Life on the Road
It's been a crazy busy last month for me, but great in that it was a real mix of work and pleasure. Also, when you do what I do for a job, work is never really a bad thing either as it's so much fun! I started the month with a cheeky girls' weekend away in Stockholm, then caught a flight to Valencia for 5 days in the sunshine before landing at Wembley Stadium for the most unique poker tournament EVER!
Let's start with Sweden as it might seem like a weird option for a weekend away, but it's a really beautiful place to visit and felt so clean and fresh. That also might seem like a weird thing to say but I guess when you live in London (amazing as it is) you get used to the rubbish that fills the streets and the smog in the air. It was a real spontaneous decision to go to Stockholm, as back in 2008 when I was backpacking around the world, I lived with the most amazing Swedish girl, Greta, in Cairns, Australia. We had a lot of fun together there and when she moved on to Darwin, I met up with her again and we made friends with Kayleigh, another British girl, and continued our rampage there, as well as make lifelong friendship with one another.
We had met up several times before now in London, always living life to the max whenever we would meet each other, but this time it was Kayleigh and I's turn to visit Greta in Stockholm. We spent a lot of our trip convinced the man who's apartment we rented was coming back to kill us, after we found a saracen sword, a knife beside the bed and numerous odd photos and clues that he wasn't the most normal of folk. We asked Greta if it was normal in Swedish culture to have these weapons lying around your apartment. She confirmed our fears. But as we continued to have fun catching up with each other, frequenting some of Greta's local bars, dancing in a club on a boat and visiting a nearby island, we slowly forgot about the crazy man and made it through the weekend alive without him paying any surprise visits on us!
Next stop was Valencia in Spain. It was my 3rd trip to Valencia as my boyfriend Chris's dad and grandpa lived here and we would always stay with his grandpa and his 2 dogs, Sid and Rusty. Visiting Valencia was always a chilled out affair as Chris works very hard when in London and we would generally eat a lot of good Spanish food and drink a lot of G&Ts (you get these fishbowls which are amazing!)
What is great about Valencia is the weather. It is rarely bad and when you live in London, sometimes you just need a little sunshine in your life!
There is a large casino in Valencia too, which I haven't actually been to, but I've heard it's pretty good and holds the Estrellas Poker Tour there. If you're visiting for the first time, the park is a fun but chilled place to hang out as sometimes the beach is a little breezy. I know this from first hand experience and a fair amount of sand in my face. Its good to hire bikes as well as the ground is very flat, the park is beautiful to cycle around and it'll cost you around €15 for the day.
So, from Sweden to Spain and back to Blighty for the International Stadiums Poker Tour in Wembley Stadium. I had blogged previously about playing in this unique event which combined live and online poker, but as I was asked to cover the event for PokerNews, I decided against playing it too. It had been fairly controversial before play had started due to the huge overlay of €650k. Nobody knew quite how many runners there might be, some having played day 1 online, others buying directly in to day 2 with the chance to re-register on day 2a or b.
All I knew was it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be covering such an event and I cherished every moment of it. A total of 761 players graced the felt and pitch at Wembley including big names such as Tony G, Sam Trickett, Michael Mizrachi, Liz Lieu and Devilfish. Out of these players Devilfish was the only one to run deep making it to 14th place for €14k. Never shy of a word or two to say, I spoke with him many times throughout his journey. He makes me laugh a lot. Poker needs more characters like Devilfish these days as it makes my job much more fun!! If you didn't see our recap video of the ISPT you can catch it here (its an edited version of the whole event)
This tournament was always about the €1m GTD first prize and so, ok, I will put you out of your suspense. Our winner was Polish player Jakub Michalak, who played the final table from one of the corporate boxes at Wembley (what an amazing view). He spoke to us just after play had ended.
So, from a mad busy June to a slightly quieter July, I am looking forward to the summer in London, if the summer ever comes that is. Good luck to all playing over at the World Series in Vegas, I still hope one day to make it over there but until that day... I'll just have to follow the coverage on PokerNews!
