A stand-up comedian in America once spoke at naughty length about how a man reacts when he gets out of prison. Not to be too dirty about it, but a man has needs and when he can finally meet them, the most mundane of luxuries (be it women, food, accommodation, etc) seem like paradise. The punchline goes something like this: “This can’t be a regular saltine cracker. What is this, a Ritz?”
And so we planed our way over from London to Austria, where a cab driver seemed intent on making the taxi men look like ninnies. At no less than 150 kilometers per hour (I looked at the speedometer), we barreled down the Austrian highway and into a little hamlet called Baden. Anout 25 kilometers south of Vienna, Baden is a little shopping and gambling village. Late at night, when a loneyly blogger goes a walking, the town is quiet. A old lady walked her dog. A few Badenites sipped beers in a bar. The casino lights and fountains dance as the only activity on the horizon.
Why then would I bring up the Ritz cracker analogy? In short, we members of the press and poker playing community have happened upon an Autumn paradise in this little town. Casino Baden not only rolled out the red carpet for us here, but ordered out for the rest of the red carpets in all of Austria. As I sit typing in a wonderfully appointed press area (complete with high speed internet access, an ample power supply, and waitresses bringing me the richest coffee in the land) a piano player effortlessly churns out old jazz rags and standards.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The Vic in London was an historic venue with many a tale to be told. However, with history comes age and The Vic’s history made for rough conditions for the press and players. It was a fine tournament, but covering it and playing in it proved to be a challenge. Hence, upon our arrival here, we’ve been speaking in as many languages as necessary to thank our hosts for their generous offerings (in fact, I was just greeted by two lovely Austrian waitressess who offered me some chilled water and a fresh coffee).
Indeed, it doesn’t take much to impress poker players and press. Here, it has happened ten-fold.
The casino itself sits on a small hit, backed by several larger rises. The grass is green, the flowers are somehow still in bloom, and fountains shoot water in the air in every direction. A small river, smelling of the region’s famed sulphur springs, runs through the middle of the shopping district. It’s here that a couple hundred poker players have come to compete for an EPT title and soak in all that is Baden.
Inside the casino, players have been checking in all morning, preparing to play in their second tournament inside a week’s time. The poker tournament area is set up and ready to greet them. In a few minutes time, we’ll get underway and start this party.
The check-in area
The poker room at Casino Baden
PokerStars Conrad Brunner just saw me pounding at the keys. When he walked over, I spoke at length about how happy I am with the venue. I may have overdone it a bit. In a way only he can, he nodded, spied my fourth cup of Austria’s finest, and said, “Not too much coffee, Brad.”
Indeed, perhaps I am a little over-caffeinated and quite excited. However, it is quite nice to be greeted in such a manner. And lest you think it’s just me, allow me to offer a final photo. Roland de Wolfe, who recently won the World Poker Tour’s Paris event, seems to be just as pleased.
Seriously, what is this? A Ritz?