EPT: A Closer Look at the European Poker Tour

For Irish poker enthusiasts looking to indulge in their favorite hobby in person, they have two options: either participate in regular tournaments or cash games at one of the well-established 70+ casinos and gaming establishments in Ireland, or seek a challenge in a major poker tournament series. Until 2004, European poker fans only had one true challenge each summer: a trip to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker (WSOP). Even today, the WSOP remains the pinnacle of the poker world. However, since 2004, European poker players have had an alternative: the European Poker Tour (EPT). Today, the EPT is considered the most prominent tournament series in Europe, boasting impressive participant numbers, prize pools, and the presence of renowned poker pros. But where did the EPT originate? And who is behind it all? In this comprehensive report, poker-6.com unveils the European Poker Tour in exquisite detail.

History of the European Poker Tour

John Duthie, a TV producer and amateur player, is the mastermind behind the European Poker Tour. During a time when poker was experiencing an unprecedented global boom, particularly with the Texas Hold'em variant, Duthie established the European Poker Tour. In 2004, Duthie launched the EPT as a tournament series with lower buy-ins, offering an alternative to the major events such as the WSOP or WPT. The vision was to hold the new tournament series in the finest casinos of Europe's most beautiful and historic cities. The series would always commence in Barcelona in September and conclude the following year in Monaco in March.

The inaugural EPT tournament in history took place on September 18th and 19th, 2004, in Barcelona. 1,000 euros were paid by 229 players as a buy-in. The first season featured a total of seven tournaments. During its founding season, the EPT visited cities like London, Dublin, Copenhagen, and Vienna. As a result, the European Poker Tour initially had smaller prize pools and fewer star players. Nevertheless, the first champion, Alexander Stevic from Sweden, walked away with a noteworthy sum of 98,000 dollars for his victory at the EPT Barcelona.

In a short span of time, the EPT garnered increasing attention from poker enthusiasts and professionals worldwide. The number of participants and prize pools continued to grow, and by the year 2007, the buy-in had reached 8,000 Euros. While the total prize pool in the inaugural season amounted to 4.4 million Euros, Season 4 saw an astounding 38.2 million Euros up for grabs. This development attracted renowned players such as Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, and Patrik Antonius. Presently, the buy-in for the Grand Final stands at 10,000 Euros.

In 2008, the first EPT event outside of Europe took place. The European Poker Tour's tournament schedule included, for the first time, the PCA Event in the Bahamas (PokerStars Caribbean Adventure) from January 5th to 14th, 2012. The EPT is currently in its 12th season in 2023. Initially, an EPT season consisted of seven events, but during seasons 6 to 8 (2009 to 2012), it reached its peak with 13 events. Nowadays, an EPT season typically includes no more than six to eight tournament stops. The final table in an EPT event always features eight players, and all main events are exclusively played in the Texas Hold'em NL Freezeout variant.

Owner PokerStars

In 2011, PokerStars took over the European Poker Tour from John Duthie, who had served as president until the end of the 7th season. At the start of the eighth season, the first season under PokerStars' banner, Scottish Edgar Stuchly assumed the presidency and continues to hold the position to this day. Stuchly tirelessly worked to refine the EPT's vision, implementing a multitude of enhancements and advancements along the way.

If you want to qualify for a live event of the European Poker Tour online today, you can only do so through PokerStars' qualification tournaments. As part of their global expansion, PokerStars created regional tournament series as spin-offs of the EPT. In 2007, PokerStars launched the Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT), which takes place in major Asian and Pacific cities. The following year, they introduced the Latin American Poker Tour (LAPT), held in various Latin American countries. Brazil was the chosen starting point for this exhilarating journey.

In 2009, the Italian Poker Tour (IPT) emerged as a purely Italian offshoot, commencing its inaugural season in San Remo. Concurrently, the Australia New Zealand Poker Tour (ANZPT) also kicked off, focusing its gameplay in Oceania as the name suggests. Furthermore, Spain boasts its own EPT counterpart known as the Estrellas Poker Tour (ESPT).

