EPT11 Malta: High rollers dangling on cliffhanger bubble break
Earlier today Mike McDonald said that high roller events were fun, because in them everyone was happy to talk and the atmosphere was always cordial rather than tense. He was right, but maybe it depended also on how well you were doing. For the 100 or so players eliminated today the high roller was not fun. Not fun at all.
This was not the first story we've featured this season of how a high roller event turned into something huge. As registration closed this morning some 235 players had bought in, with 69 of them choosing to re-enter when the first bullet missed the target. The result was a big prize pool, and nearly €600,000 for the winner late tomorrow night.
But the day would always pivot around the bubble, paid out after 40th place. On one side, the joyous, on the other the joyless, and there were plenty of those today.
It was a tense run in to the final stages, one that is still unresolved.
Alex Bilokur went in within a table of the bubble, then another. Meanwhile Ludovic Geilich, poker's equivalent of Evel Knievel, was betting big against Nick Petrangelo, and then paying the price against Sardor Gaziev.
Max Silver rivered a flush to stay alive. "Relax," Philipp Gruissem said to a relieved Silver. "You have a flush!"
With 45 left Bernd Vogelhuber changed table and immediately introduced himself. Then he asked Sam Greenwood who that guy was.
"He's the number one player in the world," Greenwood said.
"Who, him?" Vogelhuber, looking over at Dan Smith, joked.
Craig McCorkell was out next leaving 44 players, then Ivan Luca busted Emrah Cakmak to leave 43. Tamer Kamel had hung on this far but only just. He nervously paced the tournament floor looking for someone, anyone in worse shape than he. It was a big ask.
Daniel Ghionoiu's approach was a little more swashbuckling. The man who knocked Sorel Mizzi out - twice - had his coat in before calling Rui Ferreira with the winning hand.
"I win? I win!" said Ghionoiu in a moment of confusion.
Kamel was out next, but it was little relief to several players nursing short stacks, among them Smith, George Danzer, Mike McDonald and Govert Metaal. Smith would go next.
Meanwhile Vogelhuber, who had asked everyone for their usernames (giving only cryptic clues to his own online identiy) was spraying perfume, which he may or may not sell as part of his business, on anyone who wanted to try it. Ghionoiu marched over as a willing guinea pig.
"If I give you a little bit you will smell it tomorrow," said Vogelhuber. Undeterred Ghionoiu stretched out his arm. The smell still lingers in the tournament room.
"It smells better than this place usually smells," quipped one onlooker. He was right.
Right now though the players take another break with 40 players remaining. The tables are balanced, the stage is set. One of these players will leave with nothing. Follow all the action on our live coverage page.
Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.