EPT11 Grand Final: May the good lord shine a light


Pierre Neuville gives thanks for divine intervention

"There's a seagull in the poker room!"

It's difficult to imagine how the PokerStars and Monte-Carlo®Casino EPT Grand Final could get any more exciting. There's some of the best players in the world contesting a prize pool running into many millions.

But after the roof of the Salle des Etoiles rolled back to greet players arriving today -- it's such a one-trick pony -- the fauna of the French Riviera wanted in on the action.

"There's a seagull in the poker room!" a member of the TV crew said. There was, you know. There was a seagull in the poker room. And suddenly all the early-arriving crowd turned into primary school kids transfixed as if there was a dog in the playground.

I didn't see the seagull. I just heard about it after it had left. But I did see the arrival of the 34 players looking for a fourth consecutive good day in the €10,000 Main Event.

There was Andre Akkari, wandering in and giving a bear hug to Nikolau Villa-Lobos, who had been waiting apparently for just such an opportunity. Then there was Ike Haxton, glasses slightly steamed up already but waiting to see what he could do with a short stack.

One by one, Joao Simao, Ludovic Geilich, Mustapha Kanit, Jason Mercier, Stephen Chidwick and Johnny Lodden arrived, discovering that they were to comprise six parts of arguably the fiercest, organic, television line-up assembled since the 2013 final table here. (Lodden and Mercier were on that too.)

And then there was Pierre Neuville, sauntering into the sunlight and quickly affixing pink-rimmed glasses over his eyes to keep it out. Perhaps, actually, they were there to shield him from the sheen of his own training shoes: neon yellow, the kind designed to keep one safe while pacing the streets at night.

He offset it all with a delightful turquoise V-neck sweater, part Caribbean leisure cruise fare, part minor-counties cricket captain. He had the fewest chips of all in the room, but was also involved in the first major skirmish after play began.

Sitting on one of the outer tables, Neuville, now shorn of the sweater and in a crisp white shirt, found A♣K♥ and got his chips in against Quan Zhou's 6♣6♠. After the flop came 3♠3♣9♥, Neuville stood up. When the turn came 4♥, a flash of turquoise suddenly flashed its way around his neck, a flamboyant flourish with the V-neck cast as if a scarf. Neuville seemed prepared to hop into the Alfa Romeo and go burning back down the winding cliff roads of the Riviera.

But then when the A♦ popped up on the river, there was a yelp of anguish from Zhou's corner (no, not that type of yelp) and Neuville held his hands, Christ the Redeemer style, to give thanks to the heavens and punish the sinner.

By that point, the roof had, of course, been rolled back over the Salle des Etoiles to block sight lines to the creator. But he was listening up there. Maybe that seagull had been a dove.


Is that a prayer from the chip-leader, Jose Carlo Garcia?

Follow all the action from the €10,000 Main Event on the Main Event page. Also watch on EPT Live. The €25,000 High Roller also starts today, over on the High Roller page. It's also about time you downloaded the EPT app. There you will get all the latest news, chip counts and payouts. You can download it on Android or IOS.