Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Stockholm Trip Report

I'm here with another trip report. Just want to warn you in advance that this post is gonna be loooooong (possibly my longest post ever!), so sit back and relax, grab a coffee or do whatever else makes you comfortable. Okay, ready? Here we go!

Normally, when I fly to a destination for the first time I like to have a couple of days to explore the city. VIP Club Live: Stockholm however was scheduled for a weekend that was rather complicated for me. First of all, it was during the pre-SCOOP period where I have a lot more games running than usual. Secondly, André couldn't come with me so I didn't think it would be a as good to have a lonely extended weekend in Stockholm wandering around all by myself.

Therefore, I thought it was a good idea to go there on Saturday and fly back to Lisbon on Sunday. I made the flight and hotel arrangements with the VIP Club Events manager and was ready to go. I started regretting my choice on Friday just before the event. I got a message from Bekki, Alex Millar's girlfriend, saying that they had just arrived in Stockholm and wanted to invite me to do some sightseeing with them. I obviously couldn't go. I regretted it even more when I had to get up at 4 am on Saturday to catch my 6 am flight. I realized that by the time I got to my destination I'd probably be exhausted and not really in the mood for partying. I should have gone to Stockholm at least a day earlier, lesson learnt.

It was meant to be a great trip though and things started looking up early: I got to Lisbon airport and found that Starbucks which normally doesn't open before 7 am was actually open that day (maybe because it was the weekend?). I'm a known Starbucks-aholic so that made my day right there. With my coffee in hand, I proceeded to the boarding gate where I was informed that the plane was overbooked so I had been upgraded to Business Class. Okay, I can live with that!

Business class? Ummm, yes please!

Arriving in Stockholm

After a very pleasant flight I arrived in Munich and from there I took the next plane to Stockholm. When arrived in the city my first thought was “Where are all the real people and who put all these models here?”. Honestly, I find Swedish people to be very good looking and stylish. And I'm referring to both men and women. Also, the streets were very clean and the stores nicely decorated. Very positive first impression overall. By the time I got to the hotel it was already past 3 pm. I checked in my room and shortly after Bekki and Alex came to meet me. We were casually talking when the Team Online Battle came up. I took 3 juggling balls out of my suitcase and threw them to Alex to see what level his skills were at. He clumsily caught them (almost dropping them to the floor)... And then started effortlessly juggling them in the air while explaining that “last time he did that was probably when he was 13 years old or something”. Are you surprised? I sure was at that point, cause I clearly remember him saying on his video that “he can't juggle”. I was staring at him open-mouthed, not wanting to believe that he'd played us all. Basically if Alex tells me that the sky is blue, I'll go out and make sure that it's not pink. That's how much I trust his words these days!

My hotel room

I really liked the modern bathroom

Anyway, we went downstairs where Chris (the Team Online manager) joined us and we all headed to a place nearby for a coffee. Apart from a very good breakfast and a small snack I hadn't had anything to eat that day and it was already way past lunchtime, but the place we went to was famous for their cinnamon buns so it seemed inappropriate to order anything else. Next stop was Sturecompagniet where the party was held.

There were a lot of performers

That's where I met Luka “LukaSteel” Kovač, another one of Team Online's latest additions. He's a very nice guy and I liked him from the start. Once everything was ready, Alex, Luka and I got seated at a table and started receiving the people that came to the party. 

Beginning of the evening, back when Alex and I were still friends

Every person attending had the right to vote for one of us to win the competition, a similar procedure to the one that was held online. While waiting for everyone to come and explaining to people why they should vote for us, Alex and Luka had a couple of beers. I chose to stick to tea and juice. That's what I call squeezing any equity you can get! Once all the guests had arrived and voted it was time to start the first ever Team Online Battle.

Proof that I was the only one sober

Team Online Battle - Round 1

First we had the Swedish Trivia questions. True to my word, I had been reading a bit about Sweden during the weeks leading up to the competition. Which is why it was very easy to leave the other two competitors behind. I won the first round while Luka finished 2nd and Alex came 3rd. So far so good!

Team Online Battle - Round 2

Juggling. As you can probably imagine, I was rather nervous about this one after Alex demonstrated his skills back at the hotel. However, the juggler that would be giving us the tasks said that we would be doing more than one tricks, so I had hopes that I would do better in anything that didn't involve juggling 3 balls in the air. And I had been practicing juggling a bit. I went from being completely useless to being able to do 3 catches. Here's what we had to do after all:
  • Throw a ball high in the air, make a 360o spin and catch the ball.
  • Throw a ring in the air, have it make a spin and pass through the head landing on the shoulders.
  • Balance a stick on the chin for 5 seconds.
  • Juggle 3 balls in the air.
Since this round consisted of several parts, I actually didn't do that bad finishing second after Alex. Luka came in last.

Team Online Battle - Round 3

The last part was slot car racing. That's something that we couldn't have prepared in advance cause we didn't have the equipment at home (and none of us was crazy enough to buy it! :P ). We were given a bit of time to practice before the guests arrived. I noticed that Alex was the fastest of the three, but going fast also meant risking your car going out of the tracks more often. Luka on the other hand was slower but more prudent, not getting off the tracks much. Having your car fly off the tracks meant that someone had to go and pick it from wherever it was that it fell and put it back on the tracks so that you can continue the race. During practice I found Luka's strategy to be better and decided to not speed it up too much. There were four people standing around the table where the tracks were built and their task was to pick up any cars that fell off and put them right back.

