EPT8 Berlin: We're not in Campione anymore...


Having only recently been on the banks of Lake Lugano in Campione, the urban sprawl of Berlin makes for quite a change of scene. The thing is we were never really on the banks of Lake Lugano. We were on the ninth floor of a giant steel and concrete monument to the joys of unadulterated casino fun, which, if you could find a window, you could see water and the car park.

It's a similar situation in the Hyatt, where windows are few and those you do find are shuttered up so people can see things on laptop screens more easily. What with poker played largely online and live tournaments hosting players who spend the day time asleep, poker may have no further need for the sun within a generation.

That said there isn't much of a view from the window anyway, just the office block opposite, that seems to have just one visible employee who was on the phone when we left yesterday and is still on the phone this morning, rubbing his neck. Presumably he's calling someone to ask where everybody went.

Still, if you can actually get outside Berlin is a treat for those prefer their scenery architectural rather than merely geographical, a welcome consolation for early elimination, where frustrations can be taken out on the living statues near the Brandenberg Gate, or the protesters setting up a trestle table outside an office block.

Potsdamer Platz (night)

Potsdamer Platz alone gives you a taste of Berlin, former east and west, from the 1980s "no Nukes" flags, turned white by the sun that flaps belatedly from apartment balcony, to the scaffolding, holding up a building that looks a lot like Brixton Car Park.

What remains of some sections of the Berlin Wall can be seen outside the nearby underground station, "guarded" by two people dressed in the uniforms of former Soviet and American soldiers who, for a couple of Euros, will stamp your passport with various historical stamps that will give immigration officers at McCarran Airport cause for alarm, although not as much as the "Captains No 1 Helper" sticker, saved from a largely child-orientated visit to the cockpit of a 737, some years ago.

It's here you can also see the pink pipelines crossing streets, doubling back on themselves and running along sidewalks. Having put these down to some former cold war espionage escape route, they are in fact linked to the city's drainage system, far more practical, given that Berlin is essentially built on a marsh. The twists and turns are merely to prevent the freezing temperatures bursting them.

It is cold outside, while the temperature controlled tournament room buzzes with the noise of 40 tables, and several hundred players chatting.

They then went quiet for the day's introductions by casino staff and Thomas Lamatsch, before 40 dealers consecutively washed their decks, filling the room with a pleasant whooshing sound. We'll find out shortly whether it's equally pleasant over in Casino Spielbank, where eight tables are in action.

Stephen Bartley
@StephenBartley in Berlin