Having only started covering the PokerStars European Poker Tour toward the end of Season 3, PokerListings.com missed the opportunity to visit Copenhagen one year ago. Now, with the EPT firmly installed as a major component of our full-spectrum assault on global tournament coverage, we were finally able to visit the home of the Scandinavian Poker Open.
Our trip started last night at the Scandinavian Poker Awards, hosted by this tour's generous aforementioned sponsor. Not only the night on which a select few Scandinavian players gain recognition for their performances in the last year, the party gave media and players alike the chance to relax and regroup for the tournament to come. Not to mention make a few well-timed trips to the club's open bar.
Ferried from the Radisson Scandinavia Hotel, which the majority of the tournament field is calling home for the next few days, we arrived at the Vega nightclub, which we would call home for the next few hours. After a short period of social interaction the lights dimmed and our attention was directed to the stage at the front of the room.
From the dark recesses of the wings emerged one Daniel Negreanu who, as the premier and most loquacious member of Team PokerStars, would be acting as master of ceremonies for the show. Negreanu, being his usual charmingly frenetic self, made a short speech and then quickly moved on to the presentation of the awards.
Four categories were announced but, before the night was over, five awards would be handed out. Best Live Player honors went to Denmark's Gus Hansen and as Negreanu handed over the trophy the two reminisced about the infamous set-over-set-turned-quads hand which may be one of the most talked-about confrontations on television's High Stakes Poker.
The award for the Best Online Player went to Sweden's Jonas Danielsson and the prize for Best Rookie was given to Trond Eidsvig, who has already made two final tables on this season of the EPT.
Annette Obrestad, in an unusual turn of events for a poker awards show, took down two trophies, for Best Female as well as Best Performance. Having won the first-ever WSOP Europe Main Event, as well as coming painfully close to taking down the EPT Dublin a few months ago, Obrestad certainly merited both awards.
Although only four awards had been announced prior to the ceremony, there turned out to be a fifth and it was this one that garnered the biggest response from the audience. In a surprise, one-off Lifetime Achievement award segment, Negreanu presented Thor Hansen the last title of the evening.
After a few more drinks and a bit of conversating it was time to call it a night and begin preparation for the real reason we came all the way to Denmark, the tournament.
Play began at 2 p.m. sharp, a charitable start time given the shenanigans of last night. Only one half of the 460-strong field was forced to turn out, giving the other 230 another 24 hours to recuperate. This event has been sold out for some time so we already had a good idea of who to expect at the tables today.
Amid the sea of Scandinavian faces, both recognizable and not, were a few North Americans, the majority of them sporting sporty PokerStars patches. Negreanu, Bill Chen, Christian Harder and Sorel Mizzi were all in attendance to attempt to steal the prized Scandinavian Open title from its home here in Denmark.
Many a pro, both European and otherwise, came into the day with high hopes of following in last year's champion's footsteps. One year ago Sweden's Magnus Petersson took down over $700,000 USD for his first-place finish. This year we have a bigger buy-in - 47,500 DKK as opposed to Season 3's 37,500 DKK - as well as a bigger field, 460 to the 400 of 2007.
We haven't received the official payout structure, and we're certainly not mathematicians, but we're pretty sure those numbers add up to a bigger first prize and more cash for every player down the ladder.
We're halfway to our Day 2 field. All that remains is for the Day 1b crowd to decide who's going to continue and who's going home empty-handed. Paul Eastgate and Ola Brandborn, both representing Scandinavia, are just about tied for the chip lead. For a full rundown of the Day 1a survivors' stacks click through to and scroll down the Live Updates Page.
We're back under way at 2 p.m. (CET) tomorrow and as always we don't want to do it alone. Tune in to PL.com as we chronicle the happenings here in Copenhagen at the biggest event on the Scandinavian poker calendar.