Wednesday, February 16, 2005

High-security, high-anxiety at the French Open--Payouts announced

There's no bathroom in the ballroom, which is just as fun to say out loud as it is to write.

There's no bathroom in the ballroom.

That means any time a player (or, er...tournament reporter) needs to head to the head, it requires a trip past the security station and down a marble spiral staircase.

Now, there is no real complaint. We all need the exercise. But there is security to think about. I mean, after all, we're playing by the rules here. TDA rules, to be exact. For instance, English only at the tables during a hand. That's more challenging than it sounds when players are coming here from all countries. Another rule, no cell phones at the tables. Er, Devilfish, that means you.

But the TDA rules aren't the ones that have brought in the security staff. Those rules belong to the Casino Deauville and they state that only players--POKER players--are allowed in the poker ballroom. To enforce the rule, all players have been forced to wear festival-style bracelets for the duration of the poker festival.

Of course, security makes a special acception for journalists, sponsors, and staff. Beyond that, one has to be fairly sneaky to sweat his favorite player. The most popular way to score a bracelet is to become a player. Spouses and friends who aren't in the main event are buying into small Sit-N-Go tournaments. After that, they are players and can stay as long as they like.

Some journalists and writers have decided to not write about the event for the moment and play for themselves. Mike from the poker blog Lucky Blind is sittinig on an average stack in the dark back corner of he ballroom. And Tony Kendall from Blonde Poker is holding his own, as well.

Tony at the table

Just a few moments ago, TD Warren Karp announced the payouts for the French Open. They look as follows.

1--144,000 2--80,000 3--40,500
4--31,500 5--27,000 6--22,500
7--18,000 8--13,500 9--9000
10--5400 11--5400 12--5400
13--4500 14--4500 15--4500

At the beginning of Level 6 (150/300/25), we're down to 161 players. I suspect we'll be playing another three or four hours before we break for the night.

More updates in a while.

Machismo in Deauville, the French Open continues

The French Open players hold on tight and get macho

She had blonde hair, hanging long down over her low-cut shirt. She looked out over the felt and with a small smile said, "Everyone is very macho at this table."

An outsider might think she was playing with her male competitors, throwing some flirt in with the chips. In fact, she was not, even though her English accent made the word "macho" sound much proper than it should.

When I caught her eye, I realized she wasn't talking about macho biceps or chest hair. It was about the cards.

Two players went to war, betting into and check-raising each other on a flop of 235. Finally, one player mucked a six face up. His opponent slid his cards toward the dealer. The cards caught the felt and turned face-up, revealing AQ offsuit. Both players had missed the flop, but both sneered as if they'd flopped the nuts. Only one could rake the pot and the one who did not continued to sneer as if his gutshot straight-draw was a winner he'd inadvertently mucked.

"Next time," he said. "Next time we are heads up, I'm all in."

I guess the lady was right.


An afternoon in France

We started with approximately 245 players. Just before the dinner break, we sit at 191. Notables Noah Boeken and his mentor Marcel Luske have both already left us. Luske suffered an unfortunate beat when he flopped two pair with his 89 and got all in with a player holding aces. An ace came on the river and Luske left, his entertainment value in tow.

The room has quieted down a bit from the early part of the afternoon. The players are focused and intent on making it until tomorrow.

One notable player still in is David "Devilfish" Ulliott. He's been keeping himself strong with soda, a triple-decker sandwich, and a lifetime achievement award.

This afternoon, Casino Helsinki and a board of casino management voters awarded Devilfish with the European Poker Lifetime Achievement Award. And all this time I thought he was James Bond and spent most of his time picking up beautiful women and saving the world.

The Devilfish receives his Poker Lifetime Achievement Award

Aches and pains

For those who aren't familiar with the French way of living and talking, the word pain translates to "bread." I could spend several paragraphs writing about the various breads I've seen and sampled since I've been in the country. But I'm primarily concerned with the amount of pain sliding back and forth across the felt in the form of chips. It's enough to give a lowly tournament reporter a back ache. And if I'm hurting, you can imagine how tensed-up the players are.

Enter: Christine.

A few minutes ago, Warren Karp announced that Christine, the masseusse, had arrived with her massaging tools and that all players were welcome to partake of her services.

I expected a few quips from the players and I was not disappointed. My favorite: A player looked at the felt in front of him and then the dealer, "Will we still play if someone is laying on the table?"

Christine provides one of the most valuable services in the room

We're headed into the dinner break now. We'll be back with more a bit later.

The French for Business--UPDATED

Insta-Photo Gallery below

The French Open begins

Anybody who has ever walked into a casino knows the sound of dozens, nay hundreds, of slot machines tinkling and cackling, mimicking the sound of coins falling into the metal bin at the bottom. It is impossible to mistake.

Although the casino down the hallway from here, I can't help but think about the sound. The poker players' noisy facsimile is the constant riffling of chips. In this giant ballroom, where nearly every seat is full and the tournament directors are scrambling to find more space, that sound is everywhere. The air is one constant riffle, like a stack of chips ten stories high is shuffling itself together.

Early this afternoon, they made the decision. Instead of playing in two smaller flights, we'll be playing in one large flight today. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 people here. Above me, a recorded symphony just exploded from the speakers, vitory music for the rifflers. In a matter of moments, the cards are going to be in the air. We'll be starting with 10,000 chips per player, playing hour levels, beginning at 25/50 blinds.

If you find yourself waiting for an update, be sure to check out this link, the home of the EPT Grand Final.

Insta-Photo Gallery

Noah "Exlcusive" Boeken, EPT Scandinavian Open Champion

Poker pro, Isabelle Mercier

Bambos Xanthos, Scandinavian Open third-place finisher

Alex Cooper, Scandinavian Open eighth-place finisher

Dan Pedersen (left), Scandinavian Open seventh-place finisher, sitting next to Marcel Luske, Scandinavian Open ninth-place finisher

Who is that with his supplies always at the ready: a pack of Reds and a mix of green and orange Tic Tacs?

It's John Gale, PokerStars Caribbean Adventure champion

Pro-gamer, Bertrand Grospellier (aka ElkY), a Frenchman who resides in Korea, recent winner of's Pro-Gamer challenge

Bill Munley (aka Bumperenos), is a well-known in poker circles in the American Northeast. He won his seat at the French Open with 15 Frequent Player Points on

Israeli Boaz Lavie has qualified online at for the Scandinavian Open, French Open, and EPT Grand Final. He's still working on the EPT event in Vienna

Winner of the best shades of the day contest, this guy is giving Greg Raymer's glasses a run for the money