I was sitting in the hotel lobby bar of the Casino Copenhagen last month at noon on the day before the big EPT tournament was due to start. I couldn’t help likening the scene to the movie Ocean’s Twelve, a big-budget caper that can spawn 13 sequels, all with the same comedic cast.
Dave “El Blondie” Colclough was already there, coming in a day early to get over travel lag, and he was on well-purposed beelines between his room and the poker, a bemused smile and owlish expression on his face for the faces he knew. In strode Kevin O’Connell straight up to the bar, loud and forthright and seeming to say, “What’s this country all about, then?” The Hendon Mob zipped in, four abreast, shaking hands and telling stories as they spread through the room. You always know the Devilfish is coming long before he arrives; he’s the king, and he sends advance notice to instill fear in the others’ hearts so that when he finally does step into the scene, with a behemoth bodyguard clearing a wake for his path and keeping the minions at bay, you know that the champ is in town. And the Scandinavians, of course, entered the premises in groups of two, three, and five. You can spot a Scandinavian poker player from a mile away: jeans, suitcase, expensive boots, and a laptop; spiky blond hair, not a day over 25, and a front pocket bulging with a rolled wad of cash.
By 8 p.m., most everyone was present — the English, the Irish, the Dutch, the Swedes, and some random Americans, Finns, and French. The bar was packed, with draught beer flowing, cigarettes smoking, and laughter to beat the band. You could step into any group, any scene, any conversation, and you were welcome, because a poker movie was being filmed and the opening credits had rolled.
Simon and Garfunkel once sang, “It’s all happening at the zoo.” And in the cacophony of activity that is today’s European televised poker market, it really is happening, all right now. Challenge TV will soon air Celebrity Poker Club, with James Hewitt, Mike Tindall, and comedian Johnny Vegas, who will provide the best walk-off from a poker table since Mike Matusow threw his chair. Sky Sports is hosting the Ladbrokespoker.com Poker Million, with a real million dollar prize, which is set to air in prime time in August. The Poker Channel is launching on a UK Sky digital platform poker shows around-the-clock. William Hill is soon entering the game, with auditions being held for poker presenters and gambling junkies for the launch of a new gambling channel. Scandinavia is in the mix, with Poker Champs sponsoring a Danish television tournament and the Nordic Masters being filmed for Swedish TV. Don’t forget Eurosport, where the European Poker Tour airs every Friday in every country and every language, and a roaring crowd cheers the final tables on. And then there are the repeats, from America and Europe, filling the channels. It’s all happening at the zoo, and if you like to watch poker on television any hour of every day, just pull up your chair.
It was late into the night on day one of the Copenhagen EPT Situs Poker Online 2021 tournament, and the remaining 30 or so players had just gone on break. The fastest man in Europe, Hendon Mobster Ram Vaswani, diddled out to the bar to get some air and gather support for his run at the title. Ram had just set a personal record upstairs by folding nearly five hands on the trot, and he clearly liked his chances in the late goings-on. “How’s it going, Ram?” asked the steady Joe Beevers, who is one of the top last-longer bets in the history of poker, but had been unluckily bounced in the early play. “Well, Joe,” said Ram, “take it from me. It’s all about patience!”
What does it take to be a world champion? I had the pleasure of interviewing WSOP title holder Greg Raymer recently. The cameras were rolling and the sound man had zeroed in, and I asked Raymer the question, “What about luck?” Raymer spoke and he spoke, while my jaw dropped open, his knowledge deep as the sea. Six minutes later, Greg summed it all up. “But most people,” he said, “don’t understand Delta Six.”