The casinos in Europe are not like the ones you experience in the States. Most of them are not open 24 hours. They are virtually smaller places and don't have the massive floor with thousands of geriatrics pissing away their social security checks in slot machines. Although the Barcelona Casino is made up of two floors, most of the action is downstairs, where the pits and the poker room are located. The upper floor has about half the space as the former Barbary Coast, which is filled with slot machines.
The casino usually opens up at 3pm and closes at 4am. We left the apartment around 2:15 and hopped on the subway, which was packed with beach goers. The stop before the casino is La Barcelonetta where a lot of the beaches are located. The casino stop is actually the Olympic Village stop and the casino is less than three blocks away along the waterfront.
On our way to the casino, we bumped into Brandon Schaefer and Jimmy "Gobboboy" Fricke. We chatted with them for a few minutes. Gobboboy is a good kid that brims with confidence about his poker ability. He was hoping for a table with four or five soft spots so he could attack the weak-tight players. He got a lot of crap for being a luckbox at the Aussie Millions when he lost to Gus Hansen heads up and finished in second place. His overall aggressive play was overlooked by a few suckouts. For several days, he dominated that event and at one point at the final table, seasoned pros like Gus Hansen and Andy Black had no idea how to handle Gobboboy.
Gobboboy was excited (much like many online American pros that are under 21) to play in his first EPT event. He doesn't have the opportunity to play many live events and the ones he does are outside the US where the legal gambling age is 18. He said that he'd be at the WSOP-Europe in London where he hopes to become the youngest bracelet winner.
We still had a few minutes to kill before we were allowed inside the casino. Change100 and I hung out near the entrance with the coverage team from Poker News that featured the multimedia team of John Caldwell and Justin Shronk along with our photographer Felipe (from Portugal). Felipe was already a great photographer when I met him in Monte Carlo several months ago. After spending seven weeks along side Flipchip this summer at the WSOP, he improved even more so.
We caught up with with Conrad from PokerStars and Daniel Negreanu wandered over to chat us up. He busted out of the PokerStars APAT event in Manilla early and hopped a plane to Barcelona to play in another PokerStars sponsored event. He seemed in good spirits and compared sunglasses tan with Change100.
Once the doors opened, I rushed inside. Normally, you have to go up to a front desk to show your passport and pay a fee to enter the casino. Yes, casinos are not free in Europe which often keeps the sketchy ones away. Imagine if you had to pay to walk into the Bellagio?
They had me on file from my visit in 2005. They scanned my passport and I told them I was media which meant I got free admission for one week. They hand you a ticket which you have to present to another security person before you enter the gaming floor. There's a barcode on that and when that gets scanned, your picture pops up on a computer screen to verify your identity. It's something freaky out of a Philip K. Dick short story and right out of Orwell's 1984. When I visited the Cosmopol Casino in Sweden a week earlier, they snapped my photo before I could walk inside. I'm on the European grid. As far as Interpol is concerned, I'm a hash head gambler.
The press room was held inside the disco. There were random tables set up and a few were on the dance floor. Several media reps sat in plush booths which was normally reserved for the VIPs with bottle service. Since we were inside the disco, the press room came with its own bar. Outstanding! In Monte Carlo, there was a bar a few steps away from their massive press room. You have to love Europe.
We set up space for Team Poker News while the other spaces quickly filled up. I recognized some faces from the WSOP and EPT Championships, while others were brand new to me. That's when the air started to fill up with other languages; French, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Danish, and of course English. Their conversations were interrupted by English poker terminology like "flush" or "set" and the occasionally "donkey."
Day 1a started a few minutes late as the players stood in line for their seating assignments. Tournament Director Thomas Kresmer set up eight level days (of an hour each) for Day 1a and Day 1b. The action would be nine-handed and on Day 2 it would become eight-handed. I like that format a lot since it induces a little more action. The buy in was 8,000 Euros or roughly $10,600 US. Players got a starting stack of 10K with blinds at 25/50.
I quickly scanned the room for familiar faces and I could only recognize a few Americans such as Brandon, Gobboboy, David Williams, John "Pearljammer" Turner, Phil Gordon, Paul Wasicka, William Smurfit, and Pete "The Beat" Giordano. There were a few Europeans I knew such as Katja Thater, ElkY, Ram Vaswani, Annette_15, William Thorson, Johnny Lodden, Noah Boeken, Roland deWolfe, and Rob Hollink. And of course the two Aussies in the field... Mark Vos and Johnny Mushrooms.
I spent a lot of time catching up with media reps that I knew. I found Mad Harper and Howard from PokerStars Blog. Homer and Jen from Blonde Poker were around not to mention David from Gutshot. I would need their help later on in identifying second and third tiered British and European pros. For the most part, there were 264 players on Day 1a and I only knew a handful. That can be intimidating when trying to figure out who to cover.
