Guide To The EPT (European Poker Tour)
Explore all that the PokerStars EPT has to offer, from games to locations and prizes.
- Written by the CardsChat Editorial Team
From relatively humble beginnings, the PokerStars European Poker Tour (EPT) has become one of the most popular poker tours in the world. Each stop on the tour features numerous events, thousands of entrants from over 100 different countries, and combined prize pools reaching tens of millions of Euros. It’s a far cry from the first ever European Poker Tour event in Barcelona, where 229 players each ponied up €1,000 to play in the Main Event. Today, the buy-in is usually around five times that amount, not to mention the High Roller tournaments which can reach buy-ins of up to €100,000.
Along the way the tour has given us some of the most exciting moments of TV poker ever; it’s thrown up its share of heroes and villains and clowns; made countless millionaires and, of course, taken in some of Europe’s most luxurious destinations. Let’s explore what makes the EPT poker tour so special, starting at the very beginning.
History Of The European Poker Tour
Back in 2004 the poker boom was in full swing. The previous year, Chris Moneymaker had won the WSOP Main Event, after qualifying through PokerStars for a buy-in of $39 (check your WSOP history!). As an American everyman he caught the public’s imagination and crucially was the first World Series winner to qualify through a satellite, making us all believe that we could do it too. That would be the blueprint for the EPT – a high buy-in tour that could be fed through PokerStars online satellites, giving amateurs the chance the to compete with the best players in the world, throwing up a mix of unlikely champions as well as seasoned, recognizable winners.
It was the brainchild of Englishman John Duthie, a television director who had won the first ever Poker Million tournament on the Isle of Man in 2000. The WPT had recently been launched in the United States and Duthie was impressed and wanted to create a European equivalent.
“I established the EPT, designed the logo, went around to the casinos getting their agreement, broadcasting agreements, etc. I got [PokerStars] sponsorship money, and basically just spent seven months setting up the company,” says Duthie. “[the first tournament] wasn’t huge, but it was a beginning. And what was important was that the players were really embracing it.”
Duthie was able to unite his contacts in the TV and poker worlds which meant that the fledgling tour was televised that year: “I realized we had to televise it to make it a big commercial success,” he says, “and also for the players to be interested to play in it in order to get the exposure.”
The structure was always popular with the players too: a deep stack gave the players lots of play and rewarded skill. The list of winners for the first season reflected that, with the cream rising to the top: Alexander Stevic, John Shipley, Ram Vaswani, Noah Boeken, Brandon Schaefer, Pascal Perault and Rob Hollink were no ‘flash in the pan’ players riding their luck, but seasoned pros at the highest level of poker. The structures at the EPT have always allowed quality to shine through.
Since the first season the tour has grown and grown. Buy-ins, prize pools and fields got bigger while the number of stops also rose, to a peak of 13 different cities each year from seasons 6 to 8. Season 4 also saw the first visit to Paradise Island in the Bahamas, for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA), officially an EPT poker tour event despite the geographical non-sequitur.
Many different locations have hosted European Poker Tour festivals over the years, from Monte Carlo to Warsaw; Loutraki to Kiev. Only Barcelona, however, has featured in the tour every single year since its inception. The Caribbean island nation of The Bahamas hosted the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA), a part of the EPT, from 2008, while each season’s showpiece tour stop (known as the Grand Final) takes place each summer in Monte Carlo.
It’s had its fair share of high drama, too – and not just at the tables. In 2010 at EPT Berlin, the tournament was robbed by masked men brandishing knives who got away with €242,000. No one was seriously injured but the incident caused mass panic in the crowd. The robbers were captured three days later and sentenced to three years in prison.
The advent of High-Roller, and Super High-Roller, tournaments in recent years has changed the dynamic of the festival a little. These huge buy-in events have smaller fields and massive prize pools and feature some of the most successful tournament professionals in the world. High Rollers and Super-High Rollers have been dominated largely by a group of German pros – players such as Tobias Reinkemeier, Ole Schemion, Philipp Gruissem, Igor Kurganov and Fabian Quoss.
The main events themselves, however, remain as popular and as lucrative as ever, with winners from across the globe. Players from Britain, the USA and Germany lead the way in terms of most wins by country.
