EPT Deauville: The return
Three years ago, when the Deauville date disappeared from the European Poker Tour schedule, there was an outpouring of first mild sadness, then widespread sorrow and then full-blown grief. Staff and players alike united to mourn the passing of inarguably the most distinctive poker venues and began referring to the late, lamented days of Deauville only indirectly, as though actors discussing the "Scottish play" instead of Macbeth.
Now, today, it is my genuine delight to report that those days of misery are over. We're back. And like any Normandy coastal retreat for the 19th-century Parisian upper-class, Deauville hasn't changed one bit. This is still the playground of the rich and famous; the film-makers, horse-breeders, yacht-owners and high-rollers from across the globe.
Once again, they and we are holed up in the opulent Casino Barriere and the adjoining Normandy and Royal hotels, and they remain an elaborate warren of crimson-lined corridors, underground tunnels and privet-flanked gardens, all buffeted from the stiff sea breeze channelled across the miles of sand and across a single lane separating us from the beyond.
The tournament starts tomorrow (Tuesday) in the sumptuous ballroom, where floor-to-high-ceilinged arched windows open onto patios and terraces, and out over the sea. Even with the room packed tight with poker tables surrounded by the finest action and the biggest poker stars that Europe has to offer, it is simpler to imagine the aristocracy sashaying across the dance-floor, the strains of an elegant band masking the whispers of intrigue and infidelity among the bourgeoisie.
In short, there might be a touch too much florid prose from PokerStars blog in the coming week. Please forgive it among the usual poker action; we've been away a long time.
But speaking of poker action, that is why, of course, we are here. And leading the PokerStars dance this week will be the likes of Dario Minieri, Gavin Griffin, Isabelle Mercier, Luca Pagano, Noah Boeken, Vanessa Rousso and Alex Kravchenko.
Furthermore, Victoria Coren hops the channel for a winter retreat, while last week's $25,000 PCA High Roller winner Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier swaps the Caribbean heat for the English channel chill, marching across the beach and into Casino Barriere clutching that cheque of more than $430,000.
ElkY will not be alone amid the grandeur. The EPT Barcelona winner Sebastian Ruthenberg is here, as is a certain Peter Eastgate, who can still claim the title of World Champion for some time yet.
In his shadow are the likes of Benny Spindler of PCA fame, Stephen Chidwick of internet qualification fame, and Antonio Esfandiari and Freddy Deeb.
This being France the locals are out in force. Arnaud Mattern, Nicolas Levi, Antony Lellouche, Jan Boubli, Pascal Perrault, Thomas Fougeron and Michel Abecassis will be looking to take honours on home soil, as will the former French international footballer Vikash Dharasoo.
And save a last hooray for hip-hop's "Kool Shen", known to Wikipedia freaks as Bruno Lopes, and to French music lovers as one of the country's most sought after recording artists.
The coming week will be a fascinating one on the "queen of Normandy beaches". Stay tuned for all the action.