Regular PL.com readers can vouch for the fact that we are not given to overt flattery but in the case of Casino Baden we will have to make an exception. From the moment we walked in the door it was clear we were dealing with a truly exceptional locale, one which justifiably draws the best of the European big-buy-in tournament crowd.
To truly appreciate the lengths that the Casino Baden staff goes to in order to ensure their clientele's comfort, an understanding of the status quo, for both players and media, must be achieved. First, while there is always a schedule, which ostensibly dictates the starting and stopping of play, it is rarely adhered to, particularly on Day 1. For example, at the last EPT in London it was close to two hours after the slated start time before players were in their seats and cards were in the air.
Here in Baden the efficiency was palpable as it seems Austrians have as much right to attach their country's name to the word as their German neighbors. It wasn't a case of players being herded into the tournament room and forced to take their seats simply to conform to the timetable - quite the opposite. The smooth start to the day is due to the fact that there was ample, and more importantly competent, staff charged with the task.
From a media perspective things could not have gone better. PL.com checked in, received our media badges and daily passes and proceeded to the so-called media room. At most tournaments the last part of that sentence would be construed as sarcastic, as many media rooms are little more than roped-off areas or converted back rooms, but here in Baden it is an understatement. There were more tables than we needed. There was functioning Internet, of both the wired and wireless varieties, and there was enough power for each reporter to operate multiple devices. This may sound like the standard but take it from us, it isn't.
What this really boils down to though is that if the staff here is willing to pay that much attention to detail for the media, the players can be assured truly stellar treatment.
After establishing our presence in the media stadium we were informed that we were also welcome at the buffet being spread for the players on an upper floor. Quickly proceeding to said buffet took us up two impressive spiral staircases resplendent with massive hanging glass chandeliers. Upon entering the buffet room we were greeted by pleasant aromas and a group of affable players who seemed just as shocked at the pleasing start to the afternoon.
Not long after it was time to get down to business because, functional media rooms and sumptuous buffets aside, we were actually here for a poker tournament. By the 6 p.m. start time the players were in their seats and, seemingly while the clock was still striking six, the cards were in the air.
Perhaps the way Casino Baden has treated its guests in the past has had an effect because the room was packed with all the biggest names in European poker as well as a few Americans who were not expected to make the trip.
Steve Billirakis and even recent Farzad Bonyadi, Sebastian Ruthenberg, Luca Pagano, Andreas Hoivold and Ram Vaswani.
Of the field of 282 hopefuls, 156 have survived the day, all of whom will return to the felt at 2 p.m. tomorrow. The schedule says we'll be playing down to 40 before the day is done and with the way things have been going so far, it seems like a safe bet. For all of you on the West Coast of North America play will be underway bright and early at 5 a.m. and we expect you all to be up for it. Set your coffee pot timers and make sure your alarm volume is on high because if you don't make it you'll wish you had. Please believe me.