Friday, September 16, 2005

The Barcelona Open - Day 1

Yesterday, I bumped into Marcel Luske getting out of the elevator. He's staying in my hotel, the Barcelona Princess. Last night, I headed over to the Casino de Barcelona to survey the scene. You need to show your passport to get into the casino. You also have to pay. I got in for free because I'm with the media and help from the Poker Stars crew. I must say that everyone at Poker Stars has been extremely accomodating to me. They really made life easier in Spain and are allowing me unfettered access to everything. So thanks to Mad, Tamar, Marta, Conrad, Howard, and everyone else I forgot to mention at Poker Stars. Yeah, even Otis too!

The poker room is located downstairs and they had 25 tables spread out. They were setting up the "TV table and stage" while a satellite for today's event was ongoing. The relatively small room was super crowded. I spotted Mike "Lucky Blind" Lacey who was trying to win a seat in today's $4000 Euro main event which begins at 4pm local time or 10am New York City time. His buddy Tom Murphy was around as well. They will be providing coverage of the EPT for their Irish readers over at Antes Up. I met both guys at the WSOP. The Irish guys are always buying me beers at a faster pace than I can drink them. Lacey continued this tradition on one of his breaks. Yeah, there's a bar like five feet from the poker room. I spent a lot of time there getting to know my good friend... Senor Cerveza.

I also chatted with John Gale for a little bit. He's a good guy and will be playing a mixture of EPT and WPT events during the remainder of the year.

Otis told me that I needed to hang out with Brandon Schaefer. He's the best player under 26 that you never heard of. He was the runner up in the Grand Finale at Monte Carlo last year and he also won another event on the EPT. He's a cool guy too. He got even more respect from me because when I introduced myself he said, "Man, I love your blog." Yeah he's reads the Tao of Poker. Pretty cool. I ended up having dinner with him and several members from team Poker Stars, including Mad.

For lunch today, I got to crash the Poker Stars luncheon for their players. On a big screen in the center of the room, they showed clips from last year's EPT Barcelona event, which was cool because I never saw any of the episodes. Brandon told me that most of the episodes from Season 1 are available for download at bit torrent. I also got to eat another meal with Brandon and two of his friends from Seattle. It's hard not to root for such a nice guy.

Conrad spoke for a little bit and he even introduced me as a reputable member of the American media. He's obviously never read any of my clips. Ha! I've been eating fish at every meal since I arrived in Spain and lunch was no different. I also got to catch a glimpse of the stunning Caroline Flack, who is the hostess for the EPT. She's the Shana Hiatt of the EPT and was conducting random player interviews during the luncheon.

Any pictures and live blogging updates will appear below.

***** Live Blogging Updates *****

2:45pm... There was only one snafu I encountered at the Casino. There was no wifi access near the poker room. Tom Murphy said that you can get a faint signal if you sit outside the disco on the other side of the bottom floor. So that means I don't think I can do a ton of live blogging like I anticipated. If the connection problems clear themselves up, you can expect frequent updates and photos. If not, you can always follow Howard who will be blogging for Poker Stars in place of Otis for this event.

3:25pm... Wifi access problem has been solved! I rode over to the venue on the shuttle bus with Dan Roth, an American qualifier from Seattle, and Isabelle Mercier. I chatted with both for a bit. I spotted Tony G, Barny Boatman, Marcel Luske, and Gus Hansen waiting in line to get into the Casino.

3:45pm... Guess what? Tamar from Poker Stars asked me to emcee the TV table today. I will be taking turns with tournament director Thomas Kremser and Howard from Poker Stars. We'll be alternating levels. I have no idea what I'm doing, but it should be fun. Basically, I'll be doing my best Johnny Grooms imitation announcing raises and all ins on the TV table. I highly doubt that I will be on the broadcast because they usually cut those bits out. So I'll be doing some live blogging in between. Good thing I'm only midly hungover today.

4:20pm... The tournament was scheduled to start at 4pm. We're running late and will begin at 4:35pm. I'll be starting my announcing duties at the beginning of level 2.

4:48pm... Cards will be in the air shortly.

5:00pm... Blinds are $25/50 to start with 45 minute levels. 294 players are in with a waiting list of 90 players deep. First place should pay well over $400,000 Euros. Last year 227 players enetered the first ever EPT event in Barcelona. Play will begin shortly. On the feature table is Brandon Schaefer, Gus Hansen, Pascal Perrault, and Daniel Larrson.

5:05pm... Cards are in the air!

5:17pm... On the feature table, Gus Hansen's A-A held up against Daniel Murelius' K-K.

5:41pm... 8 minutes until show time for me. I hope I dont royaly screw up!

6:41pm... Well I'm back. I announced level two of the featured TV table and I was super nervous. Here's who was there:
Seat 1: Pascal Perrault
Seat 2: Christer Johansen
Seat 3: Theo Jorgenson
Seat 4: Frederick Ostervald
Seat 5: Peter Eichardt
Seat 6: Gus Hansen
Seat 7: Daniel Larrson (and later... David O'Callahan)
Seat 8: Brandon Schaefer
Seat 9: Ilari Shames
So I tried to act calm, but I wasn't. Before this all went down, I went to the production truck and talked to one of the producers and directors. The production crew is all British. They were pretty cool and gave me some guidelines. Again, I have no clue what I'm doing and only pitched in because I was asked by Tamar from Poker Stars since the normal TD is overwhelmed with the huge turnout at this event. The PA was a nice gal named Francine and she told me not to worry. When I finsihed she said that everyone in the truck thought I did a good job. Oh the best thing out of all of this... I got to wear a Poker Stars shirt. I think I get to keep it too.

