Friday, August 28, 2015

EPT12 Barcelona, Day 10: Chipping Up

There were a ton of events going on at the Casino Barcelona yesterday, with the Main Event playing down from 343 players to just 110 and numerous side events going on as well.

The big €25K High Roller -- originally called a “Single Day” HR -- finally finished up on a second day of play with Martin Finger taking it down. That was the event in which Brazilian soccer star, member of FC Barcelona, and PokerStars SportStar Neymar Jr played (as did his teammate, Gerard Piqué).

I didn’t even write about that here, which was kind of a fun spectacle, really, especially when Neymar was chip leader in the tournament late in the afternoon on Day 1. You can find lots of articles about his appearance on the PokerStars blog. It’s one of those more-than-poker kind of stories, drawing a ton of attention to the EPT and poker, generally speaking, around the world.

The day ended with the media event which didn’t get started until close to 11 p.m., I think, which might have been part of the reason the turnout was on the small side. There were 21 entries (including reentries), and from that field I managed to make it all of the way to third, which meant a cash as the top four spots paid.

Played decently though made a couple of mistakes along the way, including perhaps waiting one hand too long before shoving a short stack at the end. Also was especially lucky to survive with pocket sixes versus pocket jacks during the second hour (echoing my “Getting It In Bad” post from a few days ago), which made everything after that a bonus. Had a couple of other key hands after that where I got it in with the best cards and the hands held, which was also fortunate.

Both James Hartigan and Joe Stapleton of EPT Live played. Hartigan delivered great commentary while playing at our table, especially during his bustout hand when after getting all in preflop he called the action after each postflop street -- Flop: “Not good.” Turn: “Still not good.” River: “Sh!t.”

It occurred to me along the way to tweet out updates to match the messages that fill my timeline every day. But as I have mentioned here before, I tend not to want to pull out my phone when I play, probably because I don’t play that frequently and so would rather just focus on enjoying the game as it is happening. I guess also I spend so much time reporting on poker tournaments, I like having a break from that as well.

I did snap a pic of my stack once, though (see above), when it was big enough to look like some sort of achievement.

Speaking of pictures, I realized as we got deeper that I was wanting to win not so much for the money but to get a winner’s photo taken by one of the guys here. I’d have gotten a big kick out of having Carlos Monti, with whom I work regularly on the LAPT, take such photo, and I think he would’ve, too. Or having Neil Stoddart (with whom I’ve worked on several events) or René Velli (whom I’ve gotten to know over the last couple of EPTs) snap the pic would’ve been a lot of fun as well. (For an example, see Lynn Gilmartin’s winner pic from a couple of days ago.)

I’ve written here before about how closely the bloggers and photographers work together, often collaborating when it comes to how the reporting gets done. I don’t just mean helping decide which stories get told as part of the overall chronicle of an event, but also helping come up with more imaginative or even abstract ways of communicating what is happening and giving audiences something interesting, informative, and entertaining, too.

Getting that far made my night a late one, and I didn’t get back to the room until around a quarter to three. Got decent rest, though, and so am ready to head back into the maelstrom today, again mostly to focus on the voluminous side action. Check that PokerStars blog for more.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

EPT12 Barcelona, Day 9: Another Day in the Bag

Day 2 of the EPT Barcelona Main Event played out yesterday. The event ended up with a total starting field of 1,694 after a few more latecomers jumped in at the beginning of play yesterday, just before late registration ended. With them that meant there were right around 1,000 to start the day, and by the time of bagging 343 players were left.

The night ended humorously with Team PokerStars Pro Andre Akkari looking like he’d be the overnight chip leader, then ultimately ending the day in second position after Nick Petrangelo (who is having an amazing year, by the way) passed him at the end, as did one other player, Amir Touma.

That led the guys working on recaps to express some misery at the necessary changes they had to make to their narratives of the day. Right around then Akkari stopped by the media room to joke that if he had known it would help, he could have written down a different total on his bag. Howard Swains wrote a funny piece recounting that story as part of today’s early coverage.

I was able at last to spend a little time this morning walking around a bit and enjoying the Barcelona sunshine, albeit only for a short spell before heading back in for today’s action. Tonight is the media tournament, which should be a fun way to end the day. There’s also another full slate of side action including an added pot-limit razz event (no shinola), to help keep things interesting.

Check out the PokerStars blog for reports as usual, and know that EPT Live is now up and running, too, which is fun for additionally following the EPT Main.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

EPT12 Barcelona, Day 8: All in and a Kale

Another busy one yesterday scurrying about following the various side action at the European Poker Tour Barcelona festival.

