The 100th EPT Main Event deserved a memorable bubble and this tournament in Barcelona somehow managed to deliver it. It was an almost never-ending bubble period, which even now hasn’t quite finished.
Actually, Barcelona is the perfect place for this kind of thing, given its recent form. Take last year when a bizarre case of a missing player meant that everyone on the bubble who was in the room finished in the money. It was the happiest bubble I’ve ever seen.
The bubble crowds gathering
And so, like any bubble, today’s began a couple of places off the money. The general murmur around the room got a little louder and people began to stand up quite a lot. This serves as an endless source of irritation to staff, who spend all their efforts trying to keep a handle on the reality of what’s going on around them without players losing count, and with players blocking their view of the room.
But you can hardly blame a man for standing and walking around during such an extended period of hand-for-hand waiting. So they go for walks, which is what Viacheslav Goryachev of Russia did, leaving behind his stack of 10,000, which had just had the blinds go through them like a dose of salts.
This was taking an awfully long time. But then, a glitch in the matrix. A first all-in. Then a second. Then another, and another and another. Good grief, there’s a sixth. What mess was this going to cause? How does this work? And what’s going to happen to that beautiful guitar? A string each?
For the chop: The bubble guitar
The effect was merry hell, a mass of people all standing up, and now with good reason. It seemed like every table had an all-in. It seemed like every player was all-in. At once everyone looked at risk and guaranteed a safe passage through the bubble at the same time: six all-ins, now to be dealt with one-by-one in meticulous agonising detail.
To the first table came The Mob.
This is the bubble mob. There were no pitch forks and burning torches, these were replaced by big sticks with microphones on the end and muscular men carrying heavy cameras, but there are still the militant demands for particular rights–the right to see what’s going on. It’s a crowd that organically springs from nowhere in these moments–players, spectators who have jumped the rail, even the odd member of the casino staff not wishing to miss out. They bustle over, a cartoon cloud of dust around their feet, moving themselves into position and demanding satisfaction.
Daniel Studer (14th from left, white hair), one of the first to bust on the bubble
But the crowds were so thick that they struggled to get close to capture what was taking place. The cameras barged forward, using the quiet threat of a lens to the face to clear the way. But not so the boom men who instead extended their rods to maximum length, their arms reaching high up over their heads, manoeuvring their charge into the right spot.
Then came a pause before the action. The boom man, tattooed biceps bulging, mouthed something to his producer–possibly “For God’s sake get a move on!”–before Toby Stone gave the order to proceed from behind a wall of people.
Toby Stone (23rd from left, with microphone) oversees the last all-in of the bubble
Stone, whose job it is to officiate in such times, spoke into his microphone.
“There are six tables with an all-in call,” he said. Then he addressed the players by their first names. It’s a curious thing. There’s something about this informality that seems the appropriate bedside manner for the bubble. One of these players was about to have a bad day. Be as pleasant and comfortable as possible, like you would to a patient about to be operated on, knowing full well that the surgeon has good days and bad.
Three players were all in, two of whom would bust. But while their fate hung in the balance Stone and The Mob moved on to the next. This one featured Martin Finger and Farid Chati. With everyone in position Stone announced the hand. By the way, it’s worth noting at this point that Finger spent much of the 20 minute he’d spent waiting, trying to conceal giggles.
Martin Finger, still laughing, shakes hands with Farid Chati
Chati turned over his hand, a king-jack of hearts. He’d flopped the nut flush and naturally got his chips in. So it was probably with delight that he watched Finger call. He may even have enjoyed the wait for the microphones and cameras to reach him. But then this pleasant reverie turned into a nightmare. Finger showed four-five. Of hearts. He’d flopped a flush as well–a straight flush.
It’s customary at moments like this to forget about good fortune. The game is never considered more of a skill game than when someone makes a straight flush. Those watching gasped simultaneously, and then, began applauding and congratulating him Finger, as if he had crafted this hand out of raw granite, and with his bare hands. To them it was a marvel of ingenuity. For his part Finger couldn’t stop laughing. Chati? He was out. Well kind of.
Then more hands, the next condemning Randal Flowers into this new purgatory. Then the only double up of this little vignette. Boutros Naim, the only survivor of this extraordinary bubble that was by now both special, and a bit weird.
Randal Flowers, in seat one, awaits his fate
Richard Dubini was not so fortunate. He become the fifth and last player to depart before a big round of applause confirmed that everyone else was in the money after what felt like the longest two-hand bubble in history.
Thankfully our photographer Neil Stoddart is exceptionally tall
Dubini made his way over to what was now a huddle of tournament staff who were plotting a way to get themselves, and the players, out of limbo. Not to mention how to split a seat in the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open five ways. And hell, what about the guitar?
But the rules are clear. At least they were when they were explained by Neil Johnson on EPT Live.
Essentially there is no written rule as this kind of mayhem only ever happens once every few years. But there are two specific rules that were conflicted.
The first states that if two players bust from the same table, then the player with the largest stack finishes higher. If two players bust on the same hand but at different tables, they chop the prize money. But on this occasion both rules came into effect, complicated further by the added value of a Seminole seat, and the Stratocaster. So a decision was made in the best interests of the tournament (over to you Twitter).
It came down to this: a five-handed sit & go. The winner of which collecting the Seminole seat, the guitar and one hell of a story. The others, a divided share of four min-cashes split between five (€6,440 each).
Who is that player? We’ll have full report when it’s finished. Personally I hope it never finishes–a never-ending EPT100 bubble to remember.
Follow all the action from the tournament floor on the main EPT Barcelona page. There’s hand-by-hand coverage in the panel at the top, including chip counts, and feature pieces below. There’s also EPTLive, which is streaming action from Day 3 of the Main Event.
Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.