Casino Sanremo stands as one of the more glamorous venues on the European Poker Tour schedule. It’s not just the building itself, a 1905 liberty-style monument to glamour and excess (like the Gold Coast in Las Vegas), but also the interior, one of polished marble, vast paintings, and state of the art security. This place looks like the kind of casino people who don’t go to casinos imagine casinos.
Outside, amid the geraniums and the armed security guards, are the Maseratis, the Ferraris and the Bentleys of the gambling classes, inside watching balls spin round roulette wheels and trying to understand the rules to baccarat.
They do that in the ballroom, which was formerly the home of the main event. But this year there have been a few changes, with the playing area switched from the ballroom to the former gaming floor which now buzzes with a different kind of energy. Instead of blackjack and craps, it’s Jack Ellwood and Salvatore Crapanzano.
The effect is cauldron like, although in the first levels of day one there isn’t much brewing. The playing area is encircled by a movable rail as though staff are afraid they may lose a player if they’re not penned in. The casino staff are ruthless when it comes to keeping players in the tournament area, and spectators out.
Inside the rail is a cast of players, many of whom could afford one of the cars parked outside if they had any concept of money, has made it to town to play the opening day, a mixture of champions and local hopefuls including Mike McDonald, Ana Marquez, Scott Seiver, Mickey Petersen and Andrew Frankenberger.
There’s also a rare sighting of Harrison Gimbel and also Joe Hachem who has made the trip around the world. Dan O’Brien also players, as do David Baker and Martin Jacobson, fresh from a morning jog along the coast.
Outside the rail are those other regulars, the extras who make a poker tournament more authentic.
There’s the young eager looking boy with the backpack, the expectant young girl watching an expectant young boy play cards on the other side of the room. There’s the older lady on a stolen chair waiting for the break that never seems to come, the even older lady in the expensive shoes and gold jewellery, the old guy with the cygnet ring walking the rail with his shirt buttons undone. It’s how people who have never been to a poker tournament imagine a poker tournament.
Follow the action, on the inside of the rail at least, on out live feed, which you can find here.