I forgot to mention earlier in the week one of the side events -- the Women’s event -- which happened over the weekend. Like practically all of the events so far, it had a large turnout (breaking a record) and so once they had played down to three players late Saturday night/Sunday morning, they stopped things and returned on Sunday afternoon to finish it out.

Was fun to see our friend Lynn Gilmartin go deep in the tournament and be one of the three to return on Sunday, then in fact win it.

Many of us in the press room have known Lynn for many years, including working with her. I’ve had the chance to do so with PokerNews and PokerStars, and on a few World Poker Tour events, too, since her move there to be their main anchor.

We had some fun together imagining headlines as she got further in the event and the prospect of her winning became more real, alluding to her always positive mindset and interest in healthy foods. This year she’s even opened a juice bar -- the Jooce Bar -- in her native Australia.

“Smoothie sailing,” was an early one, as was her motto “Life is Good” which Nick employed in his write-up of the event for the PokerStars blog. I was proud of “All in and a Kale,” too.

The first prize for the Women’s event was a little more than the buy-in for the EPT Main, I believe, after Lynn made a heads-up, and she decided to play that, too, and is doing pretty well as it begins. The further she goes, the more headlines we’ll have to conjure.

Back at it today with more side action coverage for your humble scribbler. Check the PokerStars blog for more and you might even come across a pun or three while there.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

EPT12 Barcelona, Day 7: Getting It In Bad

It was a fairly exciting final table yesterday in the Estrellas Barcelona Main Event, won in the end by Mario Lopez of Argentina. It’s the second time I’ve covered Lopez winning a big one, after his LAPT Chile win back in the spring of 2014.

The most interesting hand I saw yesterday involved Lopez making a huge call versus the young Jose Carlos Garcia, the young Polish player I mentioned a day ago as being unafraid to put a lot of chips in the middle with or without a hand.

In this case Garcia again made a huge overbet, shoving the river on a raggy board containing a jack, a nine, a couple of fives, and a trey (and no flush). The bet (a third postflop barrel) was about four times the pot, I believe, and more than what Lopez had left, but after tanking for five-plus minutes Lopez found a call with Q-9.

Garcia’s hand? 7-4-offsuit. He’d go out a little later in fourth.

Interestingly, all of the bustouts -- aside from Garcia’s and the final hand in which Lopez’s A-Q held against Jonn Forst’s A-6 -- featured players running into hard luck left and right.

One with A-K ran into both pocket aces and pocket kings. Pocket tens lost to pocket deuces. A-8 fell to A-7. You can read the end-of-day recap for details.

Weird, too, was how after Jonn Forst busted Knut Nystedt in third, Forst had exactly 41.1 million chips versus Lopez’s 40.9 million. They’d just colored up again and so the smallest chip was 100,000, so that meant Forst had the smallest possible lead to start heads-up play. (They did an even chop, with Lopez then winning the extra cabbage set aside.)

Back at it today as the EPT Barcelona Main Event continues, the one-day €25K High Roller plays out, and a few other side events are in action. Check the PokerStars blog for the skinny.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

EPT12 Barcelona, Day 6: On Repetition, Patterns, and Learning

I’ve been living in a hotel room here in Barcelona for over a week now, and have nearly a week to go. It’s very comfortable, there’s a nice view off the balcony, and the breakfast buffet is quite good. It’s located close to the casino as well, which for me on these trips is probably the most important quality-of-life factor as I don’t have too worry too much about carving out time to get to and from my workplace.

Every morning I sleepily stumble into the bathroom, slapping the wall on my way in where three different light switches are location. A couple of them control lights in the bathroom -- I can’t remember which ones.

My first move, generally, is to turn on the shower. There are two rotating knobs on either side of a long cylinder. One of them switches the water flow from the shower head located above to the hand held one on the side, while the other controls the water temperature. I can never remember which controls which, nor which direction of twisting gets me hot or cold. Trial and error gets me to where I want to be, though, and I ready to step inside.

That’s when I invariably realize the floor mat -- new, and neatly folded each day -- is for some reason sitting inside the shower and thus has become soaked through. This I’ve now done every single day, failing over and over to learn the routines and procedures of those who maintain the place in which I am living.

There are other examples of my stubbornly refusing to learn about my habitation, knowing that it is temporary even though two weeks in the same place should be long enough to start absorbing information to help prevent repeating the same mistakes or general awkwardness. But really, I’m helpless. If I counted up the light switches in this room, I’d probably get to 15 at least. I still couldn’t tell you what half of them do.

Of course, I’m spending more time away from the space than inside of it, my workdays having lasted around 13-14 hours each day so far. Looking at being able to carve that back once the Estrellas Barcelona Main Event concludes today and I move back over to other events happening as the festival plays out.

