I’d encourage you, if you ever have the opportunity, to explain a poker tournament the likes of the European Grand Final to a French-speaking cab driver who knows nothing about poker. Cultural differences and language barriers aside, one would think it would be a simple task. One would be wrong.
“Bon voyage?” he asked, pushing his speedometer past where it should be and grunting at a motorcyclist who owned the road.
I struggled to remember my French. “Comme ci comme ca,” I said, hoping that it meant “So-so” and not “You’re driving like a maniac, sir, could we slow it down a bit.”
The driver launched into barrage of questions in French and I was forced to admit that when it comes to speaking his language, I only spoke “un peu.”
It was then he asked why I was in town and I began trying to explain the Grand Final. Over the course of the next several minutes, a few hand gestures, and a quick poker economics lesson, I explained how it worked. And the driver seemed duly impressed.
It is my job to explain this poker phenomenon, both to the learned and the folks who could never conceive of winning in the neighborhood of $2 million just for playing a card game. And though I’ve been offering said explanations for a long time now, I sometimes have a difficult time conveying just how insane the concept is.
Now on the ground for about 24 hours, I’ve managed to settle in. This, my third visit to Monte Carlo, is a comfortable one, and is made only more comfortable by the people of the Monte Carlo Bay Resort. It was upon my visit here last year (shortly after the resort opened) that I became one of the first people to lock himself out on a hotel balcony (an incident quickly remembered by Team PokerStars’ Isabelle Mercier upon our reunion). A sign on the balcony door upon my return indicated, however, I was not the last.
Hotel balconies are not where we’ll be spending our time, however. This event, now looking to be the richest ever held outside the United States, is not something easily explained. Held in one of the most gorgeous European locales, the Grand Final is a 10,000 euro buy-in no-limit hold’em event that will feature some of the most famous and talented poker players in the world. More than 640 players have already registered to play and satellites tonight will add even more to the field. Two hundred journalists are slated to cover this contest. The winner stands to win roughly $2 million for his or her efforts.
Equal, perhaps, to the money involved here is the astounding ambiance. I, like many, am guilty of focusing on the cards more than the environment. As the cards go in the air in less than 24 hours, it seemed a good time to give everyone a look at what this beautiful city has to offer to the eye.
Players are now arriving in droves, in anticipation of tonight’s party and tomorrow’s poker. Word on the street that two guys named Phil will be in attendance. I, of course, went looking for the Team PokerStars crew. After some fruitless searching, I found them all by following this floor-direction.
Fear not. They weren’t into the bottle this early in the day. I understood they were there for a photo shoot that involved some sort of champagne toast. Nonetheless, it seemed some of the Team PokerStars players were ready for the games to begin. With no cards available, I found ElkY, Greg Raymer, Victor Ramdin, Chris Moneymaker, Bill Chen and Joe Hachem playing a game that involved $100 bills and…well, blind luck. Hachem seemed to be encouraging the fun, despite the first round of $100s going to Moneymaker. While the pot was enough to put me up in this hotel for a couple more nights, I reminded myself, these were the same guys playing 10,000 and 20,000 SNGs last year in the same room.
Indeed, everything here looks the same, with one glaring exception. The main tournament area has been moved to, perhaps, the most beautiful poker room I’ve ever seen. It was still under construction when I stopped in for a look, but it’s clear that EPT creator John Duthie has outdone himself this time.
The featured table stage
Duthie, directing his vision
Tonight, players head to the hottest club in Monte Carlo, Jimmy’z, for a welcome party. It will be the last chance to relax and reflect before the event kicks off tomorrow. The PokerStars Blog, staffed by yours truly, the venerable Simon Young, and hopefully a return visit of The Ed Report (see PCA coverage), will be on hand from the time the cards go in the air until we have a Grand Final champion.
Now, to work on my French a bit before I get myself in too much trouble.