A quick report from 888Live Barcelona revealing that Fernando Pons has joined the 888Poker ambassadorial team and Maria Lampropulos has won the €2,200 High Roller.
There is a man with a big bushy beard and a fez. He’s playing the accordion. There is a gathering of children. A monkey, on a leash, goes to each kid in the crowd, tin cup in hand.
He’s got the wrong pitch.
None of the kids has money.
The monkey comes to me, and for an instant, I see his head on a table, and some old biddy dressed to the nines is scooping his brains with a dessert spoon.
It’s the closest to begging I have seen since I arrived in Barcelona several days ago.
I love this city.
You could argue that it’s the home of poker in Europe.
It doesn’t matter who comes to town, once you set up shop in the Casino Barcelona, rockets illuminate the stars, and like the three wise men all those orbits ago, poker players come flocking to pay their homage to the Poker Gods.
This week, it’s 888Poker’s turn to call this lovely little piece of land home. 888Live unfurled its banners and sigils on the 24th May and will march away on the 4th June with its head held high.
I arrived on the night of Day 1B of the €1,100 buy-in, €500,000 Guaranteed Main Event. The 888 team gathers on the veranda. It’s a prime opportunity for me to pinch a few personalities for an interview or six.
Chris Moorman is missing, the pull of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) dragging his ass back across the Atlantic after playing in the €220, €100,000 Guaranteed Opening Event. Dominik Nitsche is somewhere else in the world, playing for a gazillion bucks. Kara Scott is having a baby. Otherwise, everyone else is here.
The 888 brass sit down with their ambassadors, the crew, and the invited media. There is more hugging than at Burning Man. It’s delightful. And for the briefest of moments, you forget about the fat hidden underneath your too-tight t-shirt.
I hear the World Poker Tour (WPT) bang on about it, and I believe it, and I see it present here. These are not people chained to a contract forced to tweet corporate nonsense for a living. You can tell they are here because they want to be here. Former world champions, TV presenters and Twitch phenoms. An eclectic mix, all brought together because they share similar values to the 888Poker express train.
Fernando Pons Joins The Crew; Maria Lampropulos Wins The High Roller
I always feel welcome whenever I am with 888.
I often ask myself, “Why?”
Why invite me to these events when there are so many writers that could be taking my place.
Often I feel bribed, psychologically, but not here. The team hug the life out of me and let me do my thing. And it’s good to be in the heart of a poker room’s live operation because you can feel the beating of the pulse.
And the Spanish players love 888.
I learned last night that Fernando Pons is the latest person to wear an 888 ambassadorial patch. It’s not the first time that Pons has done so. You may remember that he qualified for the 2016 WSOP Main Event playing online at 888Poker, and wore a patch during his ninth-place finish.
The poker millionaire joins the World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE) Main Event winner, Marti Roca, with the responsibility of looking after the Spanish side of the new European Shared Liquidity Market (seriously, this trifecta needs a new name). More will follow, I am sure.
As I walk amongst the field, I realise that it’s the first time that I have witnessed a live event with the shot clock in use. The implementation is seamless. I cannot for the life of me see why it’s taking everyone else so long to follow suit.
The other thing I notice is the high number of women playing in the event. It seems the Barcelona boys are not the only gender who likes to gamble.
It was the same in the High Roller.
Maria Lampropulos, who seems to win anything she enters these days, beat a final table that included Isabel Baltazar to take the €2,200 High Roller title the night before I arrived. The PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) Main Event and partypoker MILLIONS UK winner, cut a deal when heads-up with Albert Flores that saw her bank €49,100 with Flores taking €49,360, leaving €5k and the trophy to play for. Baltazar finished third for €27,000.
When I first walked into a thriving poker room, it was a WSOPE side event in London way back in 2009. The PokerNews host who met me at the time told me that an excellent live reporter has to know at least 50% of the field to make it in this game.
As I walk around the Casino Barcelona, I know hardly anyone.
I think I saw Surinder Sunar.
But that’s it.
And yet there are 709 entrants in this field.
The winner picks up €140,550.
As I said, the Spaniards love their poker, and it seems they also love a bit of 888.