“I knew it could be a success,” says John Duthie, reflecting on how far the tour has come, “but I never really thought that it could have been as big a success as it has been, because it very much requires the complete support of the players. But PokerStars were crucial because they were constantly feeding in the critical mass of players to every single event by running satellites. They were constantly giving me support on the ground, and advising me on press and marketing, so they were very important. Ultimately the European Poker Tour grew so big because it was something the market needed at the time. The European market still needs the EPT, and although other copycats have tried to follow it, it will never be eclipsed by anybody else.”
In 2011 Duthie left the European Poker Tour to pursue other projects. The poker world owes him a tremendous debt.
Notable EPT Winners
Over the years the European Poker Tour winners list has grown to include some of the very best players in the world. Even leaving aside the many winners crowned in High Rollers and other side events, the Main Event has been won by some notable names.
Back in 2005, a month after making the final table of EPT Barcelona, the famous Finn took down the EPT Main Event at Baden in Austria. Winning over €288k for the victory – one of his first in poker – Antonius went on to have a glittering high stakes poker career.
Now known as Victoria Coren Mitchell, the part-time British poker pro also has a successful writing and presenting career in the UK. Her victory at EPT London in 2006 (worth £500k) was the first for a female player on the tour, but it wasn’t the only time she claimed a famous first: in winning EPT Sanremo in 2014, along with €476k, she became the first player ever to win two EPT Main Events.
Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier
The French former esports star had already made two EPT final tables by the time he won $2m for first place at the 2008 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. He has since added WSOP and WPT titles to his collection, but has arguably had the most success on the EPT. Wins in EPT High Roller tournaments in 2009, 2011 (x2) and 2012 have helped take him to the top as France’s leading tourney money winner.
Canadian pro McDonald become the youngest EPT Main Event winner ever back in 2008, when he won over a million dollars for his victory at EPT Dortmund aged just 18. He has since won several EPT side events, including a High Roller event at EPT Malta in 2015, and has finished runner-up in EPT events in Prague, Monte Carlo, Dublin and the PCA.
Holder of the record for the most weeks spent at the top of the Global Poker Index (84), Mercier was just 21 when a famous hero call sent him on his way to victory at EPT Sanremo, a payday of €869k and a career as an elite poker professional. He has since won numerous WSOP bracelets and over $20m in tournament winnings.
Irish-American O’Dwyer spent four years as a poker pro before winning his first major tournament, but has since proved to be one of the most formidable high stakes tourney players in the world. In 2013 he took home over €1.2m for first place at EPT Monte Carlo, with further High Roller wins coming at the PCA (2015, 2016, 2018), EPT Malta, EPT Prague (both 2015), EPT Monte Carlo (2018) and EPT Barcelona (2022).
Fancy playing the EPT?
If the €5,000+ buy-in is too rich for your blood, don’t worry – you can still fulfill your dream of playing EPT poker. In fact, it’s possible to make EPT poker a reality for just a few dollars. Since it’s a PokerStars tour event, qualification is exclusive to the PokerStars site, but they offer satellites to suit every pocket.
EPT satellites run every day of the week in the run-up to a tour stop. Satellite feeders allow players to qualify through various steps, often starting at just a few cents, and you can find these tournaments in the PokerStars lobby in the months prior to EPT events. Meanwhile, live satellites are available at the venue in the days preceding the main events. So what are you waiting for? Play a bit of online poker, EPT could be your next stop, and then maybe, just maybe, stardom might be just around the corner.
If you want to qualify for the EPT, you’ll need to do so via PokerStars.
European Poker Tour FAQ
What is the largest European Poker Tour (EPT) Main Event?
Many of the biggest Main Events have taken place at the annual PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (part of the EPT despite its location in The Bahamas), with the 2011 edition attracting a huge 1,560 entrants. Other particularly popular stops on the tour are Barcelona, Prague and Monte Carlo, which typically acts as the finale of the EPT season each year.
What is the biggest European Poker Tour (EPT) first prize?
The largest prize to date in the EPT Main Event was $3m, won in 2009 by Canada’s Poorya Nazari. High Roller and Super High Roller events have bigger buy-ins but attract fewer entrants.
What happened to the European Poker Tour in 2017?
The tour was rebranded in 2017 as the PokerStars Championship, but reverted to its previous name the following year.
Where can I watch the European Poker Tour (EPT)?
You can watch live and recorded action from EPT events on the PokerStars Twitch or YouTube channels.
How much is a buy-in at the European Poker Tour?
Main Event tournaments tend to have a buy-in of around €5k, though this can change. Every EPT tournament schedule also features side events, which may have buy-ins of anything from a few hundred Euros up to €100k or more.
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