I did manage to get to see the city some on Sunday morning before the tourney -- the main event of World Poker Tour Marrakech presented by Chilipoker -- got going again in the early afternoon.
Was kind of tough find a time in here to squeeze in the sightseeing. Essentially I had to choose against sleep to do so, getting only about three hours. But I managed to drag myself out of bed, further inspired by Vanda, a Portuguese blogger, who has been here for a week now and said she’d go with me and be a tour guide of sorts.
The walk to the city center was probably a mile or so, during which time we were offered rides in taxis probably 20 times or more by drivers yelling out of windows and men walking. There was a fellow who engaged us soon after we left the hotel, then we saw him again a half-hour later on a bike once we got to the marketplace. “Remember me?” he asked, and again seemed to want to offer us either a taxi ride or some other unspecified service. We were accosted a couple of other times, too, by beggars -- in one case a barefoot child, pointing to his feet as he spoke.
City streets gradually became surrounded by more and more greenery as we walked, with lots of olive trees about. As we approached the walled-in “souks” (the marketplace), we passed a large building of worship from which announcements come at each of the five times per day Muslims pray to Mecca, next to which was an area reserved for such.
Finally we made it inside the walls and to the huge city center where hundreds were already gathered early on a Sunday morning. We again were constantly approached, this time by women offering Vanda henna tattoos, others offering us both postcards and pictures, and more. There were a couple of gaily-dressed groups playing music, with some of their number either carrying snakes or dancing around them on the ground.
I didn’t take a picture of the snake charmers, as Vanda warned me they’d swarm upon me asking for money if I did. (Most of the photos I took with my phone came out so-so, but I’m going to get some of the ones Vanda took during the week with her better camera and might share a few of those here once I get back home.)
We walked through the large open area to the many stalls and shops arranged maze-like in the center. Literally hundreds of shops there, most of which weren’t quite open yet, although a few had and we did get to shop some.
I ended up buying a few items for people back home, in each case having to do a lot of negotiating with regard to price. Vanda had prepared me to expect this, and I think I did okay with my first purchase. “250,” said the young man, a kind of “seller’s agent” for the shop. “200?” I said. “Okay, 230,” he said. “200,” I repeated. “Okay, 200,” he conceded, making me wonder if I should have started lower.
As she would demonstrate at another stop, Vanda is quite good at the bargaining, and said some of the sellers had jokingly called her a “berbere” which I think refers to a desert dweller who is especially good at negotiating. I think these skills are kind of similar to some that are needed in poker, actually, although I’m too tired right now to pursue the analogy further than just to mention it.
Terms having been reached, the young man took me to an older man who recorded the sale in a ledger and took my dirhams while the young man wrapped up my items individually. For extra grins, the young man also dressed up Vanda in a silk scarf, making her appear like a Muslim woman.
We had something similar happen after another purchase, when the seller took several minutes showing us a “magic box” with a hidden key, perhaps hoping we’d buy it, too, but seemingly satisfied just to put on a little performance for us.
Eventually we left and made the long walk back. Vanda explained that later in the day there would be lots of food for sale, too, at relatively inexpensive prices. “You’d eat like a king!” she said.
Probably added up to a three or four mile walk by the time we returned to the hotel, and a short while later we were all back at the Casino de Marrakech for more poker.
Our days thus far are starting in the early afternoon and ending around 4 a.m. Players played 11 one-hour levels on the first two Day 1s, and I think the plan for today’s Day 2 is to play 12 levels with a hope to get from 82 down to a final table. One might say that while the tournament is technically a three-day event, it really is more like a four-day event that has been crammed into three. (A little bit of a bad beat for those of us getting paid by the day to work the sucker.)
After drawing 137 players on Saturday, there were just 85 who came out for the second Day 1. In fact, the start was delayed probably 40 minutes or so yesterday, I think in an effort to get more players registered. (Also making our day a little longer.) The overall total of 222 is down a lot from the 2009 WPT Marrakesh, which drew 416.
Various factors are likely to have affected the turnout, including the close proximity of EPT Barcelona and other events happening around the world here in late November. I think it is probably safe to say that having the tournament on Thanksgiving weekend made it a less inviting option to American players. In fact, I think there might have been only one or two in the entire field.
There were a few big names here yesterday, but pretty much all failed to survive the day. Ludovic Lacay, who final tabled this event last year, was one of the first eliminations yesterday. Carlos Mortensen went out relatively early, too. Liz Lieu, the most high-profile of tourney-sponsoring Chilipoker’s pros, busted, too.
David Benyamine showed up right at the end of Level 4 (just before registration closed) looking especially tired. Word was he’d been playing essentially nonstop in the lucrative cash games since his arrival, and he definitely appeared fatigued. He’d end up losing most of his stack in a big hand in which he held A-K, and was knocked out shortly thereafter after playing an hour or so.
Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier was there as well, and as often happens in events in which he plays, he was probably the most fascinating figure in the room. He characteristically gambled it up early on, which didn’t go well for him. It was a tough table, with Thomas Bichon and Davidi Katai (both also quite aggressive) and a few others giving ElkY a hard time and playing back a lot.
Stuck on the short stack, Grospellier then turtled up and seemed to fold for a couple of hours straight. Was kind of weird, actually, as he had gotten down to less than ten big blinds, yet would continue to fold in spots where it seemed like he’d have to shove. For instance, I reported one hand in which Bichon raised, then Kitai reraised, and it folded to ElkY in the blinds. Kitai three-bet a lot yesterday, often quite light, so it was odd to watch when Grospellier folded his hand, and when he threw his cards to the dealer they flipped over to reveal he was folding . I actually saw him fold A-Q face up one other time during that sequence when he appeared short enough to jam any ace or pair.
Worked out for him, in a way, though, as he did find some spots to keep doubling and in fact looked like he was on his way to building an average stack near the end of the night. But then he lost almost all of it in a hand versus Kitai in which the latter made quads, and ElkY, too, would hit the rail before we were done for the night.
As I mentioned, there will be 82 players left when we come back today, and once again we’re bracing for another long one. We are starting to worry a little about our itenerary, actually, as we are scheduled to fly out of Marrakech very early on Wednesday morning, like 5:30 a.m. or something. That means if we have a long final table, and another day that lasts until 4 a.m. (or longer), we surely won’t be able to come back to the hotel, and might not even make our flight.
We’ll see how it all plays out, both in the tourney and for our journey back home. Check in over at PokerNews for reports on the former, and I’ll be back here this week to let you know about the latter.