That's the end of the level, and players are now on their second 15-minute break of the day. I won't take a break; I shall be setting up a new post for the second half of today's fun. It'll be up shortly.
3.25pm: Warring neighbours (or neighbors for US readers)
While the focus of attention could easily all on ElkY and Viktor Blom, it's two other neighbours at the same table who are locking horns on a regular basis. Ville Wahlbeck has Kevin Stani on his left and they seem to be involved in more pots than is perhaps good for them.
This one was relatively harmless, with a 4,500 bet from Wahlbeck on the turn of a 4♣3♠T♦8♥ board being good for the pot.
3.10pm: Timex broken
Time has been called for Mike McDonald, who had pocket queens but was check-raised all-in on the turn by a player with a flush draw, bottom pair and an overcard. It was the flush on the river that did the lasting damage to Mr McDonald.
3pm: ElkY finishes off Fernandez
In a spot of Team PokerStars Pro cannibalism, ElkY has busted Leo Fernandez from Argentina. I caught up with the hand with the flop showing 9♦7♥3♠ and ElkY having put out a bet of 7,350. Fernandez, runner up at the high roller at this year's PCA, counted out his stack and announced he was all in. ElkY, who only just had him covered, winced, but made the call:
Fernandez had tried it on with the straight draw but got caught. He needed to hit on the turn or river, but instead they came A♣ and 8♠ to send him spinning back to central Madrid. ElkY is now up to just over 100,000.
2.55pm: World Champ down
WSOP Main event winner, Team PokerStars Pro Jonathan Duhamel is out, spanked by Jason Mercier. Duhamel takes up the story: "I raised, Jason three-bet me and I raised back, knowing I was going to call a shove. And he did push, and I called! Unfortunately he had A-K and I had A-Q, and nothing helped me. I started the hand with around 19,000."
With that, Mercier continues his wild day, and is now on aruond 54,000. Recalling that hand with Sonelin earlier (see 2.15pm) he said: "That was wild. I did not realise until the end that he had meant to call in that hand, not raise me."
2.45pm: Level up
We have eased into level four, with an ante now in play. It's only a 25 ante, but so what. Blinds still at 150-300.
2.40pm: Selbst drops back
After more or less doubling earlier when she knocked out Jean Thorel, Vanessa Selbst is back where she started. And Bryn Kenney did the damage... twice. First he made a straight against Selbst's pocket kings to peg her back to 60,000 - then she walked into his pocket aces to fall back to 49,000.
2.30pm: Durrr on his way
Word reaches me that Tom 'Durrr' Dwan is on his way, hoping to be here within a few hours. Who would like to see him on Viktor 'Isildur1' Blom's table?!
2.15pm: Sickener of a hand for Mercier
Jason Mercier arrived late at the casino, nestled in beautiful countryside around 25 minutes outside Madrid. But he quickly moved up to around 75,000 before suffering a nasty beat in an extraordinary hand with David Sonelin.
Sami Kelopuro kicked it off with a raise to 750 which Sonelin called before Mercier made it 2,900 from the big blind. Kelopuro called and than Sonelin moved in two yellow 5,000 chips to make a significant raise. He had around 23,000 behind. Mercier wasted no time moving all-in and Kelopuro folded before Sonelin made a startling confession: "I had meant to call, not raise."
Instead of putting out those two yellow chips he had meant to call and put out two red 1,000 ones.
Now he was in a quandary. With those 23,000 left, Sonelin faced an all-in from Mercier that could give him the odds to call with quite a few hands. Trouble was, he knew he had to be behind. He gave it five minutes, while Mercier looked around, innocent as a choir boy.
Finally, the temptation was too much, and Sonelin called:
He was behind, but not by a great deal. The flop came T♠J♣Q♠ giving him some possibilities for an unlikely double up. The 3♣ turn was not the answer, but the K♠ river, while giving Mercier a set, filled up Sonelin's straight.
"You are a crazy and lucky guy," Humberto Brenes said to Sonelin as he raked in a pot that sent him up to around 75,000. Mercier may have been sickened but he did not say a word. He still has around 35,000, and that's plenty for a man if his skill.
2.50pm: Plenty of doubles on offer
There are several players in the field who are looking for an EPT High Roller double. Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Rousso won the Monte Carlo high roller a couple of years ago, while Will Molson won the PCA High Roller in January of this year. And if you want to go bigger than that, Eugene Katchalov won the PCA Super High Roller, beating Daniel Negreanu heads-up.
Last year's EPT Monte Carlo High Roller winner Tobias Reinkemeier is also in the field today.
I say the above in response to a question in the comments from S De Ma. You can leave a comment as well - that's what the form at the bottom is for!
