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EPT9 Deauville: A return to gambling's past

Year zero in American tournament poker history was round about the time Benny Binion persuaded six of his regular customers to re-name their regular game the "World Series" and pose in sepia photographs alongside him in sheepskin coat. It was 1970.

Year zero in European tournament poker history was round about the time John Duthie tired of soaking himself in a bath and came up with the idea of the European Poker Tour (EPT). No one posed alongside him in his birthday suit (take solace in small mercies). It was 2004.

The thing is, tournament poker is a modern game, born in the era of television and played by young pretenders, angling not only for the riches of the game itself but for attendant stardom too. Poker historians occasionally acknowledge a game played in the wild west by cowboys, out of the public eye, but it's not what we think of any more. The game has moved a long way on.

But once a year, the EPT comes to Deauville and thoughts are suddenly cast to times past. This Normandy town, across the river Touques from Trouville, in northern France, originated about a thousand years before the United States was even invented. Its casino opened in 1912, the same year the Titanic set off to discover America.

In short, the independently wealthy have been peering at spinning wheels and wagering wads for more than a hundred years in Deauville. When the first hundred thousand was dropped in Deauville, Benny Binion was eight years old.

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Casino Deauville: old

The mahogany-panelled suites and crimson-lined chambers are these days as likely to be lined with slot machines as they are roulette wheels, but there is an ambiance at this particular stop that is not found elsewhere on the tour. Even some of the slovenly-dressed poker players have turned out in smart trousers and jackets; the get-up complements the neon player bracelets especially well.

For all that, the tournament itself remains familiar. In the past ten minutes, Day 1A of EPT9 Deauville has begun - a six-day affair, which will likely feature in excess of 800 players and offer a winner a pay-check of more than €800,000. We play Day 1B tomorrow, Day 2 on Tuesday and then plough on through to a winner, who will be crowned next Saturday.

Edgar Stuchly, the President of the EPT, recently instructed tournament officials of the plan for the day: eight 75-minute levels, with a 20-minute break after every other level, and a short dinner break. We should finish at about 12.30am. He then said, "Shuffle up and deal." Action duly began.

For the first time on the EPT, you can find live streaming from the feature table from the very get go. Coverage begins on EPT Live at 2.45pm CET, with expert commentary from James Hartigan and Joe Stapleton.

For a wider view of the tournament, check out the hand-by-hand coverage in the panel at the top of the EPT Deauville page. And peer below the line on that page for our feature posts, to add some additional flavour from the tournament floor.

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