EPT11 Prague: Fashionably late, the Super High Rollers roll in

Most poker tournaments start late. Fact. Perhaps that's why the EPT decided to schedule the start of the €50,000 Super High Roller at the curious time of 12:15pm rather than 12pm. Maybe the hope was that if everyone showed up fashionably late then the tournament would still start on time. If so it was a long shot and one that didn't come in.


Another day at the office for the Super High Rollers

11:58am: The tournament director announces some of the key information. This is entirely for the dealers' benefit as the eight tables are bereft of players at this point. The dealers sit with eight stacks in their trays whose fates are as yet unknown.

Still at least they now know that every player will start with 250,000 and that they'll be playing eight 60 minute levels today with no dinner break. He also lets the dealers know that there is the scope for unlimited re-buys, although if someone busts then they are treated as a fresh 'new' entry and as such must leave the table and get a new seat assignment.

12:01pm: Even the number of waiters now outnumber the players. One suddenly becomes two, this is madness there's nobody there to order drinks!

12:05pm: A player! But not for long. Igor Pihela, who won a seat to this in a satellite last night and is the first ever Estonian to play in a Super High Roller, rocks up. He has a quick exchange with Neil Johnson (Head of Live Poker Operations, PokerStars Europe) and then wanders off. Back to zero players again just ten minutes from the off.


Super High Roller débutante Igor Pihela

12:06pm: Another player! And this time he sticks around. Steve O'Dwyer, who scored a career high cash of over $1.8M when he won the ACOP High Roller in Macau in November, enters into a lengthy conversation with Johnson.The subject matter is to do with the way the dealers handle the burn cards.

The EPT Grand Final winner stated that when in the eight seat he can sometimes see the burn cards as the dealers scoop it under previous burn cards and/or the chips in the pot and it flashes, if only briefly. O'Dwyer says that if he wasn't so tall he'd probably be able to see it more often. The conversation then turns to the way dealers from different parts of the world are trained to hold the deck and handle the burn cards.

12:08pm: There are now enough players in the vicinity for the dealers to start dealing, if they were all drawn to the same table that is, as Adrian Mateos and Team PokerStars Pro Online's Vicente Delgado arrive on the scene.

12:09pm: Joseph Cheong enters the arena and makes a beeline for Johnson and O'Dwyer. "Just me and you heads-up?" he quips to O'Dwyer. Conversation then turns to Cheong's protracted journey to Prague. He had planned to arrive a few days earlier to play another tournament, but heavy rain, not snow, meant his flight from San Francisco was cancelled.


O'Dwyer was one of the first to arrive

12:12pm: Paul Newey, Senh Ung and WCOOP Main Event winner Fedor Holz all show that their reads off the table are as strong as they are at the felt. Even though it's just three minutes to the scheduled start time they correctly ascertain that play isn't going to start any time soon. Ung and Newey go off to get lunch, whilst Holz takes a seat at a nearby table.

12:14pm: Mike Watson, who's carrying a glass of water, arrives and infiltrates the Cheong/O'Dwyer conversation. Elsewhere Joao Vieira, who might have links to Newcastle in his ancestry as he's wearing a short sleeved polo shirt, arrives and chats to Mateos and Delgado.

12:15pm: Cards are not in the air.

12:16pm: There is knitwear far and wide! Not uncommon for this time of year of course but Mike Watson (blue knitted crewneck jumper), Steve O'Dwyer (blue shawl neck button up cardigan), Fedor Holz (black jumper with military style patches), Adrian Mateos (purple marl zip-up hoodie) and Senh Ung (grey button up and scarf) are all well equipped for the elements inside and outside of the poker room.

12:17pm: The manual seat-draw begins.

12:19pm: David Peters is one of the first to collect his seat assignment.

12:23pm: Mike McDonald, an ever present in the Super High Rollers and Brian Roberts join a group consisting of Watson, Sam Greenwood and O'Dwyer. Only O'Dwyer has collected his seat draw.

12:26pm: Fedor Holz (seat two) and Stephen Chidwick (seat four) are the first two players to be seated at their table and begin chatting. Ole Schemion, wearing a fair isle knit with gilet and now sporting a beard, walks over and shakes hands with Holz.

Elsewhere Timothy Adams and Christoph Vogelsang have both arrived and have a brief chat.

12:28pm: Just 13 minutes after the scheduled start time cards are now in the air, although only at one table. There must be three players at a table for play to begin and Mateos (seat two), Phiela (seat four) and Schemion (seat five) are the first to get cards. They're soon joined by McDonald (seat six).


Tough crowd

12:30pm: The other tables soon start to fill up and there's not a soft table in the house. Greenwood (seat two), Juha Helppi (seat three), Watson (seat four), Viera (seat five) and O'Dwyer (seat six) is one fearsome table. Meanwhile Chidwick and Holz are joined by Brian Roberts (seat six) and Connor Drinan (seat eight) and their day can finally begin.

12:32pm: Much hilarity ensues when Vogelsang realises that he's taken the wrong seat. He initially takes a seat to the left of Mateos but instead is moved to the same table as Newey, Peters and Delgado. Upon taking a seat Newey says to him: "I want to ask you about a hand from the One Drop later. I think you know which one." Vogelsang nodded.


Vogelsang was all smiles when he found the right seat

Players continued to arrive and at latest count 28 players were in their seats but with players such as WSOP Main Event champion Martin Jacobson yet to arrive that number is set to rise as play goes on. Indeed players can register up until the start of Day 2.

Your central hub for all the news from the EPT Prague poker festival, including Super High Roller updates, Eureka news and side event coverage can be found here.

Nick Wright
@PokerStars in Super High Roller