Well, unless you've been living under a rock in the poker world in the UK lately, you will no doubt have heard of a certain tournament called the ISPT happening at Wembley during the summer months. Who wouldn't want a chance to play at Wembley? I know I certainly do, so that's why I am blogging about it now! There has been a lot of advertising the last few months for various freerolls happening over Facebook and Twitter, which I'm sure will be inundated with players trying to grab a few square inches of the infamous grass pitch graced by the feet of Becks and co. I couldn't decide whether I wanted to freeroll with everyone else, where the standard of play probably wouldn't be quite as tough as the blogger's freeroll, or go with the blogging minority where the standard of play will probably be pretty aggro but a bit thinner on the ground. I am going for the latter. And I am praying for some serious run-good as my results at the felt have been pretty horrendous of late. WIsh me luck and if you see me at the tables, give me your chips!! Oh, and stop calling me a fish in the chatbox
1,000 International Stadiums Poker Tour Seats GuaranteedThe International Stadiums Poker Tour is your chance to say you played at Wembley. €1 million is guaranteed to the winner. Day ones start live and online from May 11th and day two takes place at the iconic home of English football, Wembley Stadium, between May 31st and June 5th. You can qualify for free at Dusk Till Dawn Poker, where 1,000 €300 Day One seats will be guaranteed in satellites between May 6th and May 24th. To win your seat, all you have to do is: 1. Visit the International Stadiums Poker Tour Schedule Page for details on qualifying. 2. Register an account at Dusk Till Dawn Poker, where you will be automatically credited with a €2 satellite token. 3. If you win a €300 day one seat you can use it online or live in one of 10 day ones being held. You can win multiple tickets as this is a re-entry event. Good luck and see you at Wembley!
Its been ages since my last post. My reason? I have not really been anywhere, well nowhere worth reporting about to the world anyway. Chicago was the last trip I did back in September, where I ate myself silly, so I could barely fit in any of my clothes on my return, but hell it was worth it. I have just returned back from Swtizerland a few days ago, the snowy alpine village of St Moritz in particular, which could be described as one of the poshest places in the world (so posh Prince Edward was there!) It reminded me of Monte Carlo in a way that all the people had the same pinned-back faces, metres of real fur draped around them and a pug dog following behind them. Not my scene at all, but interesting and the landscape was beautiful.
Within a few days of being there, I had trekked up to the Bobsleigh club to have a little gander at what went on up there. There were bobsleigh, skeleton and cresta races every morning for those nuts enough to put their bodies through that. I had always wanted to go in a bobsleigh since I was about 8 years old, watching the Winter Olympics at home with my family. Then when 'Cool Runnings' came out, which was such a classic film, it publicised the sport even more and never in my wildest dreams did I think I would actually ever get the chance to do it. St Moritz was not just any place to do this as well. It was THE place to do it, being the oldest bobsleigh track in the world (1904) and the only one that was naturally refrigerated. Funnily enough some of the locals also told me the film was very close to the truth and the Germans really were that ruthless when it came to winning their Olympic medals!
Visitors can walk down beside the track to wait which I did when I got there. As you walk down beside the track you start to hear a faint rumbling in the distance which quickly gets louder then with a flash of colour the bobsled has past, vamoosh, so quick I don't recommend trying to take a photo!
I wasn't really that worried about going down the run as I knew a professional, Olympic driver and braker would be at the front and back. It might sound a bit big-headed but being the thrillseeker I am, I had jumped out of planes, hang-glided off cliffs, bungy-jumped and dived with sharks before, so I was like 'pah, this will just be like a rollercoaster', but I'll have you know it was no picnic in the park!! I had been told before we set off to try and keep my head up as much as possible because if I let it drop, I wouldn't be able to pull it back up because of the G-Force and then I wouldn't be able to see anything, so with that impaled in my mind, I prepared for the green light. Casual as I was about it, my tummy fluttered a little at this point which I think was pretty normal.
I couldn't believe how quickly the pace actually picked up from just a little push at the start line. As the speed continued to increase, I felt my eyes start to water and my face get colder from the wintery breeze and snow that was also falling. There had been no bends at this point and I was already screaming, much to the amusement of the driver who I was clinging on to as well. Then, suddenly as the bob turned the first bend, named 'Sunny Corner' I thought my heart was going to leap out of my mouth.
It took me totally by surprise, so much so I actually shut up. I find I usually scream and shout when I am having fun but when I am really s*** scared I am just quiet. My eyes were beginning to stream hopelessly and every time we hit a bend my helmet smashed back and forth on each side of the bob, which probably frightened me the most. After the initial first bend, i got more used to the feeling and started to scream again. We got up to around 100mph which seems mental when you imagine a car going that fast and the bends we were hitting. The 1.2 kilometer long steep slick ice track drops 514 feet with the average race time taking just 75 seconds, though it felt much faster in fact. It all happens within seconds but it is a real thrill to experience it. While the run is over in under two minutes the adrenaline and memory will last a lifetime and I am definitely glad I can tick the experience off my bucket list!