Practice makes perfect!


When we finally got to that part of the Battle, I was first in the overall score. That meant that I could start the race first, while Alex would be given a 3 second handicap and Luka a 6 seconds handicap. That was going to work just fine with my strategy since I was already ahead while the other two would have to risk going fast in order to get me. The first one to complete 10 laps would win. I could already smell the victory!

Well guess what. After all three cars were well into the race, my car went off the track. The girl closest to it picked it up, and then another car went off the tracks (I think it was Luka's but not sure). She picked up the other car as well, but instead of putting my car back first she put the other one. As if that wasn't bad enough, when she did return my car to the tracks she didn't place it well so it wouldn't start. She had to insist on it a bit and by the time I got back in the race, the others were already a couple of laps ahead of me. Not only did I lose the advantage I had since I was the only one starting the race without a handicap, but I was forced to stay even further behind.

Losing valuable time I knew I had to go “all in”. My original strategy of not speeding up and trying to stay on track wouldn't work anymore cause I had to try to make up for lost ground. I made a run for it, but it was already too late. Alex was announced to be the winner of the race shortly afterward which also meant he won the Team Online Battle.

Congratulations Alex!

I was feeling bummed to put it mildly, mostly because I don't think I lost fairly. I'm not putting the blame in anyone in specific cause both Alex and Luka played fair and square. I can't even blame the girl who didn't put the car back right away, the whole thing only lasted a couple of minutes and it's pretty hard to follow what's going on and act fast. You can call it a bad moment, but it is what it is and it cost me the victory. So I really apologize to all the people that voted for me (both online and at the party). I tried to prepare and did my best, it was just not meant to be this time! :(

Time to party!

After the Team Online Battle was over it was time to move downstairs to the Crystal Bar. I was excited to try out the Chocolate Fountain but I only got a glimpse of it from far away. The PokerStars photo booth that was placed near the entrance won me over!

From left to right: With Bekki, Luka and Alex and some new friends!

With an open bar and a great DJ the night was guaranteed to be a success. I got to meet a lot of other players which was a lot of fun and later on we danced the night away! Alex and I became friends again on the dance floor (it's hard to hold a grudge against him when he's dancing!) and the place was still full of people when we left around 3.30 am. My high expectations for the night were definitely exceeded and now I'm looking forward even more to Lisbon's VIP Club Live party this June!

Party...

...and then party some more!


Visit to Subway after the party. Luka wanted to order a greek teriyaki chicken sandwich. Go figure!


The next day

I somehow woke up before my alarm went off on Sunday morning. It was probably because my stomach wasn't feeling all that great after the previous night's drinking. I didn't get drunk, but I lost count of how many drinks I had. Fortunately, nothing a good breakfast can't cure! At breakfast, I started chatting with two Swedish players and they offered to show me around the city. I had a couple of hours before heading to the airport and I hadn't seen any of Stockholm yet, so that was great! On our way out of the hotel we saw Dylan (the VIP Club Events manager) and Zeljka (who's responsible for organizing the Eureka Poker tour). They were also headed towards the center of the city, so we all went there together. I'll stop talking (or in this case writing) and let the photos do the rest of the work.
















Intercultural goodbyes

I've mentioned this subject in my blog some years ago, when I first moved to Portugal. How do you say goodbye to someone? Do you just say the words, hug them or kiss them? Back then I thought it was confusing to say goodbye to people that are used to start the double-kiss on the cheeks from the left when I, as a Greek, am used to start from the right. Well, try saying goodbye to people that don't do the kissing thing at all! You are leaning in for a kiss when people are pulling you in for a hug... Or even worse, you are getting up close and physical when they want to maintain a distance... It gets messy/ awkward/ slightly humiliating! It is obviously a cultural matter, the thing is that when you meet people from other countries you don't necessarily know if you should expect a hugger, a kisser or even a hand-shaker. And even if you do, sometimes they try to be polite by doing what is tradition in your country and not theirs. Well, it won't work if you are trying to outsmart them by doing the exact same thing! So basically I've come to the conclusion that intercultural goodbyes are going to be weird no matter what, unless you're not friendly with the person and just say the words but make no moves. But just so you know, both Greece where I grew up and Portugal where I live are Mediterranean countries and we are in the kissing category!

I guess that's all for my Stockholm trip report. It was a great, fun weekend but now that it's over it's time to go back to the grind. The SCOOP is coming up, see you at the tables!

3 comments:

  1. Great post Katerina, nice trip hoping have one these later in year as closest one to me is isle of man VIP event, but its like 2-3 weeks before the UKIPT Isle of man event.. i was hoping would tie them both in at same time, which makes sense to me.

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    1. Thanks! Definitely go to the IOM VIP event (and UKIPT) if you can, it's a blast and I speak from experience! :)

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  2. VIP Club Live IOM and UKIPT IOM will definitely be same week...

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