While the players at the final table may all look the same, there’s a very clear difference among the audience, where I secured one of only a few empty seats.
First of all it’s worth pointing out that there is actually an audience, despite our concerns that the anonymous nature of the players would put people off. But then, even anonymous players have family and friends, who perhaps have never watched live poker before, because they certainly won’t see anything from where they’re sitting.
“What just happened?”
Both blocks of railbirds on each side of the aisle look forward intently, staring at the screen like one of those magic eye pictures. If they stare long enough it will suddenly all make perfect sense. But the contrast between left and right is striking.
On the right hand side, looking towards the stage, the young bucks of the poker community, full of invincible optimism, giggle, gawp and guffaw. They’re railing one of the German players, and look part of the breed, wearing t-shirts, tight trousers and pumps, like the models in a J Crew catalogue, their hair coiffured into giant hairdos, everything neatly ironed by mum.
One side of the aisle
When an all-in is heard, of which there are worryingly few, everyone gets up and rushes towards the screen. From the back, all you can see of the all-in triangle is a small dot. The words “EPT Berlin” stenciled onto the table look like the bottom line of an eye test. So they rush forward, squinting, cheering first and asking questions later. Whoever is their man he survives, to great cheers. Then they all return to their seats to chat among themselves, occasionally scratching their balls.
On the other side of the aisle the picture couldn’t be more different. The hair on that side is shorter, on those who still have hair, and they’re more older and restrained, pained even, many standing rather than sitting. They also can’t see anything but rather than talk among themselves they choose to look forward anyway, out of politeness and order. It may be that they’re entirely in the wrong place, mistaking the tournament room for a doctor’s waiting room, but to a man they’re too embarrassed to leave.
The crowd look on
When the all-in comes they sit as the audience from the other side surges forward. There’s something obscene about this in the eyes of these folk, an indignity that they will not lower themselves to. Either that or they’ve no idea what’s going on. Either that or they do know and realise this could take some time. What a depressing thought. I moved my chair to their side.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.