Oh, I did go skiing as well. But that was boring compared!
Back to poker and with the London Poker Festival already having started I am very excited to be helping out PokerNews and PokerStars.tv at EPT London. We start filming on Saturday, ready for the tournament to officially begin on Sunday 10th at The Vic, so I hope to see everyone down there at the felt. Good Luck!!
After the Olympics taking over London and the mammoth amount of sport I found myself watching over the summer, finally it was time for another trip, this time across the pond to The Windy City known as Chicago. I'd wanted to visit Chicago for quite some time only having heard great things about the place, but it was one of those places I probably never would have booked a flight to, so receiving a wedding invite to a celebration there was a perfect solution, especially when you're boyfriend is the best man!
As soon as we arrived in Chicago, we could instantly tell it was somewhere we were going to love. Driving past the lake, the beautiful blue sky and sunshine reflected on the water, shimmering and glistening taking away our tiredness and impending jetlag doom. Our friends took us to a place called The George Street Pub (GSP) where we soaked up the American way of life watching all the sports play out on a Saturday afternoon and learning the appropriate chants (Bears, Steelers... you name it I know 'em all now). This place became our local hangout, purely for the chicken strips which were deep fried in beer batter and something which we came to rely on slightly too heavily. Whilst on the subject of food, Chicago, wow she made me really fat. I didn't dare set foot on some scales, but my guess is I put on at least half a stone out there. It didn't help staying with four boys, all of whom were persistent that we frequent each and every place made famous by "Man V Food". I could explain it, but I will leave you with the pictures instead.
So yes, you can imagine. Food featured heavily on our trip stateside. We ate more than I could even imagine and I hope I have successfully given some food envy. I've definitely made myself hungry posting all these pics anyway. However, Chicago wasn't just about food as we were there for a wedding which culminated our ten days there. Aside from the wedding and the food I had some other memorable times including meeting a new cheerleading friend, who kept me company when the boys disappeared on the bachelor party to Vegas (the less said about that the better). Meridith was celebrating her 21st birthday when she stumbled across me reading my book in a bar. Yeah ok, granted I wouldn't normally read a book in a bar but desperate times folks and my plan worked to meet some fun people, who bought me no end of disgusting tasting shots. Meridith had decided she just had to braid my hair "cheerleader american style" as well, so lots of shots and lots of braids; clearly a winning combo. We even swapped clothes. I have no idea why.
We also decided it was a must to climb to the top of the Sears Tower, the tallest building on the Eastern side of the world (behind the Petronas towers in Kuala Lumpur). When I say "climb", obviously I mean get in the elevator. The views were quite simply stunning of Chicago and the surrounding areas including Lake Michigan. if you find yourself up there, I would highly recommend the guided tour to tell you what everything is.
There was shopping, drinking, swimming in the lake, a bit more eating, an architectural boat tour along the Chicago RIver, a visit to Kingston Mines Blues Club to watch Eddie Grant perform, the rehearsal dinner and then finally one of the most beautiful weddings I had ever been to. Chris delivered his Best Man's Speech well, without offending too many Americans, then we danced and danced into the wee small hours of the morning, taking the wedding out of its usual environment and into the nightclubs on the high street. Yes, even the bride in her dress! My final picture sums up what a fantastic experience we had and how many new friends we made at our American Wedding
Chicago - I Love You!
Only a few months ago, London was becoming increasingly familiar with the usual moany rants about how the Olympics would probably be a let down, just like the British summer. We never have much hope in our nation, just like we never have much hope in our football team, or then again maybe we have too much hope in our (English) football team and they're not actually as good as we would like to think (anyway, that's a totally separate blog), but my point was a LOT of people out there were not expecting much from our city hosting the 2012 Olympics. The only thing spurring me on seemed to be my boyfriend who is always eternally positive about any national or sporting event, so to have two of these aspects combined was really special for him. His optimism wore off on me probably earlier than most others in the Big Smoke and I had convinced my mother I was definitely staying in my city to see this occasion pass us, and if a terrorist was going to decide to detonante a bomb in the thick of it all, well that would just have to be. There were problems with security, people started worrying about overpacked tubes and not getting into work, but the general buzz around the city days before the Olympics started was like something I had never experienced before and surely something I will never experience again.
