EPT11 Deauville: Slow playing in the opening moments of Day 1
The atmosphere on Day 1 of an EPT before the cards get in the air is very different to what happens after the words shuffle up and deal are announced. It's a bit like the start of a football season where every fan of every team, no matter how bad, has hope that this could be their year.
Often of course a few games into the season hope turns to despair, your team's star striker can't hit a barn door and your manager is the clueless oaf you suspected him to be. In poker before a hand is dealt it's very much all smiles and 'bonne chance' as everyone is equal, but the level playing field and smiles don't last for long.
The only reason Viktor Litovchenko was smiling after the shuffle up and deal was because he was the only player who'd shown up on time on table 13. Whilst he was busying himself with a game of poker on his phone the tension was already rising at table 15.
Three players had shown up on time, so cards were in the air but two of the three players weren't particularly happy about it. The table comprised of David Mercier (seat five), Ludovic Walpole (seat six) and EPT regular John Eames (seat seven). It seems Mercier and Walpole were, in Eames' estimation, taking too long over decisions because they didn't want to play under the current conditions. "I don't want to play three handed either," said Eames to them, before adding. "But I don't want to just sit here for an hour playing like this."
Whilst this was going on the dealer was busy shuffling the deck, but she then pitched the cards forward for another hand and action was on Walpole. Pause, five seconds or so passed, the Frenchman then peaked as he cards, capped them and paused once more, waited a bit longer (he was facing no action remember) and then mucked, Eames then raised it up from the small blind and Mercier took his time before he too mucked his cards.
It's worth noting at this point that very few tournaments ever start with so few players at the table, not because they wouldn't, but because at, say a one day event, missing the start of a tournament is far more costly so players are generally there on time, or of course the tournament is sometimes delayed. Here on the EPT with 30,000 starting stacks, blinds of 50-100 and a 75 minute clock, turning up late really isn't that costly. So, if you're not used to playing on the EPT - and with combined lifetime earnings of $3,620 - you suspect Mercier and Walpole aren't, then playing three-handed this deep stacked can be a very foreign experience indeed.
So, the reticence of the two Frenchman - who both won live satellites to this event - to play three handed was understandable, but rules are rules and Eames asked the dealer to call the floor. The floor man explained to Mericer and Warpole that in the spirit of the game they need to act in a timely manner. But this wouldn't be the last time the floor would be called to the table. Another hand passed, one which actually reached a river and was chopped when Mercier and Walpole both held ace-king on a J♥K♠8♥5♠6♣ board, but then on the next hand the fun and game began again.
After Mercier limped the button Walpole was faced with the decision of completing from the small blind, folding or raising. He tanked, tanked and then tanked some more. Eames asked the dealer to call the floor again and said to Walpole. "You can take time but you have to be reasonably sporting, you're taking five minutes to complete the small blind." Mercier then said to Eames. "Are you the boss here?" To which Eames replied, "No but when you take two minutes over every decision it's not right."
The floor then explained why it was important to act in a timely manner, citing the spirit of the game rule and the argument then turned to why was it English only at the table despite the tournament being in France. "Why is it English only at the table when we're in France?" asked Walpole, before Mercier chimed in saying: "I don't speak English!" The floor man then said to the pair: "When a hand is in progress it's English only at the table because this is an international tournament and English is the only international language. It was the same in Prague and Barcelona. You may speak French when the deck is being shuffled."
There was a lot of protestations from Mercier and Walpole and the floor added: "We appreciate it's difficult if you don't speak English but please manage the best you can during hands. We're not going to say you can't play the tournament if you don't speak English but we had the same problems yesterday so please just manage the best you can."
All this discussion and interaction of course had the knock on effect of further slowing the action, but as the floor was on its way, Yannick Autaa and Maxence Dupont both arrived at the table to takes their seats and the discussion died down and cards were soon back in the air. Just 12 minutes had passed but a lot had happened, even if little of it was to do with actual poker hands.