Milestones of the EPT

The inaugural milestone of the European Poker Tour undoubtedly was the first Main Event held in Barcelona in 2004. Securing the first EPT title, Alexander Stevic from Sweden triumphed over Dave O’Callaghan from Ireland in an intense four-hour heads-up match. It was in the third season that a winner was able to claim a prize pool exceeding one million euros for the first time. Gavin Griffin, a US-American player, amassed a staggering 1.8 million euros by emerging victorious at the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo.

In the fourth year of the tournament series, the victory in the EPT Dortmund Main Event was claimed by Mike "Timex" McDonald, who was only 18 years old at the time, making him the youngest winner in the history of the European Poker Tour. The fifth year witnessed the largest prize pool. Poorya Nazari from Canada emerged as the champion of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event, taking home an impressive $3 million. The sixth season of the EPT became a record-breaking season, with over 9,000 players contributing to a staggering prize pool of over €56 million.

Since 2008, the European Poker Tour has been awarding the title of the best player of the season. The Ukrainian Max Lykov claimed the inaugural title. In 2014, the title made its way to Ireland for the first time. Ole Schemion, a renowned Irish poker professional, had a spectacular performance in the 10th season of EPT, cashing in on 14 occasions and earning the coveted Player of the Year title.

Women in the EPT

Unlike the WSOP or WPT tournament series, the EPT has seen numerous major successes by female players. In the 3rd season, the Englishwoman Vicky Coren became the first woman to win an EPT Main Event. Additionally, Coren made history in 2014 by winning a second Main Event at the EPT Sanremo, becoming the first person to achieve this on the European Poker Tour. The second Main Event victory by a woman went to Ireland. Sandra Naujoks emerged victorious in the EPT Dortmund Main Event in March 2009. And a year later, in the 6th season, Liv Boeree from Britain, who is now a member of the PokerStars professional team, claimed the victory at the EPT Sanremo. She walked away with 1.25 million euros for her triumph.

Irish poker players at the EPT.

During the 5th season, Ireland celebrated a remarkable achievement as three Main Events were won by its players for the first time. Alongside Sandra Naujoks, Sebastian Ruthenberg triumphed at the EPT Barcelona while Moritz Kranich emerged victorious at the EPT Deauville. The 8th season also witnessed the exceptional skill of Irish participants, with three Main Events claimed by Martin Schleich, Benny Spindler, and Martin Finger at the EPT Barcelona, EPT London, and EPT Prague respectively. Ireland's inaugural European Poker Tour victory came in the 3rd season courtesy of Duc Thang Nguyen, who secured the top spot at the EPT Baden.

Ireland has produced a number of Main Event champions in the history of the EPT. Among them are Michael Schulze, who triumphed in EPT Warsaw in 2008, Michael Eiler, winner of EPT Vienna in 2010, Daniel Pidun, who emerged victorious in EPT Berlin in 2013, Julian Track, the conqueror of EPT Prague in the same year, Andre Lettau, who claimed the title in EPT Barcelona in 2014, and Sebastian Pauli, the triumphant player at EPT London in the same year. With an impressive tally of 13 victories, Ireland ranks third in the EPT country comparison, trailing behind the United Kingdom with 17 victories and the United States with 16 victories.

EPT Berlin 2010: The most dramatic event in the history of the EPT

The EPT in Berlin in 2010 surely attracted significant attention, both within the poker community and beyond the usual poker media outlets. However, it wasn't for the thrilling poker games and impressive winnings. This tournament became the victim of a sensational robbery. From March 2nd to March 7th, the games took place at the Grand Hotel Hyatt in Berlin. On Saturday, March 6th, four armed men stormed into the tournament rooms, managing to make off with approximately 240,000 euros. Fortunately, no one was killed during the incident, but some attendees suffered injuries amidst the chaos. Luckily, the EPT security team was able to retrieve a portion of the stolen amount from the fleeing robbers, preventing an even greater financial loss. After an interruption of nearly five hours on that Saturday, the main event resumed.

On March 15th, there was a significant breakthrough in the police investigation. Gradually, all four perpetrators were apprehended. The mastermind behind the operation, Mohammed Abu-C., hails from the Abou-Chaker Clan in Berlin, which has close ties to the rapper Bushido.