Eureka5 Prague: 'In my day, this was all fields'
The EPT/Eureka festival in Prague takes place every year in the same place: the Hilton Prague hotel. It's a self-contained event. Many, many players also stay in the same building, strolling from bedroom to lobby to restaurant to tournament room without ever setting foot outside.
This arrangement means that as the tournament attracts more and more players, so the hotel itself becomes more and more busy. You can likely determine which day of the festival we're on by measuring the heart-rate of the young trainee greeters at the breakfast buffet, whose job it is to seat everybody in comfort. With about 800 players arriving on the stroke of 10.30 a.m., just
as breakfast is closing, the idea of getting a transfer to the housekeeping staff becomes more attractive day by day.
It was especially busy in the hotel lobby this morning, where players began amassing for what would become a record-breaking single day on the Eureka Poker Tour. There were lines at the check-in desk, jostling elbows in front of the cereal dispensers in the breakfast room and a revolving door revolving without interruption.
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Amid it all, there was also one unassuming man sitting on a low wall and watching it all go by, his silence belying the fact that he had more rights than most to claim responsibility for all that lay before him. Chris Moneymaker was his name, and he has grown accustomed to all this bedlam in the 13 years since he ignited it all.
Moneymaker's story is told frequently and few involved with poker can remain unaware of it. But such is the reach of the game now, that even 13 years since his World Series triumph, Moneymaker can still find ways to keep his own adventure fresh. After going indoor skydiving today (he was waiting for a transfer there when he was sitting in the lobby this morning -- picture above, and report to come later) Moneymaker has decided to give the Eureka Poker Tour a crack. He doesn't do that very often.
Contrary to what we originally thought, Moneymaker has played once before on the Eureka. He popped up in Zagreb a few years ago. But he's never played the Eureka in Prague before so this is a first for him, a couple of weeks after he reached another landmark.
"How old are you now, Chris?" Vinko Smokrovic, one of Moneymaker's table-mates, asked.
"I just turned 40," Moneymaker said. "Two weeks ago."
The revelation began a conversation on the table about the changing face of the game, represented in part by the changing face of Chris Moneymaker. The tidy goatee he wore to success in Las Vegas is thinner on the chin and has spread all the way across his face; his eyes have wearied somewhat (from jet-lag as much as anything, one suspects) and--how to put it?--there's a little more of Chris Moneymaker these days than there was back then.
"I used to be crazy," Moneymaker said. "Do stupid s--. But I'm pretty tame now."
Sigurd Eskeland, the president of the Norwegian Poker Federation, is sitting next to Moneymaker today and the pair seem to know one another from way back. They are certainly leading the conversation. Eskeland was also a fresh-faced fellow when he first appeared on the EPT but now is (relatively speaking) one of the veterans.
"I used to play this game when everybody was 85, 90 years old and I was a 20-year-old kid," Moneymaker said.
"The game has changed quite a bit since you won," Eskeland said. "When was it, 2003?"
Eskelund would know. Not only are the two of them sitting among a field that now numbers 1,451 for a single day, but Eskelund has come to Prague fresh from the Norwegian Championships in Oslo, where he finished 30th from a field of 1,974 in the main event there. Although the appetite has always been keen for poker in Scandinavia, that was still an almighty field.
So it is that poker continues to grow and one of its first ambassadors continues to find new places to show his face. Long may both continue.
- There are now 1,451 names on the list and registration is closed. That's not an official total as there needs to be some calibration of records by the tournament staff. But there were 438 yesterday, so we have at least 1,889 in this tournament, which is a new record.
- Although not everybody is even seated yet, at least 150 players are already out. They include: Joseph El Khoury, Gilbert Diaz, Ognyan Dimov, Ben Dobson, Adam Owen, Henrique Pinho, Martins Adeniya, Robin Ylitalo, Jason Wheeler and James Akenhead.
- Marc Convey is still in.
The Eureka coverage is all handily organized on the Eureka Prague page.