EPT11 Prague: All I want for Christmas is a High Roller title

Santa Claus has set up shop in the lobby of the Hilton Prague. He's offering a place on his knee, a quiet word in the ear and a gift for all the good children. I have my suspicions that the man in red is more commonly seen holding an EPT Live microphone rather than the reigns of a sleigh flying over snowy rooftops, but maybe I'm just a cynic whose stocking will be empty come Christmas morning.

Business is not exactly brisk for poor Santa Stapleton, but as a veteran of selling kisses in Monaco and sand in Barcelona, he knows exactly where he can be sure to find customers. The contractually obliged masses of Team PokerStars Pro are a good place to start, and today is a good morning for it. The lobby is full of bewildered poker stars, not yet awake enough to know what's coming. It's the only convincing reason why poor Jason Mercier was recently spotted being jiggled in Santa's lap as two cameras looked on.

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Christmas elves

All Mercier was wanting to do this morning was make it to the breakfast buffet and get some sustenance on board for what he hopes will be a long day at work. After most of poker's highest rollers went into hibernation on elimination from the Main Event this week, they are back out again in force today for the start of the €10,000 High Roller.

Over the course of the past two seasons, the €10,000 High Roller tournaments have been somewhat swallowed in terms of media attention by the bigger buy ins of the Super High Rollers and the bigger fields of the main events. But they have actually been going silently bananas. There were 295 players in Barcelona (plus 98 rebuys), 159 (+55) in Monaco and 198 (+49) at the PCA, the latter two with buy-ins of €25,000 and $25,000 respectively. This one in Prague last time had 137 entries and 39 rebuty.

Who knows how many players will show up today, but registration is open until the start of Day 2 tomorrow, and there is one optional rebuy.

Based on those players spotted in the breakfast buffet, whether or not they successfully swerved Santa, Mercier, Max Silver, Kevin MacPhee and Eugene Katchalov are confirmed. One also suspects Olivier Busquet, who was eliminated from the main event yesterday, to sit down. Busquet came second in this event last year, and it seems likely his vanquisher Ivan Soshnikov will also play again.

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Ivan Soshnikov: The defending champion

There will be full coverage of the event on the main High Roller page - hand-by-hand in the top panel and feature pieces below - so keep an eye on that. The main event also resumes at noon and plays down to its final 16. That's all on the main event page.

Howard Swains
@howardswains in High Roller