As we walked along Corso Giacomo Matteotti, the central pedestrianized boulevard of Sanremo last night, a crowd began to gather on a street corner. After a few minutes it had doubled in size, about 40 or so people chatting to each other, all getting along famously. Naturally we became curious. In the olden days we would have walked up and asked what was going on, as we did when we accidentally took part in a labour demonstration in the streets of Kyiv back in Season 6. Instead we watched and guessed. Nothing about their appearance gave them away – no piece of clothing, no tourist back pack, no tour guide holding a sign.
Eventually they gathered on the steps of Convento Frati Cappuccini church next to the Casino and arranged themselves for a group photo. They were here for something, but who knows what.
In comparison a passer-by would have little doubt as to the intent of the crowd in the Casino Sanremo ballroom today, which as you’d expect looked immaculate before play began. There was even one man vacuuming the tables.
The tournament room in Casino Sanremo
It has become something of a theme this year that a tournament room should come equipped with chandeliers (think London and most recently Vienna), and Sanremo is no exception. This is the kind of space once used for men in morning dress, and women in gowns, to perhaps waltz around its polished floors. The whole place speaks of rigid elegance and of rules and yet, seated at one end of room, are poker players, one of mankind’s less formal breeds.
So why would a passer-by instinctively know this to be a field of poker players? All the signs are there. The caps and colourful trilbies, the short trousers and jeans, the headphones and sunglasses (even in a room with windows closed and curtains drawn), and the largely male congregation. All of which adds up to the same conclusion.
But while it matches the regular photo-fit description it lacks one additional trait, common to these events — its size. It’s an uncommonly small field that starts Day 1A of EPT Sanremo, fewer than 200 players so far which, even in a building notoriously difficult to get into, is a little on the small side and will likely mean a room-straining field tomorrow.
But everything else remains the same – eight levels of play, each 75 minutes long, and a dinner break after level six. The field may be small but it is not short of a champion or two, with Oleksii Khoroshenin, fresh from his Vienna success, putting his poker face to use. Jannick Wrang, Pius Heinz, Michael Eiler and Julian Track (more on him later) are also in today’s field.
All undoubtedly looking like poker players.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.