EPT Warsaw: Poles, players, press and day 1a
Warsaw was once a brutalised city, beholden to the whim of various powers, but now its buildings reach into the sky, a symbol of if anything, it’s new found aspiration in the middle of the European Union. On the banks of the river Vistula on the Masovian Plain, the twenty-first century is in full swing.
On the flight in, over the scruffy gap tooth apartment blocks, the landscape quickly gives way to construction cranes - new builds, shiny designs and in the distance, the sky scrapers of downtown Warsaw.
Arrival means passing through Chopin International Airport, sparkling with a makeover. Named after the famous Polish composer his name now adorns a modern terminal, complete with computerised baggage carousels which sends out baggage in quick time – the type of thing that impresses the weary world traveller.
And amidst all that, people go about their daily business as the largest force of poker playing mavericks arrive at Casino Poland. Across the road is a park with the Stawy Lazienkowskie lake in the middle - a sprawling green lung surrounded by day time traffic, where seemingly hundreds of strollers, with kids wrapped in hats and scarves and pushed by grandparents, do laps of the park for some sunshine. Yes, it’s a beautiful day to be outside.
Cut to Casino Poland where there’s little time for that. Down two flights, into a subterranean poker grotto, close to 200 players from around the world sit ready to play. This town has played host to the Warsaw Pact, the Treaty of Warsaw, the Warsaw convention and even the Miss World Competition in 2006. But this week the place sparks into life thanks to the European Poker Tour - back for a second time.
This is days 1a. A few of those playing today...
Gino Alacqua – Italy
Quickly becoming a regular on the EPT after his second place finish in Prague. Gino came close again, cashing in Copenhagen two weeks ago.
Marcel Baran – Germany
In a similar way to Gino, Marcel has been a regular feature on the tour following his third place finish at EPT London.
Katja Thater – Germany – Team PokerStars Pro
The WSOP bracelet winner and fearsome pro found Warsaw to be the high point of season three when she finished fifth.
Kara Scott – UK – PokerStars Sponsored Player
Her day job is presenting the EPT, as well as fronting the PokerStars video blogs. But in Poland, with the TV crew absent, Kara plays her first EPT as a PokerStars player. Known will be no push over, having recently won Sky Sports Poker Challenge worth over $50k.
Daniel Carter – England
An unassuming Englishman who is quickly gaining a reputation in the UK as a solid player. Twelfth in Dortmund, second last year at the World Heads-up Poker Championship, and fourth in the Walsall leg of the GUKPT.
Woody Deck – Lithuania
Now a resident of Lithuania the EPT Warsaw is just a short trip across the border for a player never too far from his laptop. His EPT record lacks a first cash which would fit nicely with a WSOP final table and various cash finishes around the world.
Trond Eidsvig – Norway
Rookie of the Year at the Scandinavian Poker Awards last month, Trond has made two EPT final tables in this season alone as well as winning the prestigious Amsterdam Master Classic event last November.
Phidias Georgiou – Cyprus – PokerStars qualifier
A popular and charismatic PokerStars qualifier from Cyprus. He cashed in London and came close a few weeks later in Dublin.
Marc Goodwin – England
Famous for playing golf with Phil Ivey to a point where, had he been a pro, his winnings would have secured him a place on the European Ryder Cup team; Goodwin is an accomplished poker pro, having ditched his past life as a double glazing salesman. To date his tournament winnings are close to a million dollars.
Christian Grundtvig – Denmark
The quiet Dane is a former WPT Paris winner looking to capture an EPT crown to go with it. Known as a rock, he’s also (as a slightly interesting aside) an avid stamp collector.
Peter Jepsen – Denmark
Jepsen is the defending champion here in Warsaw, having won the inaugural event 12 months ago. Also known as the boyfriend of Frida - one of the massage therapists working the tour. The former soldier, who was wounded out of Iraq several years ago, filled his rehab time with online poker and since then hasn’t looked back.
Sander Lylloff – Denmark
EPT Barcelona winner a few months ago he also made the final table of the EPT Grand final in season one.
Dario Minieri – Team PokerStars Pro – Italy
The Team PokerStars Pro and boy-faced internet champion, Dario is in pursuit of a title to better his third place finish in Baden in season three.
Magnus Petersson – Sweden
Winner of the EPT Copenhagen in season three, Magnus has become a regular feature on the tour, one of those handful of candidates that start an EPT looking to become the first to win two EPTs.
Daniel Ryan – United States – PokerStars Sponsored Player
The rugged American, who looks more likely to be seen in a fashion shoot than a poker tournament, is back to repeat his performances from earlier in the season. Tenth place in Prague and a fifth place finish in Copenhagen.
Johannes Strassmann – Germany -- PokerStars Sponsored Player
A final table finish in Dortmund that many thought was a premature exit. Despite dominating the chatty German pro missed out on home turf. Time to avenge that day in Warsaw.
Julian Thew – England
Widely regarded to be the nicest bloke on the tour, Julian won in Baden late last year, won a GUKPT event shortly before that and currently sits second on the EPT Tournament Leader board behind Team PokerStars Pro and PCA winner ‘ElkY’ Grospellier. All that could change though with another good performance here.