If you're playing the €10,000 main event here at The PokerStars and Monte-Carlo® Casino EPT Grand Final you need to make your way to the Monte Carlo Bay hotel, up a gently curving driveway to Le Sporting, a large conference centre of sorts that you'd only find somewhere like here, past a few Zoom poker terminals and through a short mirrored corridor and finally into the Salle des Etoiles, aka the ballroom of stars.
It's an impressive room, the kind that would make a first-time qualifier quiver at the knees due to an adrenaline rush of excitement and nerves. Today, it's Oscars class rather than Riviera chic. The ceiling has not been drawn back to the elements, the curtains also block out the sun. This is for two reasons; the TV crews are still filming links for the Super High Roller final table which plays through today, and because it's too windy outside. We can believe that, our plane's landing last night was far from smooth.
Past the dull thrum of the air conditioning the room opens into a mezzanine floor packed full of talent. In the minutes leading up to kick off Roberto Romanello stood talking to John Eames and Toby Lewis, EPT Berlin final tablist Pratyush Buddiga chatted with Bryan Piccioli while Steve O'Dwyer milled around behind them. Current EPT Player of the Year frontrunner Ondrej Vinklarek tried to make his way through the thick crowd to get to his seat, dancing from left to right behind a tall Norwegian, finally spotting a gap to slip through. Romanello, his closest contender for Player of the Year, looked hopeful not knowing that his Grand Final adventure would last less than a level after Andrew Chen flopped a full house with pocket sevens house against his kings.
As well as players there seem to be some curious passers-by, guys that have money falling out of their pockets and will no doubt be welcomed at the cash tables later on. Expensive glass, expensive clothes. Money may not buy class but it can certainly get you better threads and let you pick up younger girlfriends. A girl who would normally turn heads of her own accord does so today by being on the arm of someone significantly older than her.
"That's her dad, right?" someone says.
It's a nice thought. Unlikely, but we'll go with it.
For now, most thoughts are on the main event and the €100,000 Super High Roller final which plays out on the neon stage just above the main floor. Five players remain in that with Justin Bonomo out ahead in the hunt for the €1,640,000 first prize. Daniel Negreanu was the most recent player to go in 6th for €310,000. Fellow Canadian Team PokerStars Pro Jonathan Duhamel went out just before him to bubble.
In the meantime, we just hope that our internet connection will improve.