I’d been looking forward to the WPT Venice Grand Prix trip since I got confirmation back in December that I’d be working the event doing live blogging, photography, and video work for the PartyPoker Blog. Venice was high on the bucket list of cities that I want to see while in Europe – having moved to Malta from the US in late 2011 – and I always enjoy work trips to new cities.

I say “new” but that’s a bit of a lie; I’d been to Venice for half a day in the mid 1980s as a youngish lad but all I really remember is lots of pigeons. Ahh, precious memories…

Everything looked perfect for the trip as I found a Ryanair flight for us from Malta-Treviso that cost less than a cappuccino in Venice which fit perfectly with the dates for the trip. The only slight hitch was Mother Nature, news reports that week about the deadly cold snap in Europe with temperatures of -1,273°C (or something like that) didn’t exactly put a spring in my step but I was off, and navigated the bus from Treviso to Venice and then walked to our hotel in short order, with about 43 different layers of clothing providing adequate protection from the cold.

I’m a man of simple needs and much like Las Vegas, you’re doing it wrong if you spend too much time in your hotel room in Venice, and it was off to the welcome party for the PartyPoker online qualifiers, with Day 1 of WPT Venice kicking off the very next day.

My inner photographer started drooling as soon as we got into the Casino di Venezia, as it’s not just the oldest operating casino in the world but one of the more beautiful and stately ones I’ve been in, oozing history from its pores. And unlike the Aviation Club in Paris — another casino pegged for its historical charm — you can actually walk around without getting elbowed a dozens times.

The size of the field for WPT Venice was less than expected but the World Poker Tour pulled out all the stops for the televised event, with the full TV production and commentating crew on hand as well as the Royal Flush girls and celebrity magician Dynamo to entertain at both the casino and the official players party.

As far as the tournament action, well, some players showed up, they played some cards, and Rinat Bogdanov prevailed as the latest WPT champion €229,800 richer — minus a likely sizable chunk left with the local Venetian economy for extravagant items such as €20 cheese pizzas and €10 espressos.

One nice twist this trip for me was the chance to do more video interviews with the likes of Mike Sexton, Vince Van Patten, Jesse May, Padraig Parkinson, and Max Pescatori. Sitting in an Irish pub in Venice listening to Jesse and Padraig wax eloquent about the good old days of poker was definitely one of those “how-in-the-world-did-I-end-up-here?” moments, as far as the strange twists and turns life has in store for all of us from time to time.

Just as suddenly as WPT Venice began it was over, with players, bloggers, and World Poker Tour staff and crew scattering to the winds again. WPT Vienna is the next big stop on the international tour, with online satellites currently running on PartyPoker.

The Premier League Poker will also be back in action in Vienna, with $13,000 trip packages up for grabs at PartyPoker to join the likes of Tony G, Patrik Antonius, Vanessa Selbst, and Erik Seidel in one of the world’s biggest buy-in poker tournament!

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