It is noon Saturday in Barcelona on Spain’s north-eastern coast. For most of the city’s 4.5 million residents, there is nothing unusual about it: time for a jog along the beach, a pail of water splashed outside the front of the restaurant, a drive to the nearest square of asphalt scrubland, kick the dog out the back to pee against the wheel, tug it back in, drive home, siesta, football later.
For 50-odd temporary residents, however, the kind who visit Catalonia perhaps once a year, it is time to play poker for a couple of million euros. That is far from usual, even for many of these guys.
Season nine of the European Poker Tour (EPT9) is kicking off with one of the big ones: a Super High Roller event that costs €50,000 to enter. And “enter” is not something to be done only once. It is possible to enter, bust, and enter again all the way to the start of day two.
That, actually, is where we are at now. It is Saturday, but in poker time that is day two, following yesterday’s day one. The opening exchanges attracted 57 players of which 36 survived the eight levels. Today, we suspect some of the vanquished will return to play again and maybe even some new faces will arrive.
When the high rollers have decided whether they are in or out, we can go about our first point of business: counting them all up and calculating how much they are going to be playing for. There is already close to €3m in the prize pool, and it can only get bigger.
The starting stack is 250,000 chips, but while yesterday that would have put you on an even standing with all others in the field, today it will represent only a fifth of the leader’s pile. That belongs to Steve O’Dwyer, the American online/offline sensation, who has become a regular feature near the top of live tournament leader boards over the past few years.
O’Dwyer amassed 1,249,000 yesterday, ahead of Erik Seidel’s 738,000. But although the re-buying pessimist would look at a short stack (even one costing €50,000) and think time to get busy, the smart player would look a little more closely at the structure.
Level nine begins with blinds at 3,000-6,000, so your 250,000 is still 41 big blinds. You might also notice that 12 returning players have less than your quarter million: you have fold equity against the big stacks, and can put the shorties all in. It’s not so bad.
Play is now under way on day two, and hand-by-hand coverage continues in the top panel on the High Roller home-page. Among the features you can look forward to in this longer panels will be chats with the aforementioned O’Dwyer, plus an introduction to the idiosyncratic Artem Litvinov.
We will be catching up with Ilari Sahamies, and also be looking more closely at the kind of strategy the high rollers employ. We’ll also trace the progression of High Roller events around the world, and keep an eye on the ladies event taking place simultaneously.
In short: stick around. This is going to be a busy curtain raiser to a packed season.