Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Monte Carlo Grand Final Begins...and we already have the TV table

The ceiling in this cardroom is so high that if I fell from it I'd likely die. Or, at the very least, I'd be reduced to a mass of broken bones in a husk of torn flesh. Perhaps it seems an ugly idea, but this cavernous ballroom can be an ugly place, despite its beauty. The ugliness only resides in the rampant anxiety as more than 200 players protect their 10,000 chip starting stack. Some of the players are treating their stacks like AK-47s with unlimited ammunition. Other players are looking over their stacks like it was a basket of newborn kittens.

In a departure from the norm, the EPT television crew has moved in on day one. In addition to taping the final eight players on the final day, the producers have decided to feature one table every day.

While almost every table here has some degree of star-power, I suspect the producers had little difficulty picking the first featured table of the day. Under the TV lights right now sit 2005 WSOP champ Greg Raymer, the ever-vocal Tony G., and Russian tennis great, Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

Question: Will Tony G. be Greg Raymer's EPT version of Mike Matusow, or will everyone get along?

In the adjoining room, 2003 WSOP champ Chris Moneymaker is holding a quiet court at Table 23. He's one of the immediately recognizable faces in the room, not only because of his record, but because his visage is plastered on posters and banners all over the place. Perhaps it was little coincidence then that his face would show up in his own shadow.

Playing in one's own shadow

Amusing, if not a coincidence, was another face beaming near Moneymaker's poster.

Christy, Moneymaker's girlfriend, watching from a safe distance

Alas, no number of posters or lovely sweating from the rail could keep Moneymaker from leaving halfway through the second level. Seconds ago, he and Christy walked out of the room. An empty seat at table 23 and the curious lack of chips in Moneymaker's hand lead me to believe he won't be playing anymore in Monte Carlo this week.

Alex Jacob, the resident Yalie, in the moments before Moneymaker's departure. No more will he have to think about having a WSOP champ on his left

It is a wide variety of players here in Monte Carlo. It is perhaps the toughest line-up so far on the EPT.

Andreas Harnemo fresh off his second place finish in Vienna

Pascal Perrault, Vienna EPT champ

The always intimidating Devilfish

The Great Dane, Gus Hansen, making his return to the EPT from the states

Luca Pagano, 3rd place finisher at the EPT Barcelona

Simon Nowab, final table finisher in Vienna, and Noah Boeken, Scandinavian Open champion

And at the same time, the room is awash with players who've never see a tournament as large, with a prize pool so big, on tables so far away from home.

Ashland, Missouri, USA's Corey Myers, Frequent Player Point Qualifier on

It appears we have well-eclipsed the 200 mark in players. The final number of runners and prize money is still being tabulated. This is shaping up to be, perhaps, the largest poker payout in European history.

Back with more in a bit.