Thomas Kremser’s tournament staff are as polite as they are impeccably attired. This morning, the senior floor managers arrived in their classically-coordinated suits and ties — mauve today, it being Wednesday — but had ambled straight into a crisis. As is so frequently the case, more players have elected to play the second of the two opening days, but the situation is so extreme in Monte Carlo this year that they’re playing ten-handed and have overspilled into the second tournament room.
“Will we need to open another table?” asked Sue, one of Kremser’s top hench-women this week. “There’s still quite a line.”
This was a characteristically unflustered understatement. “Quite a line” in tournament director speak translates to “A heaving scrum of poker players jockeying for position at the cashier’s window” in any layman’s terms. Even though three full tables of play were already underway in the annexe — Sander Lylloff, John Shipley, Malte Strothmann and Hevad Khan among them — there were at least 30 others rabbling in front of the cage.
Our photographer, Neil Stoddart, had his chair pinched by an official, understandably anxious not to force that tenth player to kneel. (The chair was duly replaced at the first opportunity.) And there has been another common sight this morning in the main tournament arena, that of the bemused poker player stumbling around as though a drunk in a fog, clutching their tournament ticket and seat number but without any idea in what direction to head, nor how to navigate their way through the throngs.
All of this adds up to what is likely to be a record-breaking tournament field. Early indications suggest that there are more than 450 sots in the pea-soup and that will mean a total number of around 850 players and a prize pool of that times €10,000. We still need all this to be confirmed, but the €8.5m pool could make this the richest tournament in European poker history.
Behind the mauve ties and the crisply-pressed suits also work some abacus brains, and they will be sliding beans this way and that until we have the full payout schedule which will — guess what! — appear on PokerStars Blog in due course.
*Oh! And Nelly’s playing too.