With just three minutes left on the clock until the start of EPT Warsaw I counted three players in their seats. That trio were filling out their waiver forms, huddled over the page like they’re taking a multiple choice math test, while those in no hurry loitered around the bar catching up with friends not seen since London. The clock ran down to zero and tournament officials simply added an extra ten minutes. It seemed too easy.
Peter Hedlund was one of those hanging around the rail. The Swede, who finished second in Copenhagen last season, was asking about the smoking policy. It’s a simple one: you’re not allowed to smoke inside the tournament area; instead you must cross the rail and smoke there where the air conditioning will blow it back in one big, more efficient cloud.
Warsaw itself is modernising, with tower blocks, fast cars and familiar faces on billboards, but down the two flights of stairs to the casino floor in the Hyatt hotel that old nicotine habit remains, turning the EPT Warsaw into a kind of retro tournament, played in a filter-less mist alongside roulette tables, spinning slots and a cash desk dispensing pain and pleasure in measures slanted in their favour.
This place is something of a cult favourite on the tour, never bulging at the seams but prized by a select few, and today they include some notables; the Team PokerStars Pros Alex Kravchenko, Peter Eastgate and Arnaud Mattern for instance, not to mention the home town hero Marcin Horecki.
I was watching the one Zloty roulette table before the start, a place where even the lowest of rollers can bet like a king. Luca Pagano, playing today, said hello, one word enough for any Italians nearby to home in on their national hero. Pagano then reverted to video blog mode, talking to a hastily produced video camera for another performance. The man wakes up with a camera in his face.
There are some others playing today with EPT pedigree:
Alexander Dovzhenko who finished second in Kyiv is here, as is Carter Philips who won EPT Barcelona weeks after. Nico Behling, who finished second here last season to Joao Barbosa, plays, as does Mikhail Tulchinskiy who finished third at the Monte Carlo Grand Final earlier this year.
Others include tournament maestro Michel Abecassis, chess Master Almira Skripchenko, Oskar Silow from Sweden, Voitto Rintala of Finland, complete with his weird eyes and British oil rigger Dave Hardy.
Those are just a few of those hunkered in the bunker for seven levels of play today. Word has it that Scotty Nguyen just arrived and plays today. Keep track of his progress, and that of everyone else throughout the day on the chip count page.