One of poker’s most celebrated tournament series is marking a major milestone this week, as the European Poker Tour moves online for the very first time. Owing to the continued care needing to be taken with regards to organizing live events, officials at PokerStars felt that the time was right to offer the first ever online version of their marquee poker event series.
The 40-event series began this past Sunday, November 8, and will continue running until the “Last Chance” event next week Tuesday, November 17. Half of the events will be high buy-in affairs, to be complemented by “mini buy-in” counterparts, such that players with bankrolls of all sizes can take part in the festivities.
While there’s plenty of great poker action to look forward to, this newest evolution of the EPT also gives us the opportunity to look back at the fabled series and what’s made it so great over the years.
A Rich History
The European Poker Tour is one of the longest-tenured tournament series in the world, having begun in Barcelona in 2004, the year after Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker Main Event.
Over its 16 years of existence, there have been 126 EPT Festivals held. Save for two instances, there’s been a different Main Event winner each time, the lone exceptions being Mikalai Pobal and Vicky Coren. A true sign of its prestige, the EPT has awarded an astounding 163 prizes worth at least $1 million, creating scores upon scores of millionaires over the past decade and a half plus.
To gain a deeper appreciation for everything the EPT has stood for since its inception, we asked a number of longtime PokerStars stalwarts to share their best memories of the series during their tenure with the company.
Head of PokerStars Blog, Brad Willis:
- During Season 2, the EPT had started to become an attraction for Americans, especially some of the young guys who were just coming up in the game. Everybody online already knew Jason Strasser, but the door men at The Vic did not. On the first day of the Main Event, Strasser walks up to the front door. I’m nearby and hear a quiet discussion that grows slightly less quiet as Strasser discovers he’s not going to be allowed entry because he’s wearing a pair of sandals and not fit for The Vic’s dress code. Strasser seemed to genuinely think they were kidding with him, but he eventually came to realize he only had one choice. He walked back out onto the London streets in his sandals, found the nearest cobbler, and bought himself a pair of proper shoes. He made it back before the end of Level 1. Not for nothing, today Strasser is the chief investment officer of an investment management firm and only plays poker recreationally. And he wears really nice shoes.
Department Head of Central Event Operations, Hilda Ingham:
I love the live events because we create something which makes players, dealers, media and us happy. I guess looking at all this there is one thing that connects it all – it is the people. The greatest memory of the EPT, while we can’t have the EPT Live, is the people, the community and the fun. The EPT family.
- Jason Mercier winning EPT San Remo in 2008. This final table was just epic with so many regular EPT players on it – William Thorson, Dario Minieri, Jason – it has to be one of my all-time fave final tables. He then made the second final table in Barcelona (Sebastian won). He was truly an incredible poker player and one of the nicest and smartest people I have ever met. In his High Roller London Final Table I think I actually cried!
- A certain celeb player thought it would be hilarious to put the glass EPT trophy on their head just before final table play. As he did this the bottom of the trophy broke off – cue much running around searching for super glue – luckily we pulled it off in time for the final table filming to commence!
- An American mother who had not been able to get in touch with her son contacted us via support and they got in touch with me. The guy was playing his first EPT and it was the first time he had been to Europe, and she was worried after not speaking to him all day. Well we all wanted to make this poor crying woman happy, so me and a bunch of colleagues set about tracking the player down. We discovered he was having the best time of his life and had met a load of new friends and was out having a lot of fun with them.
- The Dortmund EPT after-party hosted by the casino – there were live snakes. Need I say more?
- Oddly, I now look back in fondness at the food – people always have an idea travelling is glamourous – whereas more often than not it is standing in the snow outside Copenhagen Casino eating a hotdog from the 24-hour garage, which is the only place still open when the tournament finally finishes for the day. But we were in it together and the camaraderie of eating dinner at 3am while standing in a garage can never be forgotten.
PokerStars Blog Manager Stephen Bartley:
- The most obvious thing to me was how quickly things changed on the EPT. For instance, in the early days there was no such thing as a press room. The press who were there (and there weren’t many) found a corner of the casino and worked with their laptops perched on their knees. The interaction with the players was different, too. Most players were relatively unknown, except those who had been on Late Night Poker or on TV in the US. I once carried pages of notes around with me with players faces on them so I could identify players. The look of confusion on their face when you asked for their name was common. As if it were the most bizarre thing in the world to have someone write about a hand they’d just played. But a season or two later it was standard to see dozens of journalists and TV cameras with players at the breaks. Sometimes having booked an appointment. It was part of the expansion of the tour that had switched from casinos to conference centres, and to a global audience. There was even complimentary coffee in the press room.
- It was fascinating being in the middle of the poker world watching it evolve. If the first seasons were a chance for existing players to win big, before long it became a stage for new players, younger and from the online game, to start taking over. Everything changed. Not just the faces but the language. I remember sitting in the hotel lobby in Warsaw (it was too cold to go out). Two young players were with us, one extremely well known, the other known online but not really on the live poker tour, who’d just made his live poker debut. They’d each been demolishing opponents in front of us and now they were talking shop. But they spoke about the game in such a forensic way that it was impossible to keep up. It was an incredible sight. Two guys at the height of their powers, demolishing opponents who had until recently been considered the best. We tried to follow the conversation, but it was hopeless. The game was evolving right in front of us. All we could do was try not to be left behind.
PokerStars Ambassadors Have Fond EPT Memories, Too
Chris Moneymaker: Bungee jumping in Sochi, losing a bet and having to swim in some European sea in the coldest water that ever existed on earth, having my wife and father with me in Monaco, and racing Liv Boeree down a slide to explain gravity (I don’t know why I was picked).
Andre Akkari: My favourite moment was in the EPT Barcelona when I saw QQ, 5 left, all in, against AQ. My worst moment was the river!
Kalidou Sow: My best moment, I’m three left on the EPT Prague, I have top straight against bottom straight, and my opponent goes all in…
Fintan Hand: Being on the rail for my mate’s third place finish in London
Felix Schneiders: My favourite moment will be the ‘Every time the seven is coming’ with Dönig and Watnlos. Literally everyone on Twitch thinks of it when they see a 7 hitting hard on the felt.
Naturally, there are oodles and oodles of memories associated with the European Poker Tour, and the live event series is sure to return in a big way in the future once “the coast is clear” pandemic-wise. In the meanwhile, new memories and moments are set to be made in this first-ever online version of the EPT.
As mentioned a score of high buy-in events will be mirrored by a score of low-buy-in events, featuring contests in NL Hold’em, PLO, 6+ Hold’em, and 8-Game. Tens of millions of dollars in guaranteed prize pools will be sure to attract legions of players, eager to win the famous “spadies” (physical trophies will be sent to all the event winners) and become part of poker lore.
For the fans, just as with the Stadium Series and WCOOP that took place earlier this year, the EPT Online will also feature cards-up coverage, brought to you by the legendary commentary team of James Hartigan and Joe Stapleton.
— James Hartigan (@J_Hartigan) November 11, 2020
You guys!! The first EVER European Poker Tour ONLINE festival is underway, and me and @J_Hartigan and a bunch of legit superstars (@GriffinBenger, @SquidPoker, @MariaHo) will be covering it LIVE – same as it ever was.
That live coverage starts NOW! https://t.co/ZRxadcNatd
— Joe Stapleton (@Stapes) November 11, 2020
For those of you looking to tune in to the coverage, you can see the full broadcast schedule below.