It was right up until the moment that the Opening Ceremony begun, there was still a hint of judgement in the air. Can we pull this off? Will it be as successful as Beijing? As Danny Boyle's ceremony opened, British people all over the world (and hopefully non-Brits too) shut their mouths, sat back, shared a tear and let a collective pride bloat through their body as they took it all in. A ceremony that was so British in all its essence, from staging the Industrial Revolution to multiple Mary Poppins on bicycles to JK Rowling reading to us before bed, our Queen on a secret mission from James Bond and Mr Bean, well just being Mr Bean. I never expected to feel that way. So proud to be British and so part of a team; a very big national team. Suddenly after watching this ceremony, doubts and worries seemed to vanish into nothing. This was our Olympics and we were going to make it the best Olympics there had ever been.
For two weeks, our city became a central focus point. Everyone had their eyes on us and to be part of it all was a great feeling. I could sit and write for hours about all the different events I took in and all of the exciting moments I shared with many friends, but I will be here forever, so I will just share my favourite moment of the Olympics, which happened on Day 8 (04/07/12) and was a Saturday. A day that was the defining moment for us. Jess Ennis ran her heart out in her final event of the heptathlon, the 800m, even though we knew she was picking up the gold, she still pushed it to come first over the line. A few moments later Greg Rutherford jumped the longest jump of his life to also win gold and then Mo Farah finished it all off on a huge high, by spectacularly running the 10,000m leading most of the way and extending his lead as he ran around the final bend to no doubt, raucous cheering all over GB.
I had gone down to Hyde Park with my boyfriend and some other friends on this momentous evening, where the whole place had been transformed for people to enjoy the Olympics. There were many screens with different events on each, adults and children were merry with excitement, pride and of course alcohol (well not the children). So when our three golds all came within an hour of each other, Hyde Park erupted. Spandau Ballet's "GOLD" blasted through the big speakers each and every time; everyone jumped, cheered and befriended their neighbours as bucketfulls of gold confetti sprayed into the crowd. Chris (my boyfriend) got so excited when Mo won the 10,000m, he jumped up so high and ran straight into a group of guys in front of us, knocking down their six pints of beer! Needless to say, spirits were so high, there was no fight about it!
After the sport had finished for the evening, we all wandered down to "Screen 5", the place of the "Official After Party" so we were told and never ones to shy away from an after party we went to embrace the Olympic festivities some more. Before long, we had found some table tennis and about twenty new friends, as we all shared a multiple game of ping pong, each player running around the table to hit the ball (in the dark might I add), with wine/beer in one hand and then running around to the other end while a new player joined their end. We must have played table tennis for hours, with new passers-by joining in the fun as we went along before we were told we had to leave the park about 1am. I didn't want the night to end, it had been so much fun and definitely something I will never forget.
I definitely believe the people of London have been left a little lost with an Olympic hangover the last two weeks. When something so wonderful and jubilant has happened to your city and then it's just taken away, you can only feel a little deflated. However, the deflation doesn't need to last too long as something as, if not more, inspiring will commence this evening - The Paralympics. And I for one, will not be missing any of it. Go Team GB!
To see Laura's new website please visit http://www.lauracornelius.com/
Unless you have been living under a rock in the UK the last month or so, it will have been extremely difficult to ignore the chitter chatter of E.L James erotica trilogy, "Fifty Shades" . Having just enjoyed an extremely girly holiday in the sun, one girlfriend in particular was raving on about how addicted she was to the first two books, and how she had to physically restrain herself until our holiday to get stuck into the third; I felt compelled to give it a go. I always worry when a particular book or film has been "bigged up" to me like this, that it will always fall short and fail with the job at hand, just like Usain Bolt's false start at The World Championships last year (I felt compelled to use that metaphor with the Olympics starting in a week!) And I really couldn't have been more right.
50 Shades of Grey has outsold JK Rowling's Harry Potter books and are set to break the 20 million sold mark this July. That to me is insane. The plot of “50 Shades of Grey” focuses on a young and naïve college student named Anastasia Steele who is seduced by a rich and powerful entrepreneur named Christian Grey. Grey convinces Steele to sign a contract that allows him complete control over her life, in and out of the bedroom. The two characters are contrived, irritating and totally unbelievable. The plot is thin and the vocabulary abysmal. Anastasia's ability to "flush" in certain situations is utterly ridiculous and I would estimate James has used this verb at least five hundred times in the first novel, noticing it was used three times just on one page. Similarly, Christian's tendency to "cock his head" is absurd as he does so probably once every two or three pages. I struggled to understand whether the repetition of these words and expressions were meant as an emphasis or point or whether James just couldn't be bothered to find an ulterior. Either way, I didn't like it.