Luckily, Pearljammer and Annette_15 were at the same table so I hovered around there for a while. Next to them was a table with William Thorson and ElkY. It was a lot harder to get hands and chip counts due to the congestion in the aisles. During the early levels, there is an extremely liberal policy where almost anyone can walk around inside the ropes and sweat a table.
While I wandered around, I heard someone shout, "Pauly!"
I turned around and I met Javier, an avid reader from Madrid. We met briefly at the WSOP in the past and I had taken a photo of his card capper. We chatted for a few moments and he gave me the run down of a few Spanish players in the event. We wandered over to sweat Phil Gordon's table. Javier said that watching Gordon was boring since he folded the majority of his hands. Gordon is a tight tournament player in the early rounds, but all the action was the guy sitting next to him.
Here's what Change100 wrote in an entry called Lost in Translation:
After losing a small pot, Phil Gordon got up from his table and walked over to his pal, Roland De Wolfe.During one of the breaks, Gordon came over to me and Javier. We discussed a horrible player at Gordon's table. Gordon insisted that he was easily the worst 5 players he's ever encountered. The guy obviously had no idea how to play the game and would pick up his cards off the table to look at them instead of the usually bend and peek method. The donkey thought any face card was like picking up Aces and played it hard. He had no idea how to bet and Gordon had to show him what chips to put into the pot.
"Hey Roland-- how do you say 'donkey' in Italian?" Gordon asked.
"Philo Gordino!" was De Wolfe's reply.
"Pretty close," said Gordon with a laugh.
At one point, Change100 told me that there was a Liz Lieu sighting. I rushed outside and found her. She gave me a big hug and said that she'd be playing on Day 1b. She recently relocated to London and was excited that I'd be there.
The gave us random sandwiches in the media room along with an open bar that not too many media reps abused, despite the fact that they ran out of coke. They serve food at the bar near the poker room and I feasted on a bikini which is basically a grilled cheese with ham. It hit the spot. Schecky didn't have the same luck.
"I made a bad decision," mentioned Schecky. "I ordered the local sausage."
On one of the breaks, I sipped a beer and ate my bikini sandwich at the bar while seated next to two hookers. They weren't like the traditional Las Vegas working girls. Rather, the ladies of the night in posh places like Monte Carlo and at the casino in Barcelona were a sophisticated bunch. $300 for a rub and a tug wasn't going to cut it. These were high priced hos that got paid with expensive jewelry and trips to the French Riviera. The two hustlers were in their early twenties and hung on the arm of a guy that was in his 60s. Change100 could rattle off the designer labels that they wore, but it was obvious that the guy hired the ladies as the sipped champagne and massaged his arms and inner thighs.
Around Midnight, there was a minor buzz in the casino when Johnny Chan was spotted. Johnny Fuckin' Chan in Barcelona? JFC? Holy shit. Last year, Phil Ivey showed up and took second. Who knows what JFC will do this year.
There were several bustouts on Day 1a including Johan Storakers, Erik Friberg, Alan Smurfit, Mickey Wernick, Johnny Lodden, William Thorson, Sorel "Imper1um" Mizzi, Roland de Wolfe, Jon "Pearljammer" Turner, Jani Sointula, Jimmy "gobboboy" Fricke, and Ram Vaswani.
Out of 264 runners on Day 1a, only 99 players advanced to Day 2. Among those were my roommate in Amsterdam, Johnny Mushrooms. He was among the chipleaders for a while and even busted a player with quads. He played great and always took a few moments to crack a few jokes with me.
Also among the 99 players advancing to Day 2 were 2006 EPT Barcelona champion Bjorn-Erik Glenne, Mark Vos, Pete "The Beat" Giordano, Julian Thew, Brandon Scahefer, Noah Boeken, ElkY, Katja Thater, Phil Gordon, Paul Wasicka, David Williams, Annette_15 and Rob Hollink (a Dutch player who beat Brandon Schaefer heads up at the Season 1 EPT Championships).
Day 1a Top 10 Chip Counts:Day 1b should be starting shortly with big names such as Greg Raymer, Daniel Negreanu, Patrik Antonius, Isabelle Mercier, Johnny Chan, Liz Lieu, Thomas Wahlroos, and Humberto Brenes in the field. You can follow the action over at Poker News where I will be providing the live updates. Don't forget to check out the photo gallery and videos from the EPT Barcelona.
Gregory Dyer (USA) 76,500
Mark Teltscher (UK) 67,300
Mark Vos (Australia) 64,300
Sander Lylloff (Denmark) 62,600
Sverre Sundbo (Norway) 60,500
Massimiliano Rosa (Italy) 60,100
Cort Kibler-Melby (Germany) 59,500
Bjorn Erik Glenne (Norway) 56,700
Andrey Zaichenko (Russia) 56,000
Jose Roldan Vicente (Spain) 53,000
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