When you’re following a big tournament via blog updates and webcast streams you’d be easily be forgiven for not thinking about how the players arrived in their seats, nor what’s going through their heads in the moments leading up to the moment that ‘shuffle up and deal’ is announced. It’s a nervy time for some, a path well trod for others.
Emmanuelle Pariset walked in and asked the dealer the table number, then headed over to the TV table to take his seat. Kravchenko took the other approach and asked no one. He walked direct to the TV table, a natural assumption as one of two remaining Team PokerStars Pros left in the field. One quick scan of the table later, Kravchenko swivelled and walked back to the outer table.
Lukas “superkid-bam” Berglund walked by as Kravchenko sat down. “Good luck,” said Berglund, addressing the the table. The Swedish online crusher had just completed a quick talking head interview with the PokerStars TV production crew, who then asked Stephen “stevie444” Chidwick if he’d contribute, too. No, Chidwick was too busy stacking chips.
Jeffrey Hakim – another player with millions of online cashes to his name – arrived and gave a fist bump to a dealer who looked like a real-life Bluto (you know, the bad guy from Popeye) or perhaps just a much larger version of Hakim – both sport stubble that could spark a forest fire. Hakim has been having trouble sealing his overnight chip bag these last few days, so much so that I had to help him at the end of Day 3. They are tricky. The problem seems to extend to opening the bags, too. Despite having a pair of scissors to help him, Hakim could barely make a hole in the side of the bag, “Not a good start,” he said. “My second bag not arrived yet?” There is no second bag: Hakim is short of chips, but not short of playful banter.
There’s a clear difference between the players that are used to being this deep and those that are more anxious. Raul Mestre, with just minutes to go before play starting, is stood stage left talking to PokerStars.tv‘s Sarah Grant about playing Vicky Coren-Mitchell, then simply Coren, heads-up in the IFP World Championship.
She is the one of the last players to arrive, breezing in with just a couple of minutes left to the start of play. As the only former EPT champion remaining, and someone incredibly used to being in the public eye and in front of cameras, it’s little surprise that the Team PokerStars Pro looked relaxed, despite the fact that she’s still on to become the first-ever double EPT champion. She paused at the steps of the stage to switch from pink flip-flops to heels, then sat down to the left of chip leader Jordan Westmorland, another one of the players at ease in these late stages. The pair instantly started talking: Westmorland enjoyed breakfast in his bedroom, don’t you know. Mestre, now back at the TV table, joined the conversation. Alongside Berglund, these three players looked by far the most relaxed in the spotlight.
“Thirty seconds,” said a member of the production crew.
The small talk dried up.
“With a running ante of 3,000, and blinds of 12,000, 24,000, shuffle up-and-deal,” said a member of the floor staff.
Eight players will make it through today, eight will fall.
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Rick Dacey is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.