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European Poker Tour Barcelona

A great start

by Daniel Negreanu |  Published: Oct 10, 2007

In so many ways, the European Poker Tour is positioning itself to be the leading tour in the world. As of now, countries from all over the world send reporting teams to cover the events, and they are given full access to the tournament and are allowed to update the events as they please. This is great exposure for the EPT, and it's been catching on in a big way not only with the emerging European markets, but also with the world's elite players, who are attending EPT events in droves.

I absolutely loved the Barcelona event. You start with 10,000 in chips, not the 20,000 that so many U.S. sites have taken to, but the structure moves very slowly. I've said this many times, and I'll say it once more: The amount of starting chips you have has absolutely zero influence on whether the tournament has a good amount of play or not. The sole factor in determining if a tournament is a crapshoot or one with a lot of play is the structure and the amount of time per level. If you start a tournament with, say, 100,000 in chips, but also start the blinds at 250-500, there is absolutely no difference whatsoever between that and starting with 10,000 and 25-50 levels. It might just look cool to add a bunch of zeros, I guess.

So, anyway, I played my first key hand of the tournament in that first level with 25-50 blinds. I'd already opened for 125 a few times, so when I picked up A-A, I decided to make the exact same raise. An excellent player named Jan Slavik called from the button, as did both players in the blinds. The flop was an ugly one for my hand: 7 6 5. Both blinds checked, so I bet 400, completely committed to dumping the hand if there was any serious action behind me. Everyone folded to the big blind, and he made it 800. Yikes, that's scary, but I certainly can't just fold here. In these types of situations, you need to be extremely cautious with an overpair, no matter how large it is. Also, even if you think you may have the best hand, the last thing you want to do is get aggressive on the flop, since your best-case scenario is likely a coin flip. For example, even if all your opponent has is a pair and a straight draw, it's akin to flipping a coin after the flop, and that's not how a pro likes to gamble in a tournament.

The turn was the A, giving me a set. Now, the guy bet only 700, and I had a seriously interesting dilemma. I didn't put him on a flush at all, but I was slightly worried about a straight. What I really thought he had, though, was two pair. If he had two pair, I had him drawing dead and wanted him to "get there." If he got there, I could win a big bet on the river. Unless he had the 6 in his hand, there was no risk of giving him a free card, really. I decided to just call. This is another extremely important poker concept to understand. You'll often read a lot about the importance of aggression, but setting traps while at the same time protecting yourself from going broke is equally important.

In this example, my worst-case scenario was that my opponent had a straight or a flush and I needed the board to pair. Even though I thought that I had the best hand, it actually made more sense to let my opponent draw to his hand, because if I was correct, he would fold to a big raise on the turn, and I'd potentially miss out on a big opportunity to win a monster pot.

The river was the 10, and he checked. Now I wanted to get paid off, and decided on 1,800. He thought for a while and finally called me. He later told me that he had 7-7, and I believe him. Had the board paired on the river, I likely would have doubled up right there, but I was just happy to win the pot with so many scary cards out there.

It was a great start to my first-ever EPT event, and I felt like I was in cruise control. I ended up playing another interesting hand later in day one, but I'll save that one for my next column.

In the meantime, if you've never traveled to Europe, it's something that I highly recommend. It's just so cool to be so close to so many different countries. I always liked that L.A. was only a one-hour flight from Vegas, but in Europe, you could be in Barcelona and be only an hour-and-a-half flight from Italy, Greece, London, and so on. I'm currently in the midst of a European tour, if you will, and I have to say that I'm loving every minute of it.