Roy Brindley: European Masters of Poker Bulgaria Part II
by Roy Brindley | Published: Jun 27, '12
Suddenly, innovations such as rolling out of a bar at 5 a.m. wondering why it has taken nine hours, 14 beers, six cocktails and umpteen godforsaken shots to reach a state of semi-drunkenness, seems justified and food poisoning a necessary evil.
If the pizza slices, left out on display behind glass screens and kept warm by the suns rays until sold – that goes back to last season in some instances – had salmonella written all over them, then the doner kebabs had botulism tattooed into their leather fabric. Yet, it in the hazy grey area where drunkenness meets hangover, they tasted awesome.
This outrageous behaviour was to become customary. It was the result of one thing, a woeful showing in the EMOP main event. I’m ashamed to say a vicar’s tea party would have created more excitement than our team’s performance amongst the 214 player field.
For the record our most successful player was Rauta Alexandru. The Romanian bruiser had little to say and I chose to leave him to his own devices. I didn’t want to upset him as the guy was wearing a Man United hoodie so he clearly had enough troubles on his plate.
I refuse to elaborate any further.
Of course we were in Sunny Beach for an EMOP last year but the place has changed and there are new innovations such as tanks full of fish which will, for 20 Levs (€10 to laymen), nibble on dead skin from your feet and make you cry “it tickles, it tickles” like an hysterical four-year-old being attacked by a Worthers Original munching granddad clutching a feather. These fish farms can be found every 25 metres or so along the strip.
Being the kind of person who believes performing animals should be rewarded for their work and have a loving home on retirement, I refused to entertain this blatant brand of slave labour.
Additionally I deplore the force feeding of animals. Geese are force fed to enlarge their liver and make that lovely tasty foie gras but nature knows only beer has the divine right to enlarge your liver and do a job on your kidneys in the process.
Besides I’d found a better alternative to attain that fresh ‘take on the world’ feeling. The daily 10 a.m. ritual of hotel reps dancing poolside to didicoy music turned up louder than a 747 on takeoff which could only possibly entertain those under the age of three or of a disposition which has gone off the autism spectrum.
Before an audience who would shout “Engerland, Engerland, Engerland at the briefest sighting of a football or the chestnut which is “You’ll never beat the Irish” – although it is blatantly obvious that everyone does at everything – this was supposed to be some kind of Hi-Di-Hi presentation. It was, it was hi-di-hiawful.
Yet, somehow, the novelty factor was invigorating. Once again I was playing catch-up, filling in voids missing from my younger life.
In the past my perfect holiday would have featured an itinerary of visiting three dog tracks and four horse tracks during the course of a week whilst putting 2,000 miles on a hire car’s odometer.
Latterly poker has been all that has mattered but where is the wisdom in flying halfway around the world to spend all my days and nights within the confines of a windowless casino?
This really was the trip which transformed me. It was not quite the hell on earth that I expected. True, bad things about package holidays remain like taxi drivers hell-bent on ripping you off.
Actually the driver who retuned us to Bourgas Airport was different. He was called Angel and, although he did look like the kind of guy who had tortured and shot at least two or three men in his time, he left my fingers intact when he shook my hand after snatching a large note from my person which I had intended to receive a lot of change from.
There are also the truly stupid and obnoxious departure times of package holiday flights. Why do you have to fly out of an airport at five in the morning?
However the EMOP promoted this as an event which was easily accessible by charter flight and indeed it was. But, on returning from such destinations the moment your plane is slammed onto the tarmac and the realisation that the slaved over blotchy tan is only a few hours away from being flaunted to uninterested friends and family, the entire plane breaks out in an irksome spontaneous round-of-applause.
So the trip was far from catastrophic. Ok, it was as a poker spectacle. When you arrive in a limo and return in a Fiat Cinquecento taxi the truth is hard to disguise. But I was given the chance to have a taste of a misspent irresponsible youth and it embraced me.
Once again I owe this wonderful game of cards a debt of gratitude.