By Simon Young

As Bari, a huge sprawl of a city, disappeared slowly behind us, Mike Sexton stood up on stage and uttered the famous words: “Shuffle up and deal.” The PartyPoker Million VI was under way at 4.42pm as the MSC Poesia pointed her nose towards Katakolon in Greece, where many of our 171 players plus their family and friends will disembark tomorrow for a quick trip around the ruins of Olympia.

But first there’s the serious business of poker in the massive boat’s Moulin Rouge room. Everyone agrees it is a quite superb setting for a poker tournament that has generated a tidy prize pool and a first prize of $358,000. I know it’s not easy for players to relax during an event, but the sight of the Italian coastline drifting by out of the window must help.

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Ruthenberg and Smurfit are uneasy neighbours

As ever, the seat draw by tournament director Matt Savage and his team threw up one or two interesting match ups. On table 17 was German Sebastian Ruthenberg, a final tablist in his home European Poker Tour event in Dortmund last year, while to his left sat Alan Smurfit, a bracelet winner and, shall we say, a bit more vintage than some of the internet young guns sat elsewhere around the room.

One of those was Mike “Timex” McDonald, the 18-year-old Candian who won an EPT title this season, and who is widely regarded as a huge name for the future. He found himself on table 16 with another wiley old pro, Frenchman Paul Testud, who gave me a cheery grin, remembering how he knocked me out of an EPT in Baden, Austria. Except he didn’t – the dealer did, by mucking my cards when I was all in! I know I should have protected my cards better, but it was annoying since there was no doubt my A-10 would have overtaken Testud’s A-K!

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McDonald, top, and Testud

While many expected these two tables to produce fireworks – and I did spot Ruthenberg re-raising pre-flop into two players, forcing folds and proudly showing 2-3 off suit – all the action kicked off at the back on table 12 instead. There we had our first faller after just 22 minutes: the UK’s Antonius Poulengeris was the unlucky man, crushed by Jonathan Dsouza from Canada. Just moments later, Dsouza had dumped another player out, making him the clear early chip leader, moving his 10,000 starting stack to well over 30,000.

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Early chip leader: Jonathan Dsouza

While playing the two one-hour levels before dinner, one well-known pro, Christoph Haller from Austria, was not having it all his own way. He had fallen to less than 4,000 when I passed by – but quickly added another 3,000 when he found A-A against his opponent’s 10-10. I must be a lucky omen for the Austrian, and shall seek commision if he goes deep here.

As waitresses buzzed around the tables, the relaxed atmosphere meant many partners and friends were able to not only watch from the rail, but sit in surprising comfort as they did so. Compare this to hours of standing at a physical rail in other tournaments, and you can see why so many enjoy the surroundings of the PartyPoker Million VI.

When the tournament ends – scheduled for Thursday – 24 of our players will have made the money. The full payouts are:

1 $358,280
2 $285,583
3 $159,235
4 $119,425
5 $92, 883
6 $67,675
7 $47,770
8 $31,000

9-10 $21.230
11-14 $17,250
15-16 $13,270
17-24 $11,280

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The start of today’s tournament was held up for an hour today owing to a fire drill on board MSC Poesia. This is something that happens on every cruise, and all of us had to go to our cabins, put on our lifejackets, and meet at our Muster Station. There we waited a while, listened to safety information, before returning our life jackets and heading back to the tournament area.

Obviously the lifts were disabled during this exercise, meaning the elderly passengers – and there are many of them here on their holidays – had to climb up and down many flights of stairs. I would not like to be stuck behind them in the event of a real fire.

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Muster been something we said: fire drill on board

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