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Stars invade Monaco for EPT finale
It's Europe's most prestigious event, but for Greg Raymer, it's all about the money.
On the eve of the PokerStars.com European Poker Tour Grand Final, the Fossilman talked to PokerListings.com about the draw of the Tour's most glamorous stop.
"The [Grand Final] is second only to the WSOP Main Event," said Raymer, who actually won the WSOP Main Event in 2004.
"For as long as there has been poker and probably forever, the Main Event will be the most prestigious tournament, but the Grand Final is clearly the nearest rival.
"That's because of the money first, the structure second, and everything else - locale, hotels, players - third."
Last year, 22-year-old Canadian wunderkind Glen Chorny beat out 841 rivals to claim his first EPT title and the €2 million first prize.
This year, EPT founder John Duthie has capped the field at 1,000, making for a potential prize pool of €10 million.
Team PokerStars Pro pros Daniel Negreanu, Joe Hachem, Vanessa Rousso, Dario Minieri, and Isabelle Mercier are slated to take part, as is Phil Ivey, who reportedly chartered a Global Express private jet to fly him to Monaco.
Rap star Nelly headlines a star-studded roster of celebrity guests, including football stars, Formula 1 drivers, musicians and even a hint of royalty.
"Prestige is what matters in the poker world," said Raymer. "It used to be people would make deals at the Main Event of the World Series of Poker, giving up equity for cash because they only cared about making money, not winning the bracelet.
"That doesn't happen anymore. Nowadays, people play to win the title and the prestige. And what makes the tournament prestigious is the money."
Surely, the Grand Final's location in Monte Carlo, famous as a playground for the obscenely wealthy, has something to do with the appeal?
Not so for the Fossilman.
"Personally, I find Monaco overpriced and boring," he said. "That said, the Grand Final is a fabulous series of events - the Main Event, the High-Rollers event, the battleship event - and I'm thrilled to be here for the tournament."
One of his counterparts on Team PokerStars Pro is lucky to be here at all.
Daniel Negreanu nearly missed his trans-Atlantic flight due to a security shutdown at Los Angeles World Airports.
"They made us stand in one place for two hours," he said. "We couldn't even sit down. I watched them bring out this one guy in handcuffs, un-cuff him and talk to him. But they wouldn't tell us what was going on.
"The worst part was, I was on my way to the first-class lounge and I'd stopped momentarily when it happened. If I'd have kept going I could have been lying on a couch for two hours."
Eventually, however, the shutdown was lifted and Negreanu made his flight. He made it to Monaco in time to join the rest of Team PokerStars Pro in Monday's €4,000 Ante Up for Africa charity event.
Action in Monte Carlo begins in earnest with Tuesday's Day 1a and will continue until the final table on Sunday.