We have mentioned on more than one occasion this season how serene seems the life of the High Rollers. While the Main Event remains a whirlwind of activity, €10,000 buys you a seat in a roped-off area largely away from the prying eyes of the public. It is ironic, of course, because the High Roller events attract the biggest stars of the game, in possession of the most recognisable faces.
This separation has never more apparent than this afternoon in the Festsaal of the Hofburg Palace, Vienna, where the final tables of the €5,000 Main Event and €10,000 High Roller got started at almost exactly the same time.
Overnight, the venue staff have arranged nine rows of chairs in two angled banks, creating something of an impromptu auditorium facing the stage. That’s where the Main Event will play to a winner, under the gaze not only of the assembled spectators, but also EPT Live.
The High Roller final table, however, has been positioned directly in the middle of the two audience sections, ie, trapped between two groups of spectators who are all looking away. While the Main Event competitors were all introduced via a booming microphone, amplifying the voice of Neil Johnson, the PokerStars Live Event Specialist, to frankly terrifying levels, the High Rollers riffled chips silently, awaiting their instruction.
When the reverberations had ended, and the applause had dampened, Gemma Salm of the floor team briefed the high rollers in calm and measured tones. She reminded the nine assembled that they were not officially at the final table–that would start with eight left–but that they would play on without a redraw.
Roman Koronev, who went deep in the Main Event, arrived on the rail to greet Dmitry Yurasov, the chip leader, and Anatoly Filatov, another of the three Russians remaining. Vitaly Lunkin, the third, also left the table to shake hands with the group of countrymen who had arrived to stand and watch.
“You’ll be playing 10,000-20,000 with a 3,000 ante,” Salm said. “Good luck everyone.”
Jonathan Duhamel had seen out the introductions by fidgeting with his mobile phone, sending a tweet to his 46,600 followers informing them of his plans for the day. “Let’s get ’em!!” he said.
He certainly flew out the blocks, putting in a three bet from the small blind after Yurasov opened the very first hand. Yurasov four bet — the sizing here was 40,000, 105,000, 195,000 — and then Duhamel shoved for his total 690,000 stack.
Yurasov snap-called and Duhamel seemed certain already that he was in trouble, slowly turning over his 9♥9♦. Yurasov tabled 10♣10♥ and the flop brought a third ten. Duhamel was drawing dead on the blank turn.
Before anybody else followed on Twitter by PokerStars Blog had had time to tweet anything, Duhamel popped up in our timeline with the unhappy news. The only player of the final nine in the High Roller who seems to quite enjoy the publicity was gone, before things had really even started.
Of course, for many of those still assembled at that final table, the relative obscurity suits them just fine. Benny Spindler, one of the two chip leaders, is far from publicity hungry, while most of the Russian players on the EPT similarly treat cameras and notepads with utmost suspicion.
Filatov is something of an exception and today is kitted in a flowery shirt and is wearing yellow-rimmed sun-glasses. Fabrice Soulier also smoulders in front of the cameras in the classic Gallic manner. But by and large one suspects this final will get its business done with the minimum of what you might call faff. There’s only €392,900 for the winner, after all.