Anyway... it was awesome to watch Brandon play. I was going to sweat him at some point today anyway and he was surprised to see me up at the TV table with a microphone in my hand. I watched Gus Hansen hit quad queens. He cracked Daniel Larrson's pocket aces. Gus raised preflop and Daniel reraised. Gus called. The flop had one Queen. Gus bet, Daniel raised, and Gus called. The turn was a Queen. Gus checked and Daniel checked. On the river another Queen fell. Gus bet $4000 which covered Daniel, who called. Gus showed Qd-8d for four of a kind which beat Daniel's A-A. I put Gus on a Queen too after I saw his hand shaking when he went to count out his chips. He joked afterwards, "It was hard to get away from flopping top pair."

It's one thing to cover tournaments from media row or the sidelines. It's a whole other world be that up close and watching several top notch players go at it.

9:12pm... I'm on a dinner break. Half the field goes on dinner break while the other half plays. Anyway... Brandon Schaefer has about 11K in chips. We chatted at dinner. He's waiting for good hands. I got some positive criticism from the roducers about my announcing skills. They wanted me to give more information on the sizes of the pots. Counting up chips is harder than I expected!

9:40pm... Marcel Luske told me he has $13K in chips. Peter Roche has about 17K.

11:00pm... I just announced for a third time. The blinds are now 200/400 with 50 antes. Gus Hansen has $46K. Brandon Schaefer has $9K. Dan Roth has about $15K the last time I checked.

11:05pm... 324 players bought into this event. Top 27 players will make the money and $416,000 Eruos goes to the winner. This event has the most entrants of any EPT event.

11:11pm... Here are some random photos. I'm no where close to being as good as Flipchip, but here's my best efforts.

David O'Callahan (left) and Brandon Schaefer

American Dan Roth (center)

Isabelle's eyes wander

Marcel Luske's peeks at the flop

11:12pm... The guys at Gutshot told me some news about Isabelle Merceir. She was short stacked and moved all in with A-5. She flopped two pair and tripled up. She has about $7K plus now.

11:21pm... Bouncin Round the Room: It's been a long time since I did one of these updates. Here's the deal. People smoke everywhere in Europe. The small downstairs floor of the Casino de Barcelona sits under a thick veil of second hand smoke. Since it's Friday night, there are people here at the casino who are dressed up in their most fancy clothes. The men are wearing tuxes and expensive suits and the ladies are wearing stunning cocktail dresses. Damn. Hot. European. Chicks. Aye Carumba! And some of them have seen me announce the TV table. Media row is underneath the grand staircase. I'm sitting at a table with Howard from Poker Stars (when he's not announcing the TV table), the Brits from Gutshot, and the Irish guys from Antes Up. Rolf Stolbloom is in the corner too. Tom Murphy agreed to buy us a round of drinks in media row. There is open seating for $10/20 Hold'em. It's in Euros and that's the lowest limit they have.

11:31pm... Brandon Schaefer was eliminated. He had 7-7 and was heads up with Gus Hansen. The flop was 10-3-2. Gus checked and Brandon bet. Gus check raised and essentially put Brandon all in. Brandon reluctantly called and Gus hsowd J-10. Damn. Brandon played well all day and night. He endured a difficult table including Gus Hansen to his right and some Finnish kid Ilari Sahamies to his right, who was raising every pot.

11:35pm... I heard that Devilfish is out.

12:40am... Isabelle Mercier is out. Her K-K lost to 9-9 when her opponent caught a four flush on her. Dan Roth has about 22K. 163 players are remaining.

12:44am... I just completed my level of announcing. The levels were 300/600 with 100 antes. Christer Johansen tripled up with A-A against Gus Hansen's Ad-7d and the Finnish wunderkid Ilari Sahamies's Q-Q. Gus flopped a nut flush draw and gutshot straight draw. However, Christer's A-A held up and he tripled up his stack. Ilari was eliminated and Gus Hansen lost a big chunk of his stack.

2:00am... My European TV career is over for the time being. The TV table will no longer be taped, so I am free to drink at the bar with the Irish guys. The TD made a decision to end pla at 4:30am and resume tomorrow at 3:30pm and play it out then. 108 players are left.

2:10am.... Dan Roth has about 50K in chips!

2:30am... Marcel Luske, Noah Boeken, Tony G, and Barny Boatman have all been eliminated. 90 players left according to Mike "Lucky Blind" Lacey. Carlos Mortensen, Liam Flood, and Gus Hansen are still in.

3:00am... Bouncin Round the Room: I headed to the bar about thirty feet from where I'm sitting in media row for a few late night cocktails. Service is awful in Europe but the drinks are cheap. Three beers cost $7.50 Euros. I saw producer for the EPT TV series. He told me I did an excellent job and might need my services again tomorrow if the TD is still busy since there will be another event tomorrow starting. By the way, both production assistants are cute British chicks. And they are both blondes. They both told me I did a great job. Alas, I can't tell if they are being honest or doing that polite British things.

3:30am... 64 players remaining on 7 tables. American Dan Roth is still in the mix.

4:20am... 46 players remaining. Action will end in 10 minutes. Then I get to stay up until dawn writing recaps!

4:30am... Play has been stopped. 44 players remain. Action will resume at 3:30pm local time. That's 9:30am NYC time or 7:30am Las Vegas time. By this time tomorrow, I hope that we will have a new EPT champion!

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