EPT Monte Carlo: Fortunes by the Sea
When you arrive in Monte Carlo on the chopping blades of a helicopter shuttle, the opulence is impossible to ignore. Giant mansions are set into the cliffs and look down over a churning Mediterranean Sea. The people sharing the helicopter with you have arrived with a briefcase, but otherwise sans luggage. They don't speak much, and if they do, it's in quiet, short French sentences. You share the taxi with them and listen as they give the driver directions to their destination.
Through hairpin turns suited more for the Grand Prix de Monaco, the shuttle winds its way through the small city and stops abruptly in front of a windowless bank. Carrying only their briefcase, the couple steps out, nods to the driver, and walks away. Their mission is kept secret. You are left to only guess at their purpose. The only word that comes to mind and sticks is "money."
Indeed, this is a place where money comes to play. Luxurious yachts, top-dollar Bentleys, and perfectly-pressed designer suits dot the landscape. The lady on the corner, only out for a brief walk in the rain, has an umbrella that matches the color of her handbag. Sure, there are tourists here, too, but even they look like they are only on vacation from counting their stacks of cash.
What more fitting place could there be for the biggest and richest poker tournament in all of Europe? The PokerStars European Poker Tour Grand Final begins here in just a couple of days. The EPT and PokerStars crews are already underway in setting up the best party and tournament a poker player could desire. By this time tomorrow, this Mediterranean coast will be teeming with hundreds of the best chip-slingers on the planet. The €10,000 event is one of the biggest draws in the world and the definition of "destination poker."
Having been here for every one of the EPT Grand Finals, I can attest to the belief that this event was great in its first year and has done nothing but gotten better each year since. Just a quick look at the registration list confirms how important it has become to the world poker community. Names like Greg Raymer, Chris Moneymaker, Joe Hachem, Daniel Negreanu, Vanessa Rousso, Lee Nelson, Humberto Brenes, Isabelle Mercier, Barry Greenstein are just a few from the Team PokerStars Pro stable who will be here. Other big names include Gus Hansen, Tony G, Roland de Wolfe, Liz Lieu, Annette Obrestad, Patrik Antonius, Jeff Lisandro, and William Thorson.
We also plan to see the return of last year's champion, Gavin Griffin. Griffin went heads up against Marc Karam (also scheduled to be here) and came away with the victory and more than $2 million. We won't know for a few days how big this year's prize pool will be, but there is little doubt it will contain the kind of money that people around these parts might appreciate.
The PokerStars Blog is just now setting up shop here in Monte Carlo. I will be joined by fellow blogger Stephen Bartley, as well as the teams from the Swedish and German PokerStars blogs in an effort to offer up comprehensive non-stop coverage from the welcome party tomorrow night until the time the final river hits the felt.
Until then, a look out at the sea from the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel.