Our regular stints this week on EPT Live are intended to widen the focus of the web-stream coverage beyond the closeted confines of the feature table. There are many, many other tables almost always in play and yet the cameras can only be fixed on one. Our role is to look around the room and bring back the stories that otherwise go untold.
With that in mind, I thought it would be novel to focus on a phase of the tournament that almost never gets closely examined: the pre-bubble period, ie, the minutes before we go hand-for-hand. Everyone gets so anxious in the attempt to identify the stone-cold bubble boy that we forget the nearly men. There are plenty of players who go out moments before the bubble. They are only marginally less unlucky, but never get any attention.
So here’s a forensic analysis of the pre-bubble period, taking in the 15-minute tournament break at the end of level 15, through to the moment the 122nd player was eliminated and the tournament went hand-for-hand.
We’ll call this: Anatomy of the Pre-Bubble Period.
1.30pm: As PokerStars Blog is en route to the tournament room, Vanessa Rousso is spotted on the stairs heading to street level, ie, the exit. “Don’t talk to me. I want to throw up,” she says. Although Rousso celebrated her 30th birthday last night, this is nothing to do with a hangover. Rousso busted just before the break, and has quickly come down with a killer bout of bustoutitis.
1.32pm: The tournament break officially begins and staff start the process of colouring up the black chips, worth 100. They will not be required from hereon in.
Casey Kastle tells his table that he has to nip back to his apartment real quick.
Sarah Grant, of PokerStars.tv, grabs Jason Koon for a brief interview. Kristy Arnett, of Poker News, collars Sam Grafton for similar. Meanwhile as the players’ chairs quickly empty, the dealers chat among themselves, else to the floor staff. Dealers are required to sit at the tables, sentinel like, to guard the chips during the break. Some will stand up to stretch, but they must remain at the table.
1.35pm: Three Russian players wander to the sidelines and talk about their progress so far. They take a quick glance at the pot-limit Omaha side event that has recently started, with three tables so far filled. They wander away again.
1.41pm: Antonio Matthias, EPT Vilamoura champion, who bust from this main event earlier, ambles past, holding a cigarette the wrong way round in his lips. Dermot Blain, still in the main event but apparently at a loose end, chews on the red cap of a water bottle.
David Sonelin and Mikhail Semin fall into conversation. “I have a blog on the biggest Russian poker site,” says Semin. Sonelin nods politely. Meanwhile Luke Reeves and Sam Grafton have a chat in the coffee shop.
1.48pm: Ana Marquez, also recently busted from the main event, returns to the tournament room with her boyfriend Bryn Kenney. They head to the side event area, possibly buying in to the heads up event that is just starting.
1.47pm: Play officially resumes and players take a look at the complexion of their new stacks. The 100-denomination chips may have gone, but a red one is now in play, worth 25,000. “I don’t care. I’m the only one having red chips,” says Mikhail Semin on table 15. Jesper Fedderson, sitting next to him, takes a swig from a tiny can of Coke, like you get on planes.
Blinds in this level are 2,000-4,000 with a 500 ante. There are 126 players left and the money will kick in at 120. That means the official bubble begins when 121 remain.
1.48pm: Sergei Baranov raises to 8,000 and despite having those red chips, Pingray doesn’t want to invest them. He dwells and dwells and dwells before folding. There is a lot of tanking going on across the room.
1.54pm: All of a sudden, a player is gone. Jean Philippe Peyratoux becomes the 126th-placed finisher and no one sees how he perished.
1.56pm: Lucien Cohen, a former EPT Deauville champion, is all in with K♠Q♦ and in terrible shape against Noel Gaens’ A♦K♦. But the board ends up giving a straight to Cohen, whose voice raises in pitch so rapidly, it’s as if an escaped rat has scooted up his trouser leg and begun nibbling on his nuts. “My friend! Likee, likee, likee, likee,” Cohen says to Gaens, who shows admirable restraint as Cohen’s voice goes from alto to castrato to helium-induced. “Thank you very much.”