As I read into the first few pages, I began to get the feeling it wasn't for me as the protagonist was already irking me, so kept asking my friend "how long til the sex bit?" because that's the only reason we all want to read it, surely? So I kept battling on until Anastasia flushed a little more, bit her lip a dozen times and Christian cocked his head at her, at me, at my mum and voila, woohooo, finally some dirtiness! But i just wasn't feeling it by this point. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a prude and have enjoyed reading similarly erotic novels in the past, but I just found this boring. The romanticising of the sado-masochistic side of sex can be seen as a turn-on for some women and men out there, but I just couldn't shy away from the annoying characters James had created and failed to enjoy any of it, even the sexy bits. It just seemed like a modernised Mills & Boon with infuriating characters and a badly written plot. Grey is a colour associated with "boring", they got that bit right. I didn't even finish it. i got 3/4 through and just gave up. Ok, so I read the last paragraph where guess what, Anastasia probably continually flushed straight through into the second.
So, why has this book become such a phenomenon with women all around the world? I really struggle to come up with an answer to this so anyone wishing to enlighten me, please do! Its been referred to as "Mommy Porn", which makes me think women (mothers in particular) are obviously wishing their sex life was akin to Anastasia's and fantasising about their own "Christian Grey", which let me tell you women, is NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN! Are women out there so engrossed in letting dirty fantasy overtake their mind to another world, readily able to forget the screaming baby and husband who is " too tired to have sex tonight darling" that they believe a really badly written book is actually good? God help us all.
Monaco: The second smallest country in the world (behind Vatican City) and a hub for the rich and famous. It is glitzy, full of glamour and very apt for the 2012 PokerStars and Monte Carlo® Casino EPT Grand Final. Season 8 was about to come to an end and we were going to do it in style.
Having come straight from Berlin to Monaco, I was already fighting the fatigue, but to arrive in this Billionaire’s Playground, the sun shining, the sky blue and the Mediterranean glistening a beautiful turquoise, I woke up again. Taking a stroll around the famous Princess Grace Avenue and becoming lost on winding pieces of Grand Prix track, I was made fully aware how beautiful this tiny municipality was. It’s the only place I have been to where instead of getting woken up by a cleaning lady hoovering out in the corridor or banging on my door, I was woken instantaneously by the whirr of a Ferrari engine. Morning, noon and night, all I could hear was fast cars, sounds of laughter, champagne pouring and wads full of money being flashed about. This place wasn’t cheap, but having explored the streets for 2 days before the tournament got underway, I was learning how to economize in a place built for multi-millionaires.
Everywhere we walked, there were signs of the preparation for the Formula One Grand Prix taking place in just a few weeks time. I would have loved to have been in Monaco for this, but we knew having the EPT Grand Final and the F1 Grand Prix at the same time might have been a recipe for disaster in terms of the amount of people in this tiny country. We arrived in Monaco for the poker just the day after the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters tennis took place as well, so I was hoping for a surprise soiree with Raphael Nadal who took it down (unsurprisingly) but it was not to be. I did however meet Djokovich’s economist in the pool doing some lengths at Le Meridien Beach Plaza, who was full of surprisingly interesting conversation and we swapped poker gossip for tennis chat, which pleased me no end.
Here is our sightseeing tour video for Monaco. Please note, obviously as I stated previously Ferraris are everywhere here, but when we are waiting for one to feature in our video, does it want to arrive? The answer is no, but waiting for it did help my tan to progress a lot:
The Grand Final began with the €100,000 Super High Roller event, which to me is an insane amount of money; I still can’t quite get my head around it. Nonetheless, there were still 38 entrants and a total of 45 registrations as players did have a choice to re-register if they lost all their chips at the beginning. This created a prizepool of €4,432,500 and it was just as good Justin Bonomo did decide to re-register when he bust out, because he went on to win the event for €1,640,000. Not bad for 3 days work.
