Table Talk: The Rise and Fall and Rise of FTP… and a Tournament in San Remo

This week, I’m vicariously reporting from San Remo, Italy. Our small café has offered access to their homemade wines, and I am in no position to turn that down. Please join me. We have bread, cheese, and pasta at the ready.

Quite a bit happened in San Remo this week with the European Poker Tour in town, as a plethora of side events added to the players’ schedules and opportunities for EPT glory. The Main Event was, of course, the main event (so cleverly named) of the festival, and the numbers in that tournament were only slightly lower than the previous year. The 2012 Main Event drew 797 players for an €800k first place prize, and the 2011 event showed 837 players in the field with an €800k winner take. Not much of a difference, though the season-opening EPT Barcelona crushed San Remo, as 1,082 players turned up in Spain and the first prize was more than €1 million.

So, Barcelona beat San Remo in terms of players, prize pools, and general popularity. Barcelona has an airport, while players at San Remo need to fly into Nice, France, and cab it down the French Riviera for a few hundred Euros. For San Remo being so far off the beaten flight path, the numbers were solid.

The big news at the beginning of EPT San Remo was that two Team PokerStars Pros – Bertrand “Elky” Grospellier and Eugene Katchalov – settled a bet by cycling from Cannes to San Remo. It was a trip of 118 kilometers, according to their maps, and they were accompanied by a personal trainer and his girlfriend. They made the trip in six hours, which included a stop in Monte Carlo for lunch. I’ve heard of exercising before a tournament to keep the mind sharp, but this was a bit much. And just thinking about all of that exercise makes me thirsty. Scusi, waiter? More vino, per favore?

PokerStars was also busy resurrecting Full Tilt Poker lately. Back on October 2, the new face of FTP was announced to be Gus Hansen. Didn’t he win a hot man competition a few years ago? People Magazine dubbed him the sexiest card shark in 2004 and printed a quote about him from celebrity Mimi Rogers. Oh, how poker has grown up. Back to Hansen, I suppose it makes sense that he’s the face of the revived site, seeing how he’s been able to do that exact same thing to his poker career a number of times. And two days later, it was reported that he made a profit of over $100k at the PokerStars high stakes tables. Gus got his groove back.

A few days ago, Full Tilt received its operating license from the Isle of Man, officially announced its relaunch date as November 6, and even set the next FTOPS poker series for December 2 through 16. That will be FTOPS XXI, for those keeping track. There’s even a countdown-to-launch clock on the Full Tilt website, directly over a box titled “Security and Gaming Integrity.” Probably not a bad idea to put that front and center for everyone to see.

And speaking (still) of Full Tilt, the ever-popular Howard Lederer made the news again this week as he strolled into some high stakes poker rooms in Las Vegas to get into the games. He was first spotted at Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio, then at Ivey’s Room at the Aria. Does anyone else see the irony that he played in Ivey’s Room after slamming Phil Ivey in the Lederer Files videos?

Maybe no one can see past their hatred of Lederer because the forums and social media outlets blew up at the notion that he had the nerve to enter a poker room. No matter my personal beliefs or feelings about Lederer himself, the man is facing his Department of Justice charges head on and has been proven guilty of exactly nothing so far. Many in the poker community are ready to chase him down the cobblestone street with pitchforks, though. Well, on the forums, anyway, seeing as no one confronted the man in person at the casinos.

As for me, I’m a little tipsy, but isn’t everyone in Italy? I’m going to sit here awhile and finish this carafe of wine. Then I’ll hop on my bicycle and … who am I kidding? I’m catching a cab. See you next week.

Jennifer Newell

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