They went from 98 all of the way down to eight last night, with the young, aggressive Polish player Jose Carlos Garcia being the center of attention for much of the day. Garcia was actually born in Spain, though moved to Poland as a child. He’s easily one of the more exciting players to watch, thanks both to the fact that he gets involved so frequently and the relentless pressure he puts on opponents when he does.

Garcia mixes up his play, too, though, making it hard for players to pick up on patterns and respond accordingly. But some have been able to teach themselves how to play back at him, demonstrating a greater capacity to learn than I have each morning in my hotel room.

Garcia got caught a couple of times today making big river bluffs and getting called, in both instances having made big bets on the end that required players to call off entire stacks. Once it was the Austrian, Jonn Forst, making the big call with two pair, and as a result he has the chip lead to start today’s final table. The Argentinian Mario Lopez -- whose LAPT win in Chile I covered a year-and-a-half ago -- is also still in the mix.

Go to the PokerStars blog to read updates of today’s finale. But you knew to do that. I mean we’ve been at this for more than a week now, right?

(Photo up top from the Casa Amatller in Barcelona.)

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

EPT12 Barcelona, Day 5: My Mind Is On the Blink

“Six more hands,” came the announcement. It was the last level of the night, the tournament clock had been paused, and a card had just been drawn to see how many more hands each table would play. Three would be the minimum, with six or seven (I believe) the max.

René, the photographer who has been working me as we cover the Estrellas Barcelona Poker Tour Main Event, looked at me and rolled his eyes.

“That is appropriate,” he said, and I immediately understood his meaning. It had been a long day, and so it made sense to punctuate it with a longish final sequence.

All of which is to say I’m pretty much beyond exhausted this morning after a fifth straight day of work here at EPT Barcelona, this one carrying late into the wee hours. There was definitely a wall of some kind I ran up against earlier in the day, and by night’s end I was mentally leaning up against it trying my best to remain upright.

Was 2:15 a.m. leaving the casino after a long Day 2 of the Estrellas Barcelona Poker Tour Main Event that saw 984 players play all of the way down to just 98. There was more to do after that, too, making it even later before your correspondent was able at last to catch a few hours’ worth of Z’s.

That pic above, by the way, is one taken by René of the player Chris Da-Silva Oduntan during what became an especially long bubble period yesterday when the clock was repeatedly paused (thus resulting in the longer work day).

Jose Carlos Garcia, the young Polish player with a not very Polish-sounding name, is leading the tournament at present. This makes the third straight EPT I’ve covered in which Garcia has stood out, as he final tabled both the LAPT Bahamas event back in January and the EPT Grand Final Main Event in May. He’s also won a Sunday Million before (in March 2014), and I believe is only 22.

Along with Dzmitry Urbanovich and Dominik Panka, Garcia is helping to form what is fast becoming a kind of new wave of Polish phenoms in poker. I remember once speaking with Marcin Horecki, the Team PokerStars Pro from Warsaw, about Panka (who won the 2014 PCA Main Event), and he talked then about other young stars of the game from his country who were about to break out as well. (I had a chance to talk to Panka, too, back at this year’s PCA.)

I’m bracing for another long day today covering the Estrellas, as they’ll need to get all of the way down to an eight-handed final table for Monday.

Again, check the PokerStars blog for my ESPT reports while the others fill you in on the €50K Super High Roller. They had nearly 100 come out for that one yesterday (a record), with late reg still open until the start today. (Every event is breaking records, in fact.)

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

EPT12 Barcelona, Day 4: The Neuvember Niner

Just a quick one today before I head back in for what should be another long grind covering the Estrellas Barcelona Main Event here in Barcelona.

The Day 1c flight yesterday was huge, carrying the overall number of entrants to this €1,100 buy-in event to 3,292 -- almost 800 more than they drew last year. It truly rivals the WSOP’s lower buy-in hold’em tournaments, in fact exceeding what they have been getting there for $1K and $1,500 NLHE events.

Had a chance during a break yesterday to speak with the always amiable Pierre Neuville, the 72-year-old Belgian who made it through more than 6,400 players in this year’s WSOP Main Event to be part of the final table (still three months away).

We spoke about his new status as a “November Nine” player and how others are responding to him with observations about that here. He also talked through a very interesting hand from late in the WSOP ME where he successfully bluffed Fedor Holz. Neuville is more than three times as old as Holz who won the 2014 World Championship of Online Poker Main Event and who eventually took 25th in the WSOP ME.

Neuville loves poker, and his enthusiasm is pretty infectious. And of course, being an older player also causes him to inspire us in other ways, too. Check out our chat on the PokerStars blog, and stay over there for more from Spain today.

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Friday, August 21, 2015

EPT12 Barcelona, Day 3: Big Field, Big Stack, B-Day

The second Day 1 flight at the Estrellas Poker Tour Barcelona Main Event drew about twice as many players as the first one did, and talk is that today there will be even more coming out, all of which is adding up to a 3,000-plus player field for the €1K event.