The main event had already got underway by the time Justin had shone in the glory of taking down the Super High Roller title. Play moved pretty quickly through the first few days and we saw a total of 665 players take their seats, creating a prizepool of €6.65m and a first place prize of €1.35m. 5 Team PokerStars Pros made the money, including Max Martinez (Italy) for €15,000, Angel Guillen (Mexico) and Sandra Naujoks (Germany) for €20,000, and Richard Toth (Hungary) and Matthias De Meulder (Belgium) for €30,000. Yet 34th was to be the best place for our Team Pros. Justin Bonomo had also made the money, after not feeling completely satisfied by his win of €1,640,000 in the Super High Roller; he also cashed for €35,000 in 28th place. Yet, it was Mohsin Charania who eventually took the EPT Grand Final down. He was heads-up against French mademoiselle and well-known online player (known as SoMuchB online), Lucille Cailly, who was the only lady to have ever made a final table at the Grand Final. She played superbly with a huge amount of aggression, but Charania just had the edge in the action of a very fast-paced final table.
Now, because this was The Grand Final, things just didn’t end once the winner of the main event had been announced. There was still the €25,000 Hi-Roller, Tournament of Champions and the EPT Awards and party to contend with. (I told you we were going to go out with a bang!) To say Justin Bonomo was running-good was an understatement. He wins the Super Hi-Roller, cashes in the main and now suddenly becomes chipleader going into the final table of the €25,000 Hi Roller. He didn’t eventually win it, but he still made 4th place for another €266,000. Madness. We left it to Daniel Negreanu and Igor Kurganov to battle it out for the €1,080,000 first prize, yet it was Kurganov who eventually took this one down, though we could tell Daniel really wanted his first EPT title. There was always the party, which we of course saw him at partying away until the wee small hours of the morning. As I prepared for the EPT Awards and my final night in the Billionaire’s Playground, Christophe Benzimra was busy winning the Tournament of Champions (with EPT Loutraki Champ Zimnan Ziyard coming 2nd and EPT Deauville Champ Jake Cody in 3rd) netting themselves a huge amount of buy-ins for Season 9 on the EPT.
Head over to the www.pokerstars.tv homepage to see the EPT Awards and Party, which show some of the winners for Player of the Year, Online Qualifier of the Year, Player’s Choice, Achievement of the Year and Country of the Year. No doubt about it, Season 8 and all its 13 stops had been a whirlwind of poker, travel and fun explorations, but we have even more hope and anticipation for Season 9 on the greatest poker tour of them all, the EPT.
I adore Berlin. It has such an edge of coolness about it I was so excited to return there for the penultimate EPT of the season. Having a good friend living there also helped me to enjoy the experience much more. Before the main event kicked off, I went out to celebrate my German friend’s birthday and get to know the Berlin way of life a little better than I had done before. It was a Sunday night and apparently the best night of the week to go out (that was a statement from a Berliner, so its pretty concrete.) We started in a Swiss restaurant called ‘Helvetia’ in Kreuzberg where we ate a cheese fondue. It was insanely tasty and cheap. In fact, I wasn’t really looking forward to it so much, I mean, how can a bit of bread and cheese be that great? But trust me, it was. I couldn’t stop dunking my bread into the hot runny cheese sauce. Just thinking about it now is making my mouth salivate, so really, if you come to Berlin, you must try and find Helvetia of you like cheese. The address is Mariannenstrasse 50, 10997 Berlin. Go. Go. Go! After stuffing ourselves silly, we went out for a few more drinks and the others carried on to a club a little later, but having day 1a the next day, I thought I better go with the sensible option and opt for an early night, well 2am.
The day before we had also gone out to explore the city and all its history. There was of course a lot of history and I always loved coming to look at some of the old pieces of the Berlin wall that were still visible for the world to see. We had never visited the TV tower before, so felt we should take in the whole experience and see Berlin from up in the clouds and from a 360o view. There’s no need for you to do the same though, as it’s all here for you to take a look in the welcome video!
We knew Berlin was going to be a huge field right before the Grand Final and we weren’t wrong. We played 10 levels on both day 1a and 1b, which was pretty unheard of. Yet, it meant our total field of 750 players had been reduced to 102 by the end of Day 2, so ultimately it was a good thing. Many Team PokerStars Pros had gathered at the felt to try and conquer EPT Berlin, but it was not to be. German Team Pro Jan Heitmann made it the furthest by coming 29th and taking home €17,500. It was such a pleasure to see Jan as well because he was such a great person and didn’t frequent all the tour stops. In fact, I think it had been a whole year since I had seen him at last EPT Berlin. He was willing to get involved and make my videos fun, including making a rather silly video, which showed off his piano talents a lot more than mine.
