Last night at the well-soaked PokerStars welcome party, a new face on the tour asked a simple question. “So, what’s in the essential EPT survival guide?” said JP Kamath, the webmaster of EPT.com, who is attending one of these jamborees for the first time.
At that precise moment, it was tempting to to answer: “A keg load of red wine, a stupid hat and a vodka to take the edge off,” such was the reprehensible state of most revellers. But on further reflection, it’s a really good question. How exactly do you get through a tournament like this? What are the bare necessities?
First up, you need endurance. At time of writing, we are in the opening stages of level seven on day 1a. That means we’ve played six hours so far and there are still three more to go. That, of course, is only the first day of many more. Tomorrow’s day 1b will be the same length, then there’s days two, three and four to navigate, which could last any number of hours, before a final table next Wednesday. That’s almost a week away.
Secondly, you need some poker knowledge. This is obviously a bit more important for the players than for us support staff, but you can’t even cross your own hotel room without someone popping up and saying something like: “So, I had ace-king under-the-gun…” and then tearing through a quick hand history. You don’t need to know them for this to happen, and they certainly don’t need to know you. But it helps you nod and say, “Oh really!” in the right places if you at least have a vague notion of what your new friend is on about.
It helps to have thick skin. Literally. It’s not necessarily that there is a barrage of insults flying around, but there’s a good degree of jostling and you’re going to get some elbows in the ribs. Poker tables are always packed closely together, especially in this relatively small casino in Barcelona, but as the number of players becomes few and fewer, space becomes even more of a premium. Spectators arrive in their hundreds and getting to the last few table is a scrum.
Restraint. You must have some restraint. Now I realise the hypocrisy of this statement coming from someone who spent a good deal of last night wearing a pink trilby and swilling noxious fluids as though attempting to douse a fire in their stomach, but you can’t be burning the candle at both ends all the time if you want to get through an EPT event. There are temptations everywhere. The volume of great bars and restaurants in all the cities we visit mean there’s always somewhere to go and work on the gout. And even the beach has its hazards: there’s been many a poker player arriving lobster-pink after a nap on the dunes in the September sun.
We’ll update this guide as we think of more essential elements. That will do for now.