PCA 2012: Three champs, one room

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"Some of my friends are pros," said Eugene Katchalov.

It sounded like a placating statement made by someone accused of bigotry, as it was it was merely Katchalov explaining to a member of the Team PokerStars Pro Q&A audience that pros don't soft play each other. If it had for any reason appeared that they were, Katchalov explained, it was just that they were perhaps playing more cautiously against someone who they know is a tough spot. The man in audience nodded, placated indeed.

Katchalov, Bertrand 'ElkY' Grospellier and Max Lykov were sat front and centre in the Adonis conference room near the main tournament floor (or rather they all were once Lykov arrived late, scurrying through wearing dark glasses and a guilty smile). These merry three have the collective weight of $18,232,343 in live tournament winnings, one triple crown - with two more close to completion - and more online scores than you can shake a mouse at.

These Q&A's are running every morning and I enjoyed Barry Greenstein's so much yesterday that a repeat visit was due today*. They may not have known it but they had big shoes to fill following 'The Bear's' anecdote laden soliloquy yesterday. They didn't disappoint but with three faces fielding the questions today the session tasted more like a panel-based quiz show than Greenstein's monodrama performance.

*Okay, I admit it, maybe I am a tiny bit of a poker geek.


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Eugene Katchalov (right) spent much of the hour laughing at ElkY


ElkY replied in rapid-fire staccato answers, Katchalov in thoughtful repose and a smile, Lykov with short answers and a hopeful look to host Joe Stapleton (English is not Lykov's first language, but he performed admirably). A wide range of questions were hurled at the Team Pros, most of which were batted back with interest, the only one to really get sidestepped was when I asked which player thought they were the best. Despite my best attempts to get them to avoid diplomacy ElkY responded that Eugene was the better stud player, before quickly clarifying that he had won his WSOP bracelet in the only stud tournament he'd played.


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Joe Stapleton: providing light relief, microphone and oatmeal cookies


And good news for Randy Lew: ElkY, the other high profile player to be known for playing an eye-watering number of online tables, does not appear to be ready to mount a challenge to the Guinness World Record that he set yesterday, playing 23,493 hands over some 40 tables in eight hours: "I'm not so sure. I haven't played that many tables online forever so I don't know if I want to try that anytime soon. Maybe I'll try a little bit first," said ElkY.

Okay, he didn't rule himself out of a challenge 100% but Lew can rest easy for at least a short while.


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ElkY, Lykov and Katchalov: good poker players, bad boy band


While you may have made the poor decision to swerve the first two sessions there's no need to worry because four more remain. Get yourself along at 11am before play begins or you head to breakfast/navigate the lazy river (depending how your tournaments are panning out). The next four days are planned as follows:


January 10: WSOP bracelet winners Pius Heinz (Main Event champion), Andre Akkari and Jason Mercier
January 11: Randy 'Nanonoko' Lew from Team PokerStars Online
January 12: Daniel Negreanu
January 13: Vanessa Rousso, Vanessa Selbst and Liv Boeree