With an hour on the clock and the player total down to 121, play went hand-for-hand in the main event. This had several knock-on effects. The French TV cameras scattered around the room moved with more urgency, and players, many smiling now, showed an unusually small degree of self-interest as the fate of others became their preoccupation. After all, the next hour would determine whether they would leave Deauville richer or poorer.
It would take an hour, the full balance of the 15th level with the bubble finally bursting on the last hand before the break.
But before that came the waiting; 56 minutes in which half a dozen hands were completed, each played out with an audience of players, and for the first time viewers on EPT Live.
Typically at times like this many players were up and about, ferretting out the short stacks, the players they had to watch and hope that their departure would safeguard their financial future. Fabrice Soulier was one of them, not exactly a relaxed face with a 70,000 stack. Then there were those with enough chips to guarantee safe passage into the money, avoiding the undignified spectacle of leaving their hotel room at 3am down the fire escape.
But all this quickly became monotonous. A hand would be played which would take anywhere between six and ten minutes to be completed on all tables. It left most players with unwanted downtime. Some stood up from their chairs, others, like Lucien Cohen, patrolled the aisles between the tables looking for something, although it wasn’t clear what.
Marion Nedellec was also one of the roamers and was immediately pursued by a camerawoman, carrying blocks of broadcast equipment strapped to her back. To her relief, Nedellec then stayed put at her seat for the next hand, where the camera could focus on her without barging past the bulk of several dozen players. Nedellec looked slightly uncomfortable and players either side leaned awkwardly to keep out of shot.
The attention hardly waned when the camera left. Nedellec then got a different kind of attention, a stream of players coming to her, respectfully, finding an excuse to share a word of encouragement.
Across the room an all-in passed by without elimination, leaving players seconds to hurry back to their chairs. This was starting to feel like a long bubble, and Zimnan Ziyard couldn’t help speculating how long it might last.
“It was two-and-a-half hours two years ago,” he said, thinking back to Deauville Season 7. “That’s nearly enough to watch two films.”
Behind him and all-in, and Lucien Cohen was again being asked to return to his seat. He’d just had a warning after inappropriate behaviour as he rushed over to watch an all-in hand play out. Standing behind a player looking at his cards, Cohen allegedly peered down at them to take a look himself. A member of the press spotted this and suggested that it was not a good idea, a prompt that Cohen didn’t take to too well.
Another all-in (a double up). The entire line-up from Mathew Frankland’s table left their seats to watch this one, leaving Frankland, who’d seen it all before, tapping at his phone as he waited it out. “Once the dealer deals the first hand this pot is mine,” he joked.
Another double-up somewhere and the hands seemed to be passing slowly. I timed one hand at seven minutes 52 seconds, then the next at four minutes 36. The one after that was five minutes 59 seconds.
The break was now a hand away. Folding, most players left their seats for a 15 minute pause. But not for the first time on the EPT bubble players left the tournament room down a buy in, and would return with a min-cash.
That was because table 9 had yet to play to a finish, a four-way hand in which Said Basri was all-in with king-queen of spades with three callers checking him down. David Susigan held an ace and got another on the river, taking the pot and dismissing Basri. Those spectators left watching applauded, but it would be the 119 players returning from the break who will be most pleased.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter