I just got back from Estoril, Portugal (that was true when I first started working on this post) where we held the Betsson Live Estoril tournament. The Casino Estoril where the event was held is about an hour’ish outside of Lisbon. It’s billed as the largest casino in Europe and was the inspiration for Ian Flemming’s Casino Royale though the number of guys who could cry blood seemed to be at a seasonal low.
One thing you grow used to in Europe is places that bill themselves as casinos that look more like someone’s basement with a few slot machines and tables. Vegas has nothing to worry about from Europe (Asia is another matter entirely).
Casino Estoril was more like a Vegas casino that anything I’ve ever seen in Europe but still falls a bit short of being Vegasy. Don’t get me wrong, it is head and shoulders above most other European casinos but things simply aren’t on Vegas scale. Whereas the Casino Estoril might have a few hundred slots a Vegas casino counts them in the thousands.
Anyway, Casino Esotril has your usual fare of slots, table games, and restaurants. They even have mini-Vegas style shows and other entertainment. We watched a Cirque du Soleil styled show with all your usual insane acrobatics and LSD inspired themes.
The casino itself sits on a very large property that overlooks a huge garden which leads down to the ocean. The views from the hospitality suite can be quite stunning.
I checked out the poker room when I arrived and they spread a €5/€10 NL game. Min buy-in is €150 and max is €1000. That is the one and only game the casino regularly spreads and they had two tables packed with ten people each playing. This was just the local Portuguese crowd as none of the tournament players had even arrived. Once the tourney players showed players packed anything resembling a poker table and played at whatever stakes the casino would allow.
We had a nice reception party for the players when they arrived. Food, drinks, entertainment. There was one point where I looked around and there were a bunch of younger players sitting around the edge of the party which somewhat reminded me of a high school dance where all the boys sit on one side of the gym and the girls on the other. They mixed eventually but it was one of those things you see and find funny in the moment.
At the reception party I got the opportunity to meet two female players that would later go on to dominate the tournament. Meike Busch is a player that Betsson features in its German advertising. And Merianda Füllenbach is a player who won her entry by writing a blog entry that Meike picked in a best blog entry contest.
Meike would be the first of the two out finishing in the money in 27th on the second day. Merianda wasn’t exactly soon to follow as she lasted until the final (third) day and placed 14th.
I spoke with Merianda after she went out. She was in great spirits and she and her husband were very proud of what she accomplished. She told me how mentally drained she was and how she hadn’t been aware of how difficult it is to play a multi-day tournament. She said she was through with poker for the weekend. But not more than five minutes later a player came by and asked if she was up for a €100 SnG and I watched her face brighten up as she asked when it was going to start. I kidded her saying “I thought you were done with poker for the weekend.” She could only laugh.
During the afternoons and evenings there were events for those who either busted out or came only to railbird. We had a golf outing, sightseeing trip to Lisbon, tickets to local football (soccer for my American friends) matches, and excursions to occupy the time.
The event wrapped up with Lisbon’s local boy André Santos going head to head with Kristian Aksnes from Norway. Both players put on a fantastic heads-up game but the cards went Kristian’s way and he walked away with the €113,900 first prize leaving Santos with a not too shabby €80,620.
All in all, a really nice event in a nice venue. The casino staff were fantastic. You can’t pull off a big event like this without something not being perfect but the Casino Estoril staff really went above and beyond to fix anything that went wrong. I hope to get to work with them again.
If you want to check out the live blogging during the event see the Betsson Live Blog.