcelona: Nothing interesting happens before the antes right?

The early stages of a poker tournament could more accurately be described as Texas Fold'em rather than Texas Hold'em. The tight-is-right strategy employed by most players when stacks are deep and blinds minuscule in comparison make the early stages, for some at least, an exercise in staving off boredom until the blinds reach a level where the game is deemed worthy of their undivided attention.

There are a multitude of avenues that players explore to escape a malaise that could jeopardise their chip stack, reading a book or a paper, physical or otherwise, watching a movie, getting a massage, burying their head in their phone or the favourite tactic of Phil Hellmuth: that of simply not showing up until a couple of levels have passed.

And perhaps that's the real reason so many players show up late, this lack of interest or at least an opinion that nothing worthwhile will happen early on. That at least is the view of Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Selbst.

But, you try telling that to Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi. The flamboyant American has five seven-figure scores to his name, all of which came in legitimately open events (two WPT wins, two $50,000 WSOP Players Championship wins and a WSOP Main Event final table). That puts him in rare company. He's also known for an aggressive style and the attitude that it's never too early to play a big pot. It's paid off as he's all but tripled his stack early on although given that his reputation for dusting off stacks is as revered as his skill in gaining them in the first place, he may not hang on to his new-found wealth for long.

For now though he's looking like the early pace setter and he climbed above the 80,000 chip mark after winning a pot against Talal Shakerchi. The American was deep in conversation with Stephen Chidwick about the Shark Cage heats that are being filmed in the tournament arena today.

"Do they play more than one heat?" Mizrachi asked Chidwick.

"I think there's a bunch of heats and then a final," Chidwick replied.

He was about to continue but their conversation was interrupted by Mizrachi cold four-betting over Shakerchi's button three-bet.


Mizrachi - not in grind mode today

Shakerchi called pre-flop, and on the flop, but the pot reached the river without further betting action. Then on fifth street Mizrachi bet, Shakerchi raised and after a think Mizrachi threw out some calling chips. There was then one of those annoying non showdowns as Shakerchi mucked and Mizrachi was therefore not obliged to show his cards.

"I was going to raise you but I knew you were folding because I knew you were bluffing," Mizrachi said.

"You knew?" Shakerchi said.

"Oh yeah," Mizrachi replied, with a confidence bordering on bravado that only a man stacking the chips from a battle just won against the man he's talking to can display.

So, the Grinder is one of the early chip leaders while Selbst sadly finds herself on the rail already. Meanwhile, the antes have just kicked in and somewhere at some table or other something interesting is now no doubt happening.

Follow all the action from the tournament floor on the main EPT Barcelona page. There's hand-by-hand coverage in the panel at the top, including chip counts, and feature pieces below. Live coverage of the Estrellas Poker Tour final table is now on EPT Live.

Nick Wright
@PokerStars in European Poker Tour