“Give me strength,” mutters a reporter on the rail and ambles away.
1.58pm: Noel Gaens takes a phone call. “No, I’m at the table,” he says, and hangs up.
1.58pm: A player goes out, unnoticed. It is the fate of most at a poker tournament, dying in silence away from the crowds. Sniff. We are down to 124.
2.03pm: Glen Cymbaluk opens from the button and Jed Derkaoui ships from the small blind. This is a coup between two Canadians, two pairs of mirrored shades, and two head coverings. Cymbaluk’s is made of snake-skin; Derkaoui’s is a black hooey. Cymbaluk stares for a good long time, which must be like looking into a mirror in a clothing store dressing room: mirror reflecting mirror reflecting mirror reflecting mirror in an infinite series. It’s no wonder he folds before he’s sucked in to a black hole of sunglasses.
2.04pm: Casey Kastle is back! It appears that his trip back to the apartment (see 1.32pm) was to pick up a Che Guevara style khaki hat, with a red star on the front and a Cuban flag on the left size. Viva la revolution!
2.05pm: Konstantin Tolokno is waiting to fold his cards in the small blind on table 13 when he gets a text message. He looks at it and is ticked off by the floor staff for using a mobile device when still technically in a hand. He apologises. It is accepted.
2.06pm: “Allez!” shouts someone from across the other side of the tournament room. In times past, a herd of reporters would have flocked over to see what was going on. But not here. Everyone shrugs and gets on with it.
2.06pm: Jens Knossalla of PokerToday appears on the rail, microphone in hand. Knossalla has a neat line in bubble interviews, where he bludgeons through the crowd and sometimes even gets to talk to the players involved. Famously in Sanremo last year, a short-stack who was all in got up and told Knossalla that he had aces, in full earshot of the players who had to decide whether to call him. They folded, and he missed his chance at a double up. (Or elimination.)
2.09pm: Patrick Schuhl turns to Matthew Pitt of Poker News and asks a question in a language other than Pitt’s native Yorkshire. “I don’t speak French,” Pitt says, and the conversation quickly ends. Schuhl is another player in the field wearing a very wide-brimmed hat and is also regularly taking photos of his chip-stack on his iPad and posting to Facebook. He also has a scattering of black and white photographs spread out in front of him on the table, featuring a man and a woman in what looks like the 1970s. It may or may not be Schuhl himself.
2.11pm: Lucien Cohen’s plastic rat pokes a snout above the table from its owner’s lap. It quickly ducks down again after assessing that not much is going on. The vocal Irishman Fergal Nealon is happy to chew the fat with Cohen, who is still doing a lot of talking. Simon Mattsson, to his left, is not so happy.
2.12pm: “Seat open, table eight!” shouts a dealer. Anthony Picault is out. He ran ace-queen into Andreas Roos’s kings and was gone. We are down to 123.
2.13pm: Dealers are instructed that since we’re now three off the money, they need to announce every all in, if it is called. Almost immediately, the dealer on table nine does just that and Yury Gulyy doubles up with A♥K♥.
2.17pm: At the far end of the tournament room, the heads up tournament begins.
2.18pm: Michele Bianchi is out, but no one knows how. The dealer does not shout that there is an all in and a call, so gets a ticking off. Bianchi is gone, but his grey ski-coat is still hanging on the back of his chair. Inevitably, he is required to come skulking back to the scene of his own demise, like an unhappy ghost examining its own grave. (But then putting on a coat and walking off.)
2.20pm: Suddenly all the players in the tournament room begin looking at the big screen, which is showing action from EPT Live alongside the tournament clock. The reason is that Kajetan Masiewicz is all in and under threat of elimination by Jason Koon. Koon’s hand does indeed turn out to be best, which means Masiewicz goes bust in 122nd, bringing us to the stone-cold bubble.
My colleague Stephen Bartley agrees to take over this tag-team blogging to take us through the bubble period. Stand by for the next thrilling installment…