As we got closer to the final table, although no Team Pros remained, we did have the chance of a Double Crown Champion as former EPT Berlin Champion Kevin Macphee, EPT Copenhagen Champion Anton Wigg and EPT Snowfest Champion Vladimir Geshkenbein all still remained in the final 19 players. However this hope was also short-lived, as Macphee bust in 19th, Wigg in 14th and Geshkenbein in 10th, even though the Russian did have his lucky monkey looking after his chips and his token alcoholic beverage next to him.
However, the final table was still an exciting one, with Canadian Andrew Chen and Belgian Davidi Kitai being the two players with most notable performance history and indeed making it to heads-up. Kitai held the chiplead for most of the day though it did pass to Chen a few times once the players had reduced. It was not a particularly long heads-up battle either, which was great seeing as our video team had to leave Berlin at 5am to get to Monaco (with a 4 hour stopover in Dusseldorf – its not all glamour!!) Davidi Kitai had become the first ever Belgian EPT Champion and the Belgians were having a great run recently for sure. He spoke to Lynn and I after play and here is the interview he did with Lynn:
So onward bound to Monaco, with no break in between Berlin and The Grand Final. I had my bags packed full of food as I had heard it was a little pricey in this glamorous principality. I just hoped it didn’t all fall out on the flight and smother my dresses! Until next time, auf wiedersen!
I had been to Lake Como once a few years back and was absolutely mesmerized by it, so to find out Campione was close by and a similar setting to Como (perched on the shore of Lake Lugano) excited me very much. It really did not disappoint either. I met Mantyvdas, my Lithuanian cameraman at the airport in Milan and from there we took an hour cab to Campione, through winding roads and picturesque scenery. One moment we were in Italy and then the next, we found ourselves in Switzerland. I was confused at first with what country we were actually in and what language we should speak, but after a little investigation work, it became clear Campione, although in Switzerland was an Italian territory and was definitely much more Italian than Swiss. Thank god, I thought as my preference for Italian food was way higher than Swiss. Yep, I’m always thinking about food. A view of the lake:
I woke early the next morning as the sun streamed through the curtains. As I pulled them back I stood in awe of the beautiful view of Lake Lugano from my window. It was absolutely breathtaking and I couldn’t wait to get out and explore. A little more investigation work down the line and I discovered that actually 68% of the lake was in Switzerland, while the remainder in Italy. That could only express the immensity of this stretch of water. Little sailing boats glided peacefully along and a few older people were spotted out walking their canine pooches, though it was surprisingly quiet out and about. It was such a tranquil setting though, quiet and peaceful was just as it should have been. Luckily we took our video camera:
It was decided that EPT Campione would have 2pm starts, instead of our usual 12pm, which suited me down to the ground (and more than likely the players as they are never of the variety to rise early!) I had brought my tennis racket with me as I had just started to pick up the hobby from years back, so one morning it was great to get out and play before the tournament started and the clay courts were literally right next to the lake. I had never played with such beautiful scenery next to me. Needless to say I didn’t win, but I picked up some great tan! The weather was sublime every day and I do bring a little golden glimmer back to London town. One tip I must offer though, if you are thinking of making it out to Campione in the future, try not to ever get a taxi, they are the most expensive taxis probably in the world! There is a little bus that goes back and forth from Capione to Lake Lugano which costs a few euros and it is much more economical!
As always many Team PokerStars Pros joined us for this Italian leg of the tour, the majority taking part of Day 1b. As we were approaching the end of Season 8 too the race for points for EPT Player of the Year was also hotting up, with just a few hundred points separating Czech player Ondrej Vinklarek and the notorious welshman Roberto Romanello. I took to the tournament floor to find out who our pros thought should be EPT Player of the Year and the majority said Steve O'Dwyer who is currently in 3rd place, but we'll have to wait until the end of Season 8 to find out who wins.
By Day 4, no Team PokerStars Pros remained, Liv Boeree having made it the furthest with a 51st place finish and cash for €9,000. Yet still we had an interesting field of players with a lot of playing experience including the likes of Fabrice Soulier, Per Linde and David Vamplew. We had all just escaped our hangovers by this time too as the EPT Players party was on the evening of Day 2 and on a boat. Yes! A boat! This is the view of the casino once the boat set sail (or turned the engine on).