2.35pm: Oh no, Neuville
Friend of PokerStars and Serial PokerStars Qualifier Pierre Neuville is out, polished off by Sami Kelopuro. The board was 2♠2♥7♦9♠ and Kelopuro made it 13,000 only for Neuville to re-raise to 26,000. The Finn now moved all-in and the man from Belgium called:
Kulopuro had turned the full house, and the 4♣ river was not one of Neuville's two outs.
Players are back at the tables and blinds are now up to 150-300.
That's the end of level 2. There will now be a 15-minute break, the first of the day.
2.12pm: Duhamel treading water
Jonathan Duhanel won the WSOP in November, and a few months later won the big buy-in $10,000 event at EPT Deauville. But he's off to a slow start here.
"Nothing big so far after two hours. Blinds are still very low, I got starting stack..weather is beautiful here in Madrid."
Very true. Even though we can't see it from the bowels of the casino, I am led to believe the sun is indeed warm and shining.
2.10pm: Lodden-o-meter swings high
It's been a while since PokerStars Blog has mentioned the Loddon-o-meter, the device that swings wildly up or down depending on the chip fortunes of Johnny Lodden. It's a hand way of measuring exactly where Lodden is at any given time, since the Norwegian's stack is up and down more than a member of a certain profession's underwear.
Right now, the Lodden-o-meter is very much in the 'up' position, as he sits pretty with 85,000.
1.50pm: Selbst slays one
Vanessa Selbst is not someone you tangle with lightly. Jean Thorel ignored that, however, and now he's out. Four of them saw a 7-6-5 rainbow flop at which Thorel bet 1,200. Selbst and two others called. The turn was an ace, and this time only Selbst called when Thorel made it 4,500. The river was a 6 and now Selbst bet 11,700, only for the Frenchman to move all in for around 26,000.
"I called," Slebst said, " and he showed me K-8 for the missed draw. I had A-7 and that was good."
Easy game, eh?
1.45pm: Thorson in the house
Another late arrival in the (slim) form of William Thorson from Sweden.
1.40pm: Mad Harper wins praise...
... from me. And I don't give out praise easily. The reason for this uncharacteristic good will from my goodself? Mad has given me a full list of those registered so far, WITH seat draw. Woohoo!
It would be a shame to keep it to myself, so here it is:
Fernando Brito Portugal 1 2
Jude Ainsworth Ireland Team PokerStars Pro 1 3
Kristijonas Andrulis Lithuania 1 5
Johnny Lodden Norway Team PokerStars Pro 1 6
Yevgeniyy Timoshenko Ukraine 1 7
Martin Jacobson Sweden 1 8
Tobias Reinkemeier Germany 2 1
Vanessa Rousso USA Team PokerStars Pro 2 2
Vanessa Selbst USA Team PokerStars Pro 2 3
Sandor Demjan Hungary 2 6
Jean Noel Thorel France 2 7
Darren Elias USA 2 8
Dominykas Karmazinas Lithuania 3 1
Alexander Luber Germany 3 2
Sam Chartier Canada 3 3
Andrey Bondar Russia 3 4
Marcelo Mario Bonanata Manfredini Argentina 3 7
Jani Sointula Finland 3 8
McLean Karr USA 4 1
Mike McDonald Canada 4 2
Philipp Gruissem Germany 4 3
Steven Walter Kelly USA 4 4
David Sands USA 4 6
Mikhail Korotkikh Russia 4 8
Jens Kyllonen Finland 5 2
Juha Helppi Finland 5 3
Andrew Lichtenberger USA 5 4
Will Molson Canada 5 5
Eugene Katchalov USA Team PokerStars Pro 5 6
Ville Wahlbeck Finland Team PokerStars Pro 6 1
Kevin Stani Norway 6 2
Joel Nordkvist Sweden 6 3
Leo Fernandez Argentina Team PokerStars Pro 6 4
Vasily Klyukin Russia 6 5
Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier France Team PokerStars Pro 6 6
Viktor Blom Sweden Team PokerStars Pro 6 7
Pierre Neuville Belgium Friend of PokerStars 7 1
David Sonelin Sweden 7 2
Humberto Brenes Costa Rica Team PokerStars Pro 7 3
Jonathan Duhamel Canada Team PokerStars Pro 7 5
Michael Tureniec Sweden 7 6
Sami Kelopuro Finland 7 8
Alexey Repik Russia 8 1
Benny Spindler Germany 8 2
Luke Schwartz UK 8 3
Anton Wigg Sweden 8 4
Toby Lewis UK 8 5
Masa Kagawa Japan 8 8
1.30pm: Table gets worse
The table that features ElkY and Viktor 'Isildur1' sitting next to each other got a whole lot worse with the arrival of EPT Tallinn winner Kevin Stani and Team PokerStars Pros Ville Wahlbeck and Leo Fernandez.
This is probably one of the most active tables in the room. No surprise there. Stani made it 450 from under the gun and ElkY called from the button. Stani bet 825 on the A♥Q♠2♥ flop and ElkY made a quick call. But on the T♣ turn, Stani's 2,700 bet was too much for the Frenchman, who mucked.
