Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Travel Report, EPT Kyiv: Looking Back

Travel Report, EPT Kyiv--Looking BackAbout halfway through last week I got an email from a poker media colleague who was thinking about also doing a bit of traveling to cover a non-U.S. poker tournament. Like me prior to going to Kyiv, that’s something he hasn’t done before, and so wondered how I was finding the experience and whether or not I thought it was worth it.

I didn’t have a lot of time to respond, but did shoot him a quick email with a few thoughts, the gist of which was to say I was especially glad I’d made the trip. Sure, for a poker reporter you could look at it in a practical way as a résumé-builder. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have something like covering an EPT event successfully under yr belt. And making a little cabbage is always nice, too. But for me the benefits of the trip go way beyond career stuff or the financial aspects.

Last night Vera Valmore asked me to tell her what I liked most about the trip and what I liked least. I had many answers for the first question, and struggled mightily to answer the second. Had to settle for “not getting enough sleep” and “being away from Vera” as the main downsides to the trip. Meanwhile, had lots to say about what I liked.

Travel is something I have always enjoyed, though never really sought out to do. Have taken many trips all over the world with Vera, but chances are probably slim I’d have gone to all those places without her. So had the invitation to cover EPT Kyiv not come my way, I can say pretty confidently I probably wouldn’t have gone to Ukraine otherwise, unless it came up in some other context. (Yes, I do run good -- in many ways.)

Andreevskaya CathedralAs those who followed the blog last week probably gathered, most of our waking hours were spent at the Kyiv Sport Palace covering the event, so our days were mainly taken up either at the tourney, at the President Hotel (our home-away-from-home for the week), or making the ten-minute walk to and fro. So I didn’t really see a lot of Kyiv beyond what I experienced in those places, although on Saturday I did get to join Eric, Glo, Jeremy, and John for a long walk through the city for some sightseeing and shopping.

Still, I did get to recognize and appreciate a different culture, one that seemed to share a lot with other European cities I’ve visited. One big difference was the cost -- of everything, really -- which was very manageable compared to most other European destinations. Indeed, I spent much less than I expected to during the week, and wasn’t necessarily Hryvnia-pinching my way through the trip, either.

Exhibition CenterCertain things -- like haggling with taxi drivers over what you’ll pay them -- didn’t necessarily come naturally, though it wasn’t hard to get used to how things were done. Really everyone with whom I interacted was very hospitable and friendly, and while I can’t speak knowledgeably about the current state of Kyiv (economy, crime, other culture, etc.), it certainly seemed a safe, stimulating place to live.

The European Poker Tour -- sponsored by PokerStars.com -- is a very impressive, well-managed operation (in my view). Of course, I haven’t really been on the “inside” for other tours besides the WSOP, and so don’t have a lot on which to base a comparison. But just about everything associated with EPT Kyiv -- the planning and preparation, the accommodations for media, the treatment of players, the functioning of tourney staff (dealers, directors) -- seemed strong evidence that those running the show really know what they’re doing.

EPT Kyiv press passTalking with colleagues who’ve covered other EPT events confirmed all of these impressions for me. There’s a ton to consider when taking a tour to different countries and venues, trying to adapt in ways that work for everyone involved. Maybe I’m still a newbie who hasn’t been to enough stops to have developed a more critical eye, but I come away from EPT Kyiv a big fan of the tour and what it has accomplished during its five-plus seasons.

You might remember the story of the power outage on Day 1b (see post), when play in the Main Event was interrupted for 20 minutes or so. Was thinking afterwards of how chaotic such an event might have been at the WSOP, and how negative the reaction would have been. Nothing like that at all at Kyiv, where everyone took it in stride and, really, it just became another interesting facet of an already interesting experience. There are probably a few ways to explain this response, but one is certainly the professionalism and care with which the EPT is run. (Not necessarily implying here that the WSOP isn’t run well -- it is -- but just to underscore my positive response to the EPT.)

Another big plus for me was working with the PokerNews group -- my partner blogger Eric (FerricRamsium), Gloria Balding (GloriaJoy) and Jeremy Firth (twitter / blog) (video), and Jonathan Boncek (photographer). Funny, smart, talented folks, with whom I’m honored to have been able to work. Here’s just one of the many vids Glo & Jeremy put together during the week, one which shows you a bit more of what there was to see when one wandered beyond the hotel and tourney venue:

I mentioned before, also, how cool it was to work with those from the other sites, too, including the PokerStars blog and the several other sites there covering the event. A bunch more quick-witted, gifted, and mutually-supportive people, making for a terrific work environment.

As far as the actual tournament went, I’ve come away a big fan of a few players, including Shaun Deeb, Andrew Malott, and Alex Fitzgerald -- Americans who made the trip and came away from Kyiv having profited. The guys who did well in the Main Event, including the winner Maxim Lykov and a few others, impressed quite a bit, too.

Dunno know how many of the 296 who entered the Main Event I’ll be seeing or running into again, but I have a feeling I’ll be pulling for all of them somehow, given how each played a role in helping form this nice memory for me.

Which was the point of this and the last few posts -- to chronicle and thus help me remember my Kyiv adventure. (Thanks for reading along!)

Welcome to the United States of AmericaBack to the usual applesauce tomorrow. Got some news coming regarding the podcast, as well as more info on the novel, too. Oh, and as I resume the “real” life I’ll probably try to play some poker in here somewhere as well, so might be talking about that, too.

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Anonymous Fuzion said...

Great reports on Kiev! That is one EPT event I would love to go to. Nothing like hot russian girls and poker :)

8/27/2009 9:17 PM  

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