That’s way more than the 2,560 that played the same event last year, which was about 800 more than the number who played it the year before that, which was about 800 more than the number who played it the year before that. No shinola. The health of the EPT in general and poker in Barcelona in particular seems plenty strong at present, at least from where I’m sitting.

Not too much to report from yesterday’s Day 1b, another long and busy one for your humble scribbler. Sadly we didn’t get to go back to that tremendous buffet, which means the day’s gastronomical report is without much excitement.

Started noticing the young Spaniard Pablo Gordillo accumulating chips relatively early in the afternoon, mainly thanks to his having final tabled the France Poker Series Monaco event at the EPT Grand Final in May (an event I covered). That was kind of an analogue event to this Estrellas one -- a big Main for a local tour cross-listed with the EPT to help start the festival.

Gordillo was the chip leader late at FPS Monaco and appeared well on his way to winning there before running into misfortune to finish fourth. He’s already final tabled two EPT Main Events as well, despite only just turning 22 last week.

Sure enough, he continued to build and build as the day went on, and now is the overall chip leader in the event with one more Day 1 flight to go.

When midnight came those of us in the press room took note of the fact that it was the birthday of our friend Carlos Monti, the LAPT photographer with whom I’ve worked many times (and have shared stories about here more than once). There were hugs all around from Carlos, and someone produced a Mars bar and a couple of candles which worked nicely as a cake from which we all shared.

Heading back in again for this mammoth Day 1C of Estrellas. Keep visiting the PokerStars blog to follow how things go.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

EPT12 Barcelona, Day 2: Buffeted About

The first full day of events at EPT Barcelona seem to blow by, the 14 hours or so I spent at Casino Barcelona swiftly slipping past.

That’s because with eight events going on -- all of which got at least some attention from your humble scribbler -- there was always something else to track down and try to chronicle. The turnouts for all of the events were healthy, including for the €1K Estrellas Main Event (our primary focus, coverage-wise), as usually is the case on the EPT.

With the Estrellas the 592 who showed up to play the first of three Day 1 flights might have seemed like a modest total at first glance. But they staged this exact same event a year ago and drew just 438 on Day 1a, then after three Day 1s they had 2,560 players total -- the biggest freezeout field ever for a PokerStars live event. Probably looking at something over a thousand coming out today, and who knows how many on Friday?

Along the way I enjoyed a brief chat with FPS Monaco winner Sebastian Supper, a friendly German who is really more student than poker player. I also greatly enjoyed a kind of incredible buffet for dinner (pictured above), done up much differently than was the case here a couple of years ago.

With all of the events going on, I felt like I was doing a lot of buffet-like sampling all day as I ran around taking away small portions here and there to serve up. Check out the PokerStars blog to see what I dish out today.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

EPT12 Barcelona, Day 1: Barceloner

After heading over to the Casino Barcelona around dinner time yesterday, I ended up sticking around until late -- after two a.m., in fact -- in order to see through to completion the first trophy event of the EPT Barcelona series, the Neymar Jr Charity Home Game.

Steve O’Dwyer happened over just before registration closed for the tournament, was encouraged to play by Team PokerStars SportStar Fatima Moreira de Melo, and ended up taking down the sucker to win a seat into the EPT Main Event that starts this weekend. Halfway through the final table (where O’Dwyer knocked out all but one of the others), he estimated he’d knocked out about 15 players along the way -- not a bad clip for a 59-player event.

After several hours of sleep and a largish breakfast at the hotel, I’m back over at the casino readying for a more standard long day of work. Today things pick up in earnest for the 71-event series, with eight different tourneys going on including the start of the €1K Estrellas Main Event. Last year they had a ridiculous 2,560 entries for that one -- the first big buy-in event of the EPT season -- so we’ll see how many come out for the three starting days this time.

I’m kind of on my own, blogging-wise, here at the start of the series, with the rest of the PokerStars blog team arriving later in the week along with all the PokerNews guys and a bunch of others once the EPT Main and them high rollers roll around. I’m not really alone, though, as plenty of seats in the media room have already been filled. My buddy Carlos Monti, the LAPT photographer, is here already, too, and the two of us enjoyed each other’s company as we worked late into the night.

I guess despite all of the camaraderie during the long workdays on these trips, there’s a lot of time spent on my own, too, when traveling and the hours spent in the hotel room. That I already miss Vera and all of our four-legged friends on the farm doesn’t help too much with that, either. But I do pretty well with the alone time, all things considered.

One day is in the books, and another dozen are left to go. Check over at the PokerStars blog today for more from your soloist scribbler.

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