As the final table emerged it became clear we had a great line up with a lot of experience and all players from different countries, which was interesting really seeing as 42% of the field were Italian. The final table was no breeze and 4 handed play seemed to last a lifetime as the big stack went to the short stack and then kept doubling up. It was not until 4am that the end was nigh and Jannick Wrang became the third consecutive Dane to win an EPT. Mickey Petersen took down EPT Copenhagen; Frederik Jensen had Madrid under his belt and now Wrang had Campione in the bag. He was extremely happy to have beaten American pro Olivier Busquet heads-up, for Busquet had the reputation as one of the best heads-up players in the world. Wrang had also qualified online on pokerstars.com in a €109 rebuy satellite, claiming his €640,000 first place win had initially only cost him €309. Not a bad profit! Here is Jannick Wrang shortly after winning:
Just around 2 weeks back at home in London, time to un-pack the bags, put the washing on, catch up with some car-crash telly, see my friends and then its back on the road to Berlin for a 3 week trip covering back to back EPTs for the end of the season. Bring. It. On.
Madrid was one of the EPT stops I had already frequented, as The EPT Grand Final in Season 7 had been held there last May. When we explored the city, I wanted to do something a little different to what we had seen before, so I did my usual research into the capital city and decided we would explore Madrid from a completely different perspective. Of course, if you haven’t been to Madrid, then don’t let me entice you away from hitting the usual tourist spots. Plaza de Mayor is always lively and a great place to sit, eat some calamares and other tapas, drink some sangria and watch the world go by, just like the Spaniards do. However, beware not to go and have your lunch at a normal time like us British or other Europeans who would have a lunch, at say 1pm or 2pm, but switch yourself onto a later time zone and grab your tapas at around 4.30pm. This means when you’re getting ready to go out in the evenings too, you must not go out and start drinking in bars until around 11pm and even hit the club until about 1 or 2am! Yep, the Spaniards are a very relaxed bunch and it is imperative to get into the general swing of things! So, getting back to our different perspective. I decided to take our viewers on the teleferico. Here I am with Kristy Arnett!
Seeing as we didn’t visit the home of Real Madrid on the last stop either, I thought it was a must this time to see The Santiago Bernabeu stadium and it really didn’t disappoint. In fact we loved it so much that we went on the stadium tour and then a few days later we went to watch a Champions League game where home side, Real Madrid thrashed CSKA Moscow 4-1 to make it into the quarterfinals. The football took place on Day 2 of the poker and because so many players wanted to go and watch the game, the EPT event staff shortened the day so we only played 5 75minute levels. It was an absolutely exhilarating experience, I cannot begin to explain the amount of fun we had watching the game and enjoying the evening afterwards, but I hope the picture helps!
After a shorter day 2, it was inevitable that day 3 was going to be a long one. Especially after our jovial party spirits after Real Madrid won the football game as well. The total field of players had been 477 and day 3 saw us play down from 122 to just 3 tables of 8 players, ie 24 players. We had been inundated with Team PokerStars Pros on Day 1b, including the likes of Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier, Eugene Katchalov, Theo Jorgensen and many former EPT Champions such as Jake Cody, Mike McDonald and Kevin MacPhee. Yet as the days progressed the Team Pros seemed to diminish and it was left to Alex Kravchenko to fly the flag as he became the last Team Pro standing. It wasn’t to be flown for too long though unfortunately, as the Russian bust out 35th, taking home €11,000 for his 3 day’s work (72 places were paid and it was McLean Karr who bubbled the event.)
The play on Day 4 was fast and furious which saw no end of betting and bluffing. A few were sad to see Mike McDonald bubble the final table and the hopes of a double EPT crown were dashed, nonetheless our final 8 contenders seemed like a good mixed bunch with a good standard of play under most of their belts.
The final table was indeed good fun to watch, most of it done via the EPT Live stream into our pressroom, with players from Spain, France, Israel, Denmark and Scotland – a very diverse and dynamic mix. The chiplead changed hands a fair amount of times until Frederik Jensen, the Dane eventually took the lead for the first time and never gave it back. We braced ourselves for a long evening of poker as we didn’t go heads-up until around 22.30. After last EPTs 6 hour marathon heads-up session between online team member Mickey Petersen and Team Pro Pierre Neuville, anything was possible. However we were greatly surprised by Jensen who got heads-up with Scottish dad of four, Fraser McIntyre for exactly 15 minutes and ended the whole event before midnight. A Dane wins EPT Copenhagen, a Dane now wins EPT Madrid. There was no mistake about it, the Danish standard of poker was a high one!
So from the land of flamenco and castanets, sangria and bullfighting, back to London town, a place called home for just 5 days and then its time for more pizza and pasta at EPT Campione next week. I can’t wait!