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EPT9 Prague: The EPT's winter retreat

The European Poker Tour tends to follow the sun, which at the start of the season means the beautiful beaches of Barcelona or the Italian Riviera, where summer bleeds warmly into autumn.

But as we move into winter for the third stop of the season, we head north to Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, where the blazing morning sun and clear blue skies means temperatures plunging into the minus numbers. It is one of those days in Prague as we get started here this week: the required apparel for a trip around the Old Town is sunglasses and woolly hat. Each is as necessary as the other.

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Prague. Outside

Of course, deep inside the conference facilities of the Hilton Hotel, the overcoats have been checked into the cloakroom and the heating has been turned up to comfortable. A couple of hundred poker players have arrived in their customary outfits: branded clothing, headphones, a smattering of dark glasses and some hats.

They are here for level one of Day 1A of EPT9 Prague, and the action has recently begun. Edgar Stuchly, EPT President, took to the stage to welcome one and all to this "wonderful city", offering his thanks to the players who have continued to make the EPT "the biggest and most prestigious tournament series in the world".

Numbers have always been healthy through six trips to the Czech Republic. Arnaud Mattern defeated a field of 555 during season four; Salvatore Bonavena was the last man standing from 570. Jan Skampa beat 583 others and Roberto Romanello triumphed from 563.

Last year's festival, whose main event was won by Martin Finger, attracted 722. And so it's fairly likely to have a field here this week that won't be less than 550 and probably won't be more than 750.

They start today with blinds of 50-100 and a stack of 30,000. The levels are 75-minutes long, and we'll likely have six or seven of them today.

You can keep track of the coverage in a number of ways: we will have a host of feature posts below the line on the main EPT Prague page on PokerStars Blog, while there will be hand-for-hand coverage and chip counts, etc., in the top panel.

The Eureka Poker Tour stop here attracted record numbers, and they are now playing a final table. Allow Nick Wright to guide you through the action there.

Stick with us throughout. It will be a busy week.

Here's an introduction to the day with Kristy Arnett:













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