Andy climbs the steps ahead of me wearing skin-tight jeans, brown New Balance sneakers, and a white hoodie covering a sweaty bald pate. It’s 31 degrees.
“What’s that noise?”
“Why can’t I see them?”
Andy stops dead in his tracks, turns on a sixpence, and descends to my depth, hiding from the sun beneath the canopy.
And then I see them.
Great big things.
And then it pisses in my face.
“Have you interviewed Daniel Negreanu?”
“Yes,” I say, wiping Cicada urine from the corners of my mouth. “Once or twice.”
Andy is a Jeju tour guide. In five years time, he is going to leave this lovely island and travel the world.
“Where will you go?” I ask him.
Even here, beneath the giant gold Buddha, the waves eating cliffs in the distance, mosquitoes eating my shins in the here and now, there is poker.
“I love watching the World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker on TV,” says Andy. “Phil Hellmuth, is the best in the world, right?”
“Not quite, Andy.”
The Greatest Poker Players The World Have Never Heard Of
The greatest poker players the world have never heard of are currently in one of two places. 64% of Americans have never left their dry bit of dirt, and those of them who play poker at the highest stakes are hanging out at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open (SHRPO) in Hollywood, Florida. The rest are in Europe, Sochi more likely, with a trip to Barcelona scheduled in Kayak.
Let’s begin at the SHRPO.
Hollywood hosts two high stakes offerings. The first is a $1m GTD $50,000 No-Limit Hold’em Super High Roller. It begins Wednesday 8 August and ends the following day. The second is a $25,500 No-Limit Hold’em High Roller Mon 13 – Tue 14 August.
Last year, the $50,000 missed it’s $1m Guarantee by a solitary buy-in. Nick Schulman (the winner of the opening event at The Triton Poker Series Jeju) beat 19 entrants to bank the $440,000 first prize after beating Jake Schindler, heads-up.
The $25,500 buy-in event was more lucrative than the $50,000. John Andress defeated a field of 117 entrants, including Mike Leah, heads-up to win the $801,450 first prize.
Rainer Kempe was the outstanding High Roller finishing fourth in the $50,000 and thirteenth in the $25,500.
partypoker MILLIONS Russia
6,301 miles away as a Russian Ural flies the second half of the High Roller cast will stumble into the partypoker MILLIONS Russia. With the place still stinking of the World Cup, the Sochi Casino and Resort plays host to the second live poker partnership between partypoker and the Triton Poker Series.
The pair first bonded during the Triton Poker Series in Montenegro when partypoker sponsored the Russian live stream (there is a significant Russian presence in the region), and this time partypoker is playing host, as the Triton brand accompanies two high stakes jinks.
The first event is an R 3,000,000 (USD 47,000) buy-in Triton Poker High Roller taking place Tue 7 – Wed 8 August, followed by the beefier looking R 6,000,000 (USD 94,000) buy-in Triton Poker Super High Roller, Wed 8 – Thu 9 August.
You can expect to see Triton founder Richard Yong, Paul Phua, Ivan Leow, and a whole host of German and Russian stars competing in Sochi over the next few days.
European Poker Tour (EPT) Barcelona
Once the Sochi soiree seeps into the sea, expect to see the SHRPO and Sochi mob to flock to the Casino Barcelona in the heart of Catalan country for the reemergence of the European Poker Tour (EPT) Barcelona.
Before PokerStars rebranded to the PokerStars Championship in 2017, EPT Barcelona was the one event that nobody in the poker calendar missed, least of all the High Rollers.
Only things have changed.
There is only one event on the schedule for the men and women who like to splash around in the most luxurious of waters. The €100,000 No-Limit Super High Roller takes place Sat 25 – Mon 27 August, meaning the €50,000 and €25,500 buy-in events are off the menu.
Last year, when the event masqueraded as the PokerStars Championship, there were four High Roller. Igor Kurganov beat 86 entrants to win the €1,084,100 first prize in the €50,000 Super High Roller. Stephen Chidwick defeated 112 entrants to win the €690,400 first prize in the €25,500 No-Limit Hold’em 8-Handed event. And Pavel Plesuv topped a field of 66 entrants in the Single Day €25,500 No-Limit Hold’em event for €406,300. Chidwick capped off an outstanding Barcelona trip by coming third in that one, and the Barcelona and Spain footballer, Gerard Pique finished fifth.
I reached out to PokerStars asking why they buried those three events in a Catalan coffin. At the time of writing, I hadn’t received a response, and I wanted to bang this out as quickly as possible, so I could be eaten alive by insects while climbing Sanbangsan Mountain, and explaining to Andy why Phil Hellmuth isn’t one of the best in the business.