Next hand ElkY made it 500 from middle position and Blom called from the next seat as well as Stani in the big blind. All three checked the T♣9♦8♠ flop, but Stani's 1,025 stab at the troublesome 6♦ turn was good for another pot.
1.20pm: Paging Jason Mecier
There's a stack on the table for Team PokerStars Pro Jason Mercier. But he's only just landed at the airport so will be a while yet. But what's the hurry in a €25,000 buy-in event?
1.15pm: Level up
We have moved into the second level but the blinds are lagging behind, sticking with 100-200 as is the form in these high roller affairs.
1.05pm: First casualty
This will not be the easiest of tournaments to cover. I'm on my own for a start, but more problematic is the press room is a little walk and down some stairs from the tournament room. So some things are going to be missed. Take, for example, the exit of Lithuanian Dominykas Karmazinas. He's gone, but we're yet to establish how.
12.50pm: Plan of action
According to Clement, a member of Thomas Kremser's crack tournament staff team, we'll be playing eight one-hour levels today, with short breaks after every other level and the joy of a 75-minute dinner break sandwiched in after level 6. When my brain is in full working order I'll work out what time that means we'll be finishing tonight.
12.40pm: More names
Others at the high roller tables: Pierre Neuville, Fernando Brito, Humberto Brenes, WSOP champ Jonathan Duhamel, Johnny Lodden and Jude Ainsworth.
More names are arriving all the time.
12.35pm: Early action
This time it's Andrew Lichtenberger getting the better of Juha Helppi. The Finn was on the button and got a call from Lichtenberger in the small blind to see a A♥J♦2♣ flop. Both checked that but on the A♣ turn Lichtenberger made it 1,800 and, after a bit of a think, Helppi let it go.
Here's a table to enjoy: Team PokerStars Pro ElkY is sitting on the direct right of Viktor 'Isildur1' Blom. Pity the poor gentleman sitting to the right of those two. A few tables along sees the two Team Pro Vanessas - Rousso and Selbst - sitting next to each other. Selbst has position.
Other stacked tables include this one, featuring as it does Anton Wigg, Luke Schwartz, Japanese high stakes player Masaaki Kagawa, Benny Spindler and this year's EPT Vilamoura champion Toby Lewis.
Wigg just lost out in a significant pot to Spindler. There was already 15,000 in the middle and the board read 8♠Q♥8♥5♦3♥. Wigg calmly bet 7,300 but Spindler, beneath a Beatles-esque mop of black hair, raised it up by another 11,600. Wigg, a former winner of EPT Copenhagen (Season 6 if you're asking), gave it an awful lot of thought before folding.
12.25pm: Class field
That's not really much of a suprise given that this is a high roller. We currently have eight eight-handed tables in play, with another two set up for any registration stragglers. You do the math, but if you think that's my job, let me tell you we may end up with a field of around 55 players, depending on how many have slept in for the start.
12.15pm: Play begins
At risk of repeating myself, play has begun. Players begin with 50,000 chips and will play one-hour levels. The first one of those will see blinds at 100-200. I'm off to do the first tour of duty.
11.45am: One more time
It's been a long but glorious season. Starting nine months ago in Tallinn, Estonia, it meandered back and forth across Europe, collecting spills and thrills and new champions in each and every stop. From Vilamoura in Portugal across to Snowfest in the Austrian Alps, it has been a ride that few will forget.
Now there's one last event before EPT 7 is confined to the books. Normally reserved for Monte Carlo, the Grand Final has this year upped-sticks and ventured into the heart of Spain: Madrid. It's here that the main event kicks-off on Saturday when yet another poker millionaire will be born.
But first the High Roller. Ah, yes. Playground for the rich, perhaps, but more so a tournament where poker's elite can sit together and fight for a title that means so much: beating the world's best.
The price for taking your shot? €25,000. Yup, think about it. That's an awful lot of cash, and certainly a good deal more than the average yearly wage across this continent.
We're at the Casino Gran Madrid, and Team PokerStars Blog - well, it's just me actually - will be covering the High Roller from start to finish on Saturday. Our usual bigger team will convene for the main event.
While I pop upstairs to see who is in the registration queue, let me tell you Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Selbst is here - I know that because she was arguing with the front desk about being able to use her driver's photo card for ID.
Also seen sitting ready for the start are Team Pros Eugene Katchalov, Humberto Brenes and Jude Ainsworth. So too Juha Helppi, Fernando Britto, Mike "Timex" McDonald, Anton Wigg and Luke Schwartz.
You can leave a comment at the end of this post if you like - I'll do my best to
ignore it answer just as soon as I can.
We're expecting to start at noon, but of course that won't happen. It never does. Back soon.
PokerStars Blog reporting team in order of existence: Er, Simon Young