Apart from the fact that there are fewer tables and an all-round tenser atmosphere, there are countless unexpected ways in which things change at EPT events as the week draws inexorably to its conclusion.
At EPT Berlin this week, it’s been revealing to watch the table by the security desk, for instance, past which all players have had to walk on their way to the tournament room. Food and drink from outside is prohibited in this venue, which meant on the first couple of days that the table resembled the big bins at airport security desks, filled with bottles and cans of drink hoiked out of bags and surrendered. But it seems the remaining 55 players have finally learned the rules. The table is all but empty today.
Similarly the expression on the face of the server in the hotdog counter has grown progressively more sallow as the days have passed, reaching a real jaundiced sag this morning. On day one, it was all smiles and a cheery rebuffing of clumsy advances from this predominantly male crowd. But a week standing in a cupboard surrounded by the fug of frankfurter fumes has evidently lost its appeal. If anyone fancies their chances now, I reckon the promise of a wurst-free life will be all it will take to win her heart.
Fifteen minutes before play began today, the tournament room itself was very quiet. Eight plastic bags containing chips laid on each of six tables, plus another on the television stage. Dealers in black uniforms guarded them closely, even if there was no one anywhere close to cause any mischief. The floor staff, distinguished by their white shirts, patrolled the aisles, exchanging winks and nods and “Good luck today”s.
There was a similar scene over the other side of the room, beyond a wide buffer of no-man’s land comprising three rows of entirely empty tables. Dealers over there were sitting behind orderly stacked chips awaiting the start of the Win The Button side event, also due to start at noon.
A smattering of players loitered just inside the lobby, behind rope slung across the entrance. They exchanged idle chatter, drank bottles of water that none of them probably needed, and killed time like tramps in a park. David Vamplew was one of the first to break the lines, heading to his seat in the Win the Button event, and starting a gradual dribble of players out of the holding pen.
Ronny Voth was one of the first to take a left turn and head to the tables of the main event. After amassing a chip-leading stack at the end of day one, he was still in contention at the start of day four. “This is my first big tournament,” he said, using the dealer as an interpreter from his native German. “It’s a privilege just to be here, and I don’t feel any pressure. Everything that happens from here, I’ll be happy with. This is already a victory.”
Luca Vivaldi, the floor supervisor, picked up the microphone telling the players arriving that if they had been drawn on table six they were to head to the feature table. That meant Boris Becker, Calvin Anderson, Olivier Busquet, et al. They all arrived in plenty of time and certainly before Thang Duc Nguyen, who scurried in just before the off, chewing on a drinks stirrer in lieu of a toothpick. He went over to the water table, put the drinks stirrer in the bin, and exchanged it for two bottles of Evian.
“Dealers please open up the bags of the players who didn’t show up yet,” Vivaldi said. He was then cut off by another man with a microphone over the other side of the room. “For the ‘win the button’ tournament, you can start with three players. Blinds start at 25-50. Dealers please shuffle up and deal.”
Soon enough there was a third voice booming over the room. It was Thomas Lamatsch, the tournament director, with his formal introductions to the day. “Welcome main event players,” Lamatsch said. “Good morning. I hope you had a good night and everybody is awake.”
Lamatsch then ran through the schedule — five levels or down to 16 players, whichever comes soonest — and then instructed his dealers to get things started too. And, as it must be, players began playing and players began busting. Oleksii Khoroshenin, Thomas Richter, Sandra Naujoks and Tom Hall went first, and then it was time for Voth’s tournament to come to a close. He jumped into the High Roller, keen to keep playing the rush.
Liv Boeree and Becker were out soon after, as players began dribbling out the door almost more quickly than they had filtered in. Eighteen players went broke within the first 90 minutes. Some maybe even bought a hot-dog as they headed to the door.
Don’t forget the way to follow our main event coverage. There’s hand-by-hand stuff, including chip counts, in the panel at the top of the main EPT Berlin page. There will be feature pieces below that panel, including updates from the side events. EPT Live is now live. And everything to do with the European Poker Tour is on the European Poker Tour site.