Olympic Park Casino has developed a reputation over the past few years as one of the best venues for live poker in Europe. Although the casino currently remains closed, I spoke to their poker marketing guy and all-round champion for Estonian poker Karev Tralla about his extensive background in poker, Tallinn as a major poker destination, and the prospects for The Festival in Tallinn.
“Poker is basically a big part of my life,”
“For 10 years I was a hobby poker player basically.” he says. “In my opinion I have never been a professional player - I was a really, really good amateur player. The last few years I was also a blogger also - [PokerNews’] Jason Glatzer admires me! Because I don’t just write, like, this guy had queens and this guy had ace-king or whatever - I am writing other stuff as well, like, what he had for breakfast, you know.” A blogger after my own heart.
There’s often a blurry line between amateur and professional, and indeed many of Tralla’s circle fall firmly on the professional side of the line. “Poker is basically a big part of my life,” he explains. “Like, 80% of my homies are poker players. I know most of the Estonian professional poker players. Some of them I’ve known since they were playing for coins basically, and I was buying those guys, like, hamburgers and stuff! A lot of those guys are in Mexico at the moment, but I’m hoping they’ll come back for The Festival in Tallinn.”
After a 12 year stint running a transport logistics company, he spent a random year as a Bolt driver - while also playing poker for fun - until the plague hit. It was at this point that he became involved with Olympic in a professional capacity.
"We’re expecting at least 200-250 local players."
“We are a professional team,“ Tralla says of his colleagues at Olympic Casino. “Some of us, like Risto Suurpõld, have been organizing poker events for about 15 years, including some EPTs which we hosted in the early 2010s. We have our own big festival, the Kings of Tallinn, which has been the biggest poker festival in Northern Europe in recent years. Records were once again broken last year with 1,205 unique entries generating more than €2.2 million in prize pools. We hope that the same thing happens with The Festival in Tallinn.”
“What to expect from The Festival? The cash games board will be extremely active, and mixed game specialists will get satisfaction from 8-Game and Sviten Special tournaments. As a poker specialist, I admit I was sceptical about the roulette and blackjack tournaments at first, but I've now completely changed my opinion on those - I know they’re going to be phenomenal events. We’re expecting at least 200-250 local players to take part in the main event. I have been in personal contact with many of them and they all say as it comes from one mouth – we all want to play live poker!”
As an employee of Olympic Casino, Tralla can’t actually play any events in their properties - which seems a shame, given how enthusiastic he is about their poker operation. He’s found other ways to participate though - including at one point taking over Niall Firaldo Farrelll’s Twitter account and tweeting on it in Estonian when the great Scot was busy winning the Tallinn summer showdown last August. “I was writing that Tallinn is the best place to play poker, in Estonian language.” he says, before adding, “So if somebody needs to message something from Niall’s Twitter account, I know the passwords...”
"I don’t want to sit 10 hours every day in front of my computer"
“Tallinn as a city is a fabulous place. We have an amazing Old Town. And great people. Usually Estonians are shy, but when they’ve had a few Bloody Marys, they can open up, definitely.”
Have a look at our handy guide to fun stuff to do in and around Tallinn for more ideas on how to keep yourself entertained in Estonia.
Beyond the walls of Olympic Park Casino, Tralla is also evangelical about his country as a tourist destination. “In my opinion, don’t stay in Tallinn only. You can drive 40km away from Tallinn and see true beauty in nature.” Tralla particularly recommends going to see the spectacular Jägala waterfall just outside the city, where you can swim, “And you can even jump off the top of it.” As he says this, I am already planning to film a video of Franke being pushed over the waterfall. “It’s quite dangerous though,” Tralla tells me, “There are rocks and things. There’s maybe a 50% chance we don’t see Franke after that.” OK, then maybe not. Spoilsport.
Of course we have yet to see how events unfold, but Tralla, like all of us, hopes that everything will go according to plan in June. “The [covid] numbers are stable at this point,” he says, and adds, “I don’t want to sit 10 hours every day in front of my computer clicking buttons.” Tralla is a man who likes to make jokes, but he’s sort of hit a nerve there - I think we’re all sick of living in our laptops at this stage. One thing is certain - when the live event scene returns to Tallinn, it’s going to be wild. And everyone at Olympic Casino will be right there along for the ride.
By Dana Immanuel - veteran poker blogger, queen of the press releases
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