Going GloBal with Gloria Balding
Yesterday I woke up on the Baltic Sea. I went to sleep hearing the Mediterranean outside my window. To be fair though, I didn’t wake up on the Baltic; I never went to sleep. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Rewind to early August. The weeks after the World Series of Poker are bittersweet. I get to rest, but walking into the Amazon daily has a Pavlovian effect on me. I get used to the grind, long work hours, and peaks and valleys of friends winning and busting, so the post-WSOP time always gives me the doldrums. And then PokerStars' European Poker Tour season seven came along.
EPT: Excellent People Turnout
I secretly judge players. I split them into two categories: those who play EPTs and those who don’t. I have been in poker for five years now and think the EPT is a tournament like no other. So when it was announced that the EPT was kicking off in Tallinn, I was thrilled. I have a long-standing history with Tallinn. I was an exchange student in Helsinki, Finland, at the age of 17. The drinking age in Helsinki was 18 and in Tallinn it was 16. Every few weeks, my friends and I would take the ferry a few hours to Tallinn and, well, drink ourselves silly. EPT Tallinn, also meant I could use my rusty Finnish on unwilling victims. Oh yeah, and there was poker.
Can’t say Tallinn without All In:
Tallinn garnered 420 players, more than expected, but it was an EPT sausage fest with only four of those players women. I was happy to see the returning pros I have gotten to known over the years. Hands down, one of my favorite highlights was the appearance of French poker journalist Benjo Gallen. When anyone from the media appears at the felts, I get excited, partly because I secretly like to fantasize about playing a big buy-in myself, so I live vicariously through other media members. I interviewed Benjo right before he busted, only to walk into the media room after he busted to see this. Poker people are sass monkeys.
After-hours on tour stops are when the magic happens. Tallinn was no different. The party had a slew of models brought in to "sex up the joint." Until the open bar kicked in, it looked like a junior prom. Boys were on one side, girls giggling and pointing on the other. I have often accused players of being big kids, but it's quaint moments like this that affirm it is true. Once the ice was broken, it was a great time. One of the best parties I can remember. It was refreshing to not be the only girl on the dance floor.
Vive la After Party:
If you followed the EPT at all last season, you'll know Arnaud Mattern. Not only is he a Frenchman who can play poker (weird I know!), but he is also one the most generous players around, to friends and media alike. So naturally, the deeper he made it in the tournament and the more chips he got, I was ecstatic. He started the final table as chip leader, only to have things not go his way. Ultimately, Norwegian player and amateur juggler, Kevin Stani won the title and €400,000. However, Mattern threw a big celebration for his third-place finish. All the EPT family of players and media alike found themselves in Old Town Tallinn drinking beer until the wee hours among medieval buildings. We closed up when the sun came up, packed up and headed to the airport.
Three flights, two layovers, and one very bored Turkish gate agent later, I and cameraman extraordinaire Ash Koek cleared Cypriot customs to cover the Second Annual Full Tilt Poker Merit Cyprus Classic. It is so hot and humid here that I can’t wear glasses. I walked into the hotel to check in and the Mizrachi’s were chatting with Chino Rheem. Everyone is beside themselves that Ivey may be coming. Either way, I say "bring it on Cyprus."
Check out Gloria's video interviews from EPT Tallinn and the Merit Cyprus Classic and follow the PokerNews Live Reporting blog for all the updates from the felt.