Thursday, 23rd May 2024 15:42
Home / Poker / Casting call! What’s it like at the EPT feature table?

The European Poker Tour (EPT) live stream is now up and running, and as you know it takes a staggering amount of the behind-the-scenes wizardry to get the pictures to your screens.

One of the final steps in the process is the dress rehearsal, which takes place on the eve of the first broadcast. And if you happen to be kicking around an EPT tournament room and fancy stepping out on the feature table without paying a penny, the TV team is always recruiting for the role of “player” for these important run-throughs.

So it was that PokerStars Blog drew up a seat yesterday at the feature table of EPT Prague. We were surrounded for the most part by fellow content creators and tournament employees, but there were a couple of notable high-level players there too, including Platinum Pass winners and someone with recent memory of a UKIPT final table.

Essentially we were just helping out the floor managers and technicians ensure all the wires were in the right place, but the exercise also served another purpose.

What follows is a guide to what you can expect if you find yourself at a feature table on the EPT.

The producers inevitably favour the so-called “big names” for their broadcast during the early stages of a tournament, but there are always eight seats to be filled. That means it’s far from impossible for you to find yourself called to receive the TV treatment, and it might help to know in advance what you can expect.

MAKE YOURSELF HEARD

As you step up on to the television stage, be it at the start of the tournament, the midpoint or the final table, you’re going to be asked to surrender your phone. Game integrity is always paramount, and it’s just far easier to remove electronic devices from players to avoid any suggestion of potential impropriety.

You can access them again at all tournament breaks, so you won’t be missing crucial messages. Fear not.

The next step is to get you mic’d up. Gone are the days of microphones dangling from the rafters. Instead, all players now carry a small transmitter and have a microphone attached to their lapel or equivalent. You can talk at a normal level and both opponents and watching public can hear.

Loose lips sink ships

This is perhaps important to remember if you have any particularly slanderous accusations to make or grievances to air. Many thousands of people are tuning in, and they can potentially hear everything you say. For all that, conversation is an important part of making poker fun, so feel free to chat away as you would during any game. Silence, of course, is also just fine.

LIGHTS, CAMERA, FEATURE TABLE ACTION

Although you are now surrounded by television cameras and under studio lighting, this quickly becomes unobtrusive. Lighting technology is highly sophisticated these days and there’s absolutely no additional heat given out by the studio lights. It’s the same temperature at the feature table as it is elsewhere.

Even the cameras quickly fade into the background. The game we were playing had no buy-in and no prizes. It was completely meaningless in any tangible sense. But at first it still felt slightly nerve-wracking when cameras are gliding around the table and you know, by necessity, that they are sometimes pointing in your direction.

The cameras quickly fade out of view

But in less than an orbit, that feeling vanished. All of us at the table quickly fell into our comfort zones.

The dealer instructed us to place our cards side by side in a box clearly marked on the table in front of us. This was to enable the RFID readers to pick up what we were holding. And though this behaviour isn’t common on outer tables, it too quickly became rote and simple. (The dealer will offer a friendly reminder if you forget.)

KEEPING TRACK OF THE ACTION

Perhaps the most obvious difference between play on the feature table compared with play at a “regular” table is the role of the dealer.

In addition to pitching cards and working out pots as they do at any other table, the dealer at the feature table is also wearing a headset through which he or she is conversing with the TV director.

You can therefore hear the action as well as see it. “Three, fold. Four, fold. Five, raise 100. Six, fold. Seven, call. Eight, fold. One, call. Two, call.” Etc., etc.

You can’t expect the board to be read out, nor for pot sizes to be announced. (You also can’t see any graphical overlays from your seat, so you’re no more knowledgable about stack sizes, etc., as you would be elsewhere.) But the dealer will be very clear about the size of bets coming round the table, and that’s useful.

Last-minute preparation to the feature table set

The dealer also listens to the director and relays occasional instructions for players to put their cards in the RFID box again, or repeats a bet size, that kind of thing. But otherwise, it’s another element of the experience that quickly becomes commonplace.

PLAYING YOUR GAME

The most important thing to remember when you’re playing at the feature table is that all the rules of the game remain identical to anywhere else. You’re still playing the same game of poker. Not only does a flush still beat a straight, etc., but you must remember that your opponents will still have the same chip-accumulation/preservation priorities as they would on an outer table.

That said, it’s tempting to either a) play tighter than usual to avoid making what might be considered a humiliating mistake, or b) indulge in a bit of fancy play syndrome to showcase your skills.

In our meaningless game, we mostly played surprisingly straight and players were betting with big hands, folding junk and thinking through decisions as befitted the circumstances. But I also couldn’t help raising seven-deuce the first time I saw it (I won that hand) and later folding a flopped two pair after the board came four to a straight and my opponent led out (he showed a bluff).

I can only imagine this kind of thing is even more commonplace when there’s real money on the line.

The full TV treatment

However, try if you can to remember that you’re still playing a much bigger tournament than what it might feel like from up there on the TV stage. Everyone else in the room might also be your opponents in the wider scheme of things. Thankfully you do get a pretty spectacular view of the rest of the tournament landscape from your perch on the stage. But just remember that you’ll be back down there again pretty soon.

TO CONCLUDE: FEATURE TABLE FUN

In conclusion, life on the EPT feature table is kind of fun.

If you have friends or relatives who don’t really know what you do when you’re jetting around the world to play poker, it must be brilliant to be able to send them a link to the PokerStars YouTube or Twitch channel and tell them to tune in.

Meanwhile there can’t be a poker fan in the world who hasn’t grown up watching the televised game and dreamt about being up there on the stage at some point in their career. The EPT offers such a great chance, particularly if you qualify online or through the Power Path where you can do it for $10.

And, by the way, the casting call is for real. There’s almost always a seat in the rehearsals for anyone who might want to play. Next time you’re at the EPT and you see them setting up the feature table, make yourself known and you can learn the ropes among the best TV crew in the business.

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