Casino Hohensyburg lurks about 20 minutes outside of Dortmund city centre, along a narrow country road, past fields, cottages, bed and breakfast hotels, and then a church on a wooded hillside. The building itself is something of a modern, angular, glass-heavy construction, but its location is uniquely rural for an EPT. It's a charming spot.
Through the first couple of days of a tournament of this size, it's difficult sometimes to see the trees for the wood. The flurry of activity and vast numbers of players, supporters, casino staff, reporters, tournament officials, etc., takes on a collective life of its own. It's easy to forget that poker is actually an extremely solitary pursuit, where it is every man for himself, attempting to chop through all other contenders until you stand alone, axe in hand, at the centre of a clearing.
Today we return to find a small copse amid the larger forest. More than 600 players have fallen and only 35 now remain. At the end of this crucial day, we will be left with an exclusive row of eight of the sturdiest timbers, who will return tomorrow to contest the top prizes of the final table. That makes today an exercise more in artful pruning than wanton hacking, where it's vital also to keep an eye on the hatchets aimed at your own trunk.
Enough, though, of this woody thicket. Today's business concerns the very serious business of playing down to a final table. Everyone is in the money already, but the real cash will kick in as we progress through afternoon, evening and into the night.
Among the players returning today are the Team PokerStars Pro duo of Luca Pagano and William Thorson. The first of those has now cashed more times on the European Poker Tour than any other player. The latter has never cashed without later going on to make the final table. Proud records both.
We also have three former champions playing today: Andreas Hoivold and Mike McDonald both won in Dortmund on the previous two occasions we have visited here. Moritz Kranich, on the other hand, won in Deauville at the beginning of this year and is clearly running hot.
All of them are looking up at the German trio of Holger Kanisch, Marc Gork and Sandra Naujoks, the ShootingStar bidding to become only the second female EPT champion. Those three are a few pips higher than Steve Jelinek, the PokerStars qualifier from the United Kingdom, bidding to add another title to the EPT's most decorated nation.
All in all, this is going to be a fine day in the forest. And if you can't make it down to the woods today, we'll bring you all the surprises here.