A small gathering of people stood in the lobby of Barcelona’s Sofitel Hotel discussing how they were going to occupy their time for the next two hours.
“Van Gogh is coming?” one said, with seeming sincerity.
“He is living inside us,” added another, drily.
The gathering was about to embark on a trip to a temporary studio housing the unique “Wine Gogh“, an activity arranged for players and their guests on the European Poker Tour (EPT).
Organisers of the EPT are justifiably proud of the slate of activities the tour lays on for people who visit the events. There are catamaran trips, bus tours, team sports days, padel tournaments and vineyard tours, as well as parties and numerous other extras.
Everything is always free and it is part of the EPT’s commitment to offering more than just its industry leading poker tournaments. PokerStars wants people to come to the tour and know they can enjoy a full vacation package, whether they are a poker player or not.
TIME TO CREATE A MASTERPIECE
This was the “Sip & Paint”, an opportunity for visitors to discover their inner Van Gogh and learn how to paint from some friendly professionals. The “sip” part referenced the unlimited wine landing into glasses sat beside 30 easels. The atmosphere was calm and relaxed, with fun very much the order of the day.
Aprons were draped over chairs, paintbrushes were propped in jam jars and splodges of neon acrylic paint were spread out on a makeshift palette.
“Tonight, we’re going to paint a painting and drink wine like great artists did,” said our instructor.
Most of the group managed at least one of those things.
The group included American pro David Schmuel and his partner, both of whom took to the painting with great excitement. Schmuel, a mixed game specialist based in Florida, was over to the EPT for the first time before embarking on a tour of Europe and Israel.
“This is really great,” he said. “No other poker tour does this kind of thing.”
Schmuel said he was very impressed by the EPT, both the number of players and the organisation. He had been on a bus tour but the sip and paint was only the second activity he had managed to get on this time. All the more reason to come back next year, where Monte Carlo is now in his sights.
Belarussian Twitch streamer and influencer SharlizHR was also present and she took to heart the instruction to allow your inner child free. Her painting was by some measure the best in our small section of the room, but it was only the loosest interpretation of the source material.
SIP & PAINT A UNIQUE DESIGN
Our instructor stood in the middle of the room and gave specific directions on how to produce an analogue of her unique painting. It combined the cards, chips and PokerStars spade in an original design based on Gaudi’s lizard from Parc Güell, Barcelona.
“The wine gives you more creativity,” the instructor said. Most importantly, it removed the nagging sense of embarrassment as our attempts fell a little way short of what the more talented managed.
The acrylic paint glowed under neon lights, adding an unusual twist. The lights were turned on to heighten the atmosphere in our studio.
After two hours, most masterpieces were complete and it was time to pose for photos.
By common assent, it was an especially fun way to spend an afternoon away from the tables. With the exception of the cards in the lizard’s grasp (and the occasional text message from partners in the tournaments) poker was far from most minds.
Plenty of people in the group were the plus-ones of poker players still involved in a game. But this was an opportunity to make new friends and return with a souvenir.
And there are few better ways to while away a couple of hours in Barcelona.
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