Land of Sachertorte and Schnitzel


To sounds of rejoicing in Heldenplatz, news came this month that the European Poker Tour would be skipping Berlin in favour of a trip to Vienna, the Austrian capital, for what will be the sixth event of the current Season next March. It’s out with the Grand Hyatt, with its polished marble, modern art and right angles; in comes the Hofburg Palace with its cold stone, old art and baroque curves. It’s an excellent choice.

If the poker world has come to understand anything over the past decade it is that opulence is rather fitting. So naturally EPT organisers couldn’t resist the switch when the Hofburg Palace became vacant in the spring. Someone at EPT Headquarters, with an eye for aesthetics, spotted the grandeur on offer and inked in the switch. The place oozes pomp and majesty, a place that Strauss and Beethoven found suited their needs, as well as the Hapsburg Dynasty and the current President of Austria. Players meanwhile will be delighted to know there’s a Starbucks nearby.

As London demonstrated last month, the surroundings in which you play can really add to an event, which a casino never really could. Stateside poker may be about size, but over here the preference seems to be for something different. We like our chandeliers, some occasional gold leaf, maybe rococo fittings. It suits our latent European tastes and, what with all the other improvements made to the EPT, a palace in the middle of Vienna is frankly the least people have come to expect.

And I’m all for it, especially as it’s easy to recall the tournaments that took place in altogether less compelling surroundings.

This, many years ago, was the domain of the fledgling poker tour (“FPT”), smaller, now extinct events which, having bitten off more than they could chew, tried to turn stark reality into a delusion of grandeur. It rarely worked, and instead the handful of pros who should have known better, looked over their shoulders at the empty tables and coffee cups behind them, playing what was effectively a sit and go. Happily that’s all in the past.

It’s not the first time that the tour has been to Vienna. In its last incarnation Daniel Negreanu reached the final table of the main event, ultimately won by Michael Eiler. Few remember it as a standout tournament though. Why? No palace, that’s why. And when there have been so many EPTs it takes a little extra to keep the memory fresh. The Hofburg Palace should help do just that.