The playing area here in Baden is spread across two main rooms and a couple of nooks and crannies.
The main poker room is a vast rectangular affair, which feels familiar to anyone who’s ever been to any event of this size. But the second room, and its two adjoining wings, is amazingly bright and airy, putting paid once and for all to the notion that poker is a game played in smoky, dingy backrooms of pubs and clubs. This is more like a circular greenhouse, with a colourful mural-cum-mosaic on the ceiling.
Along one side of the room is a line of flags representing many of the players’ nations, while waiters and waitresses wheel trolleys of drinks around like flight attendants. A cheery sign wishes all players “Good luck!” and best of all, the table numbers dangle from the ceiling on Christmas tree baubles.
Add to all this a very well received player’s buffet — there’s nothing poker players enjoy more than a good feed — and the net result is a poker tournament that feels uncharacteristically friendly. I’m certain there are more smiles than usual in the opening levels of such an event.
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The table draw for today’s event created the now-customary number of talking points, with no table more noteworthy than number one, which seems to be encouraging cannibalism among Team PokerStars pros.
In seat five is Noah “Exclusive” Boeken, the EPT stalwart and regular in-the-money finisher, two places to the right of Katja Thater, herself a WSOP bracelt winner and increasingly regular EPT high-placer. As if that wasn’t enough, Andre Akkari, the first Team PokerStars pro from Brazil, perches in seat nine, his canary yellow Brazil soccer strip making him very hard to miss.
Paul Testud and Nicolas Levi, both from France, are also seated next to one another on the same table, and they’re sure to know a little about each other’s games.
Meanwhile, Barry Greenstein and Vanessa Rousso, also Team PokerStars pros, were also drawn on the same table. And RaiNKhan, something of an online whizz, is in good company: he’s seated opposite Sorel “Imper1um” Mizzi, a player whose online profile is on a similar standing to RaiNKhan’s.
“Don’t worry though,” said RaiNKhan during a recent break in the action. “I’ve won every pot I’ve played against him so far.”
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About 25 players fell in the opening two levels, two of poker’s leading ladies among them. Annette Obrestad was spotted stalking out of the poker room, following Vanessa Rousso out the door. Sorel Mizzi has also departed.
As is only to be expected, there are few stacks more than about 18,000 and it’s still very, very early in this tournament yet.
Meanwhile, the payouts have been announced, and here’s what they’re playing for:
1st – €670,800
2nd – €375,000
3rd – €225,000
4th – €160,820
5th – €132,900
6th – €105,000
7th – €83,600
8th – €60,000
11th-12th – €30,000
13th-14th – €25,700
15th-16th – €19,300
17th-24th – €12,860