EPT Deauville: Good to be back

Many attractions lure the world traveller to these parts. The picturesque streets are only the backdrop to the town's annual film festival, and year-round Deauville is one of the centres of French horse racing.

After this week, it will become time for Deauville to be recognised once again as a centre for French poker excellence after a painful three-year sabbatical. Away from the workhorse card rooms of Paris, Casino Barriere in Deauville is the prestige stage for players from this country and across the poker world. Today we saw a glimpse of what that might mean.

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It will mean a lavish tournament room, located beneath the shining chandeliers of the grand ballroom. It will mean a venue flanked on one side by golden beaches, and the other by rolling green countryside. And it will mean the world's best players who, like today, ignored the difficulties involved in making it this far north from international airports, streaming in to scrap for a share of an expected €3 million prize pool.

Approximately half of those were here today, 302 at high noon, for eight levels of great poker and a buffet to boot. By nine o'clock, they had been whittled down to a handful of 125. It's like the tour had never left.

Vicky Coren, Vanessa Rousso, Alex Kravchenko, Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier and Isabelle Mercier were the able representatives of the Team PokerStars Pro stable. They would face mixed fortunes. As the clock ticked down only Kravchenko had busted, but soon Coren did the same with the end of play in sight.

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Vicky Coren

As Coren was packing up her bag and "pill box beret" hat, ElkY was doubling up to stay alive. But the high roller champ fell with only minutes to go, surviving several close shaves throughout the day before losing his toe-hold completely.

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Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier
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Vanessa Rousso

Rousso was performing a similar dance on the other side of the ballroom but instead of busting, Lady Maverick was doubling and transformed a meagre 5,500 into closer than 20,000. Mercier's story was one of even greater momentum and success. She bagged up 46,000, riding an early afternoon double up into the night..

The day, however, belonged to Jonathan Abdellatif, who held the chip lead for much of the day. Walking past his table late on, a table-mate was heard to mutter, "You flop a full house, you flop a straight. You want to flop anything else?" A good day then for the Belgian who bags up 105,000 ahead of a day off tomorrow.

The Normandy welcome may have been warm but countless others felt the poker gods' cold, cold hand. The globetrotting Carter Gill was among them, followed by the PCA finalist Benny Spindler, the fearsome Finn Jani Sointula, and former winners Pascal Perrault and Arnaud Mattern. The PokerStars ShootingStar Sebastian Ruthenberg met them at the rail.

It wasn't all gloom, though, for former champions. The Warsaw winner Joao Barbosa had a steady day and remained strong at the end with 38,000.

Until tomorrow, then, that's it from Deauville

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Photography (c) Neil Stoddart