Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Behind the Scenes at the Monte Carlo Grand Final--Updated with key Brandon Schaefer hand

A moment ago as we broke between levels three and four, I saw The Flying Dutchman Marcel Luske grab a young player by the shoulders and say "You cannot win this tournament today." He wasn't taunting him. He was educating the young man. Luske is well-known for being a mentor to young players. He's mentored such standouts at 2004 WSOP runner-up David Williams and Scandinavian Open champ Noah Boeken. The advice was good. No one can win this tournament today. Even the chip leaders at the end of this day have no guarantee of a good finish.

As such, I cannot report a winner today.

I do feel compelled to report that 2004 WSOP winner Greg Raymer has departed.

And just moments ago a frustrated scream exploded from the table in front of me. Luca Pagano got all his money in with aces pre-flop vs a pair of kings. The board made his opponent, Daniel Tierny, a Broadway straight. Online players can be heard to remark, "Only online" when that happens to them. I'm here to tell you it happens more often than you think in live games. Pagano still has a few chips left, but is steaming like a kettle left on the stove too long.

I also hesitate to mention that one of the dyanamic duo from Seattle, Carl Olson, has not had a good day and now sits on the rail keeping tabs on his buddy Brandon Schaefer. The pair traveled to Deauville together for the French Open and astounded everyone by taking first and second place and winning free seats into the Grand Final here.

Brandon Schaefer, French Open winner and PokerStars FPP qualifier protects his 18,000 in chips

Update: Just moments after I posted this, I walked up on what might've been Brandon Schaefer's last stand. When I arrived, four community cards sat on the table. Several thousand euro sat in the pot and Hendon Mobster Ross Boatman had just pushed in the rest of his stack after a significant bet from Schaefer. Schaefer fell into agony. The board was king-high with rags accompanying the painted card. It was obvious that Schaefer, in early position, felt that Boatman, on the button, had either made two pair or a set. Schaefer made to muck his cards a couple of times, then counted out his stack again. Three times he held his cards in the air in front of his eyes and winced. He asked how much Boatman had left and then winced again after seeing Boatman had him covered. Just watching the hand, I fell into a slight shaking fit. Just when I thought Schaefer was going to give up, he said, "I'm not good enough to fold. I call." He pushed in the rest of his chips and flipped over two aces. Suddenly deflated, Boatman turned over K4 for top pair, weak kicker. The river didn't help Boatman, and Schaefer, who wasn't good enough to fold, took almost all of Boatman's chips and doubled up.

So, with that behind me and before the action gets any more hot or heavy, I thought I'd offer a quick behind the scenes report. Most people's perception of poker tournaments is what they see on TV. There is so much more that goes on behind the camera. Here are just a few photos to give you some idea of what happens.

As the featured table plays under the TV lights, a crowd looks on and one of a few announcers calls out the action bet by bet and card by card over a microphone

All the while the rest of the room plays under dim softer lights (made dim for tv purposes)somewhat oblivious to the action taking place in front of the cameras. Although the room did cheer a moment ago when Devilfish got all-in behind with AJ vs. AQ and made trip jacks to win the hand

The poker widows sit on the rail, sweating their dearly departed. Incidentally, just to be fair, there are poker widowers around her as well

EPT creator John Duthie points out his next featured table to PokerStars' marketing wizards Tamar and Marta

Just a small portion of the assembled media here. Everyone else had run off to play cards. The scoundrels.

A producer and videographers form the EPT plan their next move. These guys shoot everything from cricket to poker and are pretty quick on their feet

An artist with a boom camera, this guys gets some of the prettiest shots of the feaured tables

The boom camera sweeps over the audience

This kind of tourament would not surive without some of the best dealers in the world. Neil is a dealer on the world poker circuit and knows his stuff

Rupert from the EPT counts out the chips as he builds the new featured table

When breaktime comes, many of the players rush outside the fishbowl to the smoking area