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

Monte Carlo Dinner Break News

Well, just before the dinner break I had a massive post full of news, but, sadly, my computer got a jump start on supper and ate my work. So, now I set out to offer the computer dessert. Perhaps it will consider this something in the way of a chocolate mousse (which, incidentally, I just ate at the buffet and it was very good).

First off, the people in the money room have come up with a final number of entrants. Two hundred and eleven players put up the €10,000 buy-in. Oddly, 206 sat down to play. No word of a search party for the other five players.

With 211 buy-ins, the EPT and find themselves quite proud to report they have built the largest poker prize pool in European history.

1. EPT Grand Final, Monte Carlo €2,110,000
2. WPT Grand Prix de Paris €2,050,000
3. MasterClassics, Amsterdam, Holland €980,000
4. Prima Millions, Monte Carlo €835,135.31
5. EPT European Classic, London, €754,088
6. Ladbrokes Poker Millions, London €516,898

With €2.11 million in prize money, Tournament Director Thomas Kremser announced the payouts. Twenty-seven players will walk away with prize money. The final eight are in for a big year.

Final Table Prize Money

1) €635,000
2) €350,000
3) €178,000
4) €139,000
5) €118,000
6) €99,500
7) €79,500
8) €59,900

Players, we hardly knew thee

Players here are enjoying a fine, comfortable structure. They began with 10,000 in chips at 25/50 blinds. The levels have each been 90 minutes long and it has allowed players to surive and play their game. Nonetheless, we've lost 35 of the players who started the day. The notable departures include:

  • Hendon Mobster Ram Vaswani
  • Mikael Westerlund, the rampaging Swede who made final tables at both the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and the EPT Scandinavian Open
  • Pascal Perrault, EPT Vienna champion
  • 2003 WSOP champion Chris Moneymaker. Moneymaker reportedly went out in the second level after flopping the dummy end of a straight on an all-spade flop. Moneymaker had the eight of spades and got in a raising and re-raising battle with another player which eventually ended with all of Moneymaker's chips in the middle. The WSOP champ found out quickly that he was drawing nearly dead. His opponent had flopped the ace-high flush. Moneymaker departed quickly thereafter.

    No Money today

    Bloggers and friends of bloggers

    If this is your first opportunity to read a poker blog, you may not be aware there is a thriving community of poker players and writers who are keeping the internet full of poker content (just Google "poker blog" and you'll see what I mean). One of those bloggers is not doing too badly at the dinner break. Ben "Milky Bar Kid" Grundy has just about doubled his stack in the first three levels.

    Ben Grundy

    Many readers likely know that 2004 WSOP champion Greg Raymer has been a frequent poster of the 2+2 forum. He's spent the first half of the day at the featured table with Tony G. and Russian tennis star Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Also at the table is Frequent Player Point qualifier John Withers who has been having an up and down day. One of his up moments came at Raymer's expense. Withers got in pre-flop with Ramyer. Raymer held aces. Withers held jacks and a jack came on the flop. As a result, Raymer's stack has dwindled a bit. Fortunately, the blinds are still manageable and are giving the shorter stacks an opportunity to play a bit.

    There are also a few FOBs (Friends of Bloggers) out there, as well.

    Scott Bush

    Patrick "curzdog" Curzio

    Of course, many notable names remain in contention. Since they are far too many to name and be fair about it, I'll refrain from naming the notables who are still running.

    We will play two more levels tonight before breaking for the evening. Tomorrow, we will play either five levels or down to 27 players, whichever comes first (my money is on the five levels, but whatta I know).

    The players return from dinner in 16 minutes. I'll have another report in a while.

  • 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.

    Sitting down at destiny's table

    In Monte Carlo, there is no rain, no sleet, and certainly no snow. There is simply sun and a certain sense of destiny. It settled in here last night as the players converged from cities far and wide. Many of these players have made every stop on the European Poker Tour from Barcelona until now. A few sat down last nights for a few hands of poker to further warm their sensibilities.

    As I type, more than 200 players are filing into this ornate ballroom and finding their seats on the Italian-crafted tables. The notable names and face are too many to mention. Certainly we have our champions from the other EPT events. We have many of the runners up. Other tournaments have their champions as well. So far today I've seen PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Champion John Gale and 2003 and 2004 World Series of Poker Champions Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer.

    And beyond the notables, there is a significant number of unknowns here, as well. Many of them are PokerStars Frequent Player Point qualifiers. Others have qualified with cash. I met people from all over last night. Sweden, Denmark, the U.K., Dallas, Missouri, West Virginia, Maryland, and Washington state.

    There are a few other neat things worth mentioning, but I'll save them for later. Now it's time to grab our seats in this seat of paradise. The Grand Final of the European Poker Tour is about to begin with prize pool of more than €2 million at stake.