When the European Poker Tour first started, it wasn’t quite the far-reaching operation its name suggested it to be. Although we did indeed stick in Europe, we were more concerned with the western fringes of the continent: the Mediterranean, the British Isles and Scandinavia, at a push.
These days, things are different. Not only has the definition of Europe been elasticated to include the Bahamas, home to the PCA, but we’re also now gathering stamps in our passports from the further-flung regions of the continent. Ukraine is the furthest east we have ever travelled and Kyiv lies near to the centre of this vast land.
If we followed the Dnipro river north, it would take us through Belarus and into Russia, and if we took a few-hundred-mile swim south, we’d be deposited into the Black Sea.
More specifically, the location for this week’s festivities is the Palace of Sports, in the very heart of the city centre. This is stadium poker: the vast hall has a spectator capacity of 6,000 and usually plays host to the largest concerts and sporting events in the region. Christina Aguilera and Lenny Kravitz are among the acts to play here, and this is also the home to the occasional boxing bout or tennis match. In truth, you could probably run a horse race in here as well.
Outside the main hall, there are concession stands and tier upon tier of staircases, leading to the highest seats in the gods. Meanwhile inside, a huge arced roof and space big enough for a couple of football fields gives the place the feel of an aircraft hangar, divided in two by quite the biggest curtain I think has ever been hanged in the world.
I never thought I’d say this, but this place might actually be bigger than the Amazon Room at the Rio, home of the World Series of Poker.
The field at the moment is not quite of the same magnitude. At first count there were about 120 players on day 1a, which will of course grow considerably for day 1b. The total is likely to be in the region of 300 when all is said and done. As ever, the number is swelled by about 85 players who won their seats on PokerStars, and there’s a fair bet that a great number of them will earn a significant return on their investment.
For Team PokerStars Pro, we have Luca Pagano and Alex Kravchenko in today’s field. And familiar faces from these events include Alex Fitzgerald, Arnaud Mattern, Allan Baekke, John Cernuto, and many others. We’ll be keeping a close eye on all of them — even if it is with a pair of binoculars from the other side of the arena.
* * * * *
WE’LL HAVE TO KEEP THIS QUOTE ANONYMOUS OF THE LEVEL
“I’m not even sure he knows the rules.” — A player describing the moment his opponent called with the nuts on the river. Yes, called. Didn’t raise or anything like that.
* * * * *
FUSS ABOUT NOTHING OF THE LEVEL
After a crisis that only just stopped short of involving the United Nations and the Red Cross, it turns out that one of my colleagues, who shall remain nameless, has NOT actually lost his cellphone. He left it on a table. Of course.
* * * * *
NEIL STODDART’S PHOTO MASTERCLASS
Part of the traditional Ukrainian “hopak” dance