Sunday, November 28, 2010

Travel Report: WPT Marrakech, Day 1a

Casino de Marrakech“Anyone who wants the results emailed to them, put your name and address on this list.”

So said Matt Savage, Executive Tournament Director of the World Poker Tour, to a group of media around three o’clock Sunday morning, holding up a sheet of white paper as he did.

“So you know who won already?” cracked some wiseacre in response. It might have been me.

Yes, we were still having fun, despite having at that point been at the Casino de Marrakech for 14 hours or so covering Day 1a of the WPT Marrakech event presented by Chilipoker. Was a long, long day, and perhaps seemed even longer given the still somewhat-fatigued state of your humble world traveler. Things went well overall, though, and we managed to chronicle quite a bit as the 137 players who began the day gradually whittled themselves down to just 51.

I should go back to the night before -- Friday -- and mention the enjoyable dinner we had. Mickey, Elissa, and I joined fellow bloggers Vanda, Ivan, some representatives of Chilipoker, and Matt and Maryann Savage for a fun, lengthy meal at a nearby restaurant.

I had couscous (natch), topped with a variety of tasty meats, with a fairly decadent toffee dessert and coffee to follow. We stuck around afterwards while a sequence of energetic bellydancers made their way through the room, moving with agility between the tables, a couple of whom especially impressed us by balancing elaborate arrangements of lit candles atop their heads while they danced.

There was a pre-tourney party afterwards at the club adjacent to the Casino de Marrakech, but by then I was going on something like 40 hours with only a brief, one-hour nap, and had to head back to the room for some shut-eye. Slept reasonably well -- aside from having to field a wrong number at 4:30 a.m. -- and was rested and ready to go by the time we headed back over to the casino for the start of Day 1a.

The casino is quite large, and the poker room big also, containing somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-45 tables. The tourney was set up on one side, with only 15 tables being used. The media room had been set up on the opposite side -- in fact, inside a tent-like structure attached outside of the poker room proper. While I believe PokerNews might be the only English media here, there is nevertheless quite a large contingent of reporters on hand, perhaps 30-35 reporters in all. That made things very tight inside the tent, with all of us jammed close together around the few tables.

The tourney began a short while after the scheduled 2 p.m. start time, and while we experienced a little trouble with maintaining internet connectivity, things seemed to be going well enough at the start. That’s when the rain and wind outside began to pick up, and soon the tent began to shake and rattle. Another huge gust whooshed through and suddenly it appeared as though the whole arrangement was about to crash down on top of us.

The original media 'room' for WPT MarrakechWithin minutes we all quickly relocated inside the poker room, setting up on the far row of unused tables opposite the tourney. And that’s where we remained -- safe and dry -- for the rest of the day. (That picture is of the area where we had originally set up; there had been sheets enclosing the area, but they are no longer present here.)

As far as the event itself goes, we encountered a field consisting of a lot of French and Moroccan players, as well as a few from other European countries. At one point later in the day Matt Savage and I chatted about the fact that neither of us had spotted a single American in the field.

Unsurprisingly, then, there were not too many familiar faces to us among the 137 who began, with only Antoine Saout, Nicolas Levi, Alexandre Gomes, and a few others being recognizable to us as we began. Eventually we came to learn the names of a few dozen more, aided at times by our colleagues from other outlets, or in some cases by the players themselves.

As the tourney organizers’ quick response to the media tent situation demonstrated, we were taken care of quite well yesterday. There was finger food (pastries, bite-sized sandwhiches, bread) and drink supplied at every break, and a nice buffet for dinner, all available both to the players and the media. Helped us make it through the day, for sure.

Didn’t get back to the room until something like 4 a.m., then I ended up waking early this morning to go walk down to the city center and explore a bit. Will try to share details of that trip tomorrow.

Meanwhile, we’re close to getting started with Day 1b. We’re expecting a few more big names to show today, too, including Carlos Mortensen, David Benyamine, Ludovic Lacay, among others. Check over at PokerNews for details.

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