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Development of PokerStars’ European Poker Tour

From the moment acclaimed TV drama director John Duthie conceived of Europe’s first international poker tour, it took him only six months to launch the European Poker Tour.
In a 2005 interview with Card Player Europe magazine, Duthie explained his vision: “The World Poker Tour had been hugely successful, and it became clear that its organizers wanted to expand into Europe. They already had made one or two attempts, but when they proved unsuccessful, I decided to jump in. I had an edge over them from the start: I knew the European market better than they did. I had a great relationship with the Vic in London, and I got them on board quickly. Then, once I'd signed PokerStars as the sponsor, and Eurosport agreed to broadcast the shows, other European venues started to realize that something special was happening, and they followed suit.”
It was that easy. But then, a great idea often needs only a little push to get the snowball rolling. And rolling it is, indeed. From its humble €1,000 buy-in event in Barcelona with a mere 229 players, the EPT has expanded to the €10,000 buy-in event in Monte Carlo. Season 4 of the EPT attracted a record field of 842 players with a prize pool of €8.4 million, making it the richest tournament ever held outside of Las Vegas. The total prize pool for EPT Season 4 was €38.2 million with nearly 6,000 contestants overall!
While it seems as if this incredible growth happened overnight, organizers and players alike have contributed much blood, sweat and chips to transform this special event into such a success. As part of the Pokerstop.com preview of Season 5 of the EPT, we want to take this article to reflect on the development of Europe’s most exciting Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournament.

EPT Season 1

Season one of the PokerStars European Poker Tour was held in Gran Casino, Barcelona in September, 2004. 229 players bought in for €1,000 but only Swede Alexander Stevic remained at the end of it all, walking away with an €80,000 first place prize and kicking off a trend of Scandinavian domination.
Brits John Shipley and Ram Vaswani won in London and Dublin respectively, while Noah Boeken triumphed in Copenhagen, Brandon Schaefer took down Deauville, and Pascal Perrault reigned victorious in Vienna. The season’s Grand Final took place in Monte Carlo, attracting 221 players who plunked down €10,000 each to buy-in, but only Rob Hollink won the €635,000 first prize.

EPT Season 2

For season two, Duthie decided to increase the minimum buy-in to €4,000. Despite the buzz around the EPT created by its first season, organizers planned on the increased buy-in resulting in a similar amount of registrants for Barcelona, the first stop on the Tour, as in Season 1. When 325 players entered the tournament – representing an increase of 43% over the previous year’s enrollment – many other players were unable to secure seats.
Duthie took this hiccup in stride and sought to learn from what some felt was a catastrophe: “It was this that led us to completely rethink the structures, so, in effect, something good has come out of it.”
After Frenchman Jan Boubli's triumph in Barcelona (€416,000), Mark Teltscher took down the London event (€408,400). Patrik Antonius won in Baden (€218,990), and 19-year-old University of Georgia freshman Jeff Williams won the Grand Final (€900,000).
All four of the top finishers in the Monte Carlo Grand Final - Jeff Williams of the USA, Arshad Hussain of the UK, Aleksander Strandli of Norway and Marc Karam of Canada – qualified for the EPT via a PokerStars.com online poker tournament. In fact, PokerStars.com online qualifiers made up about one-third of the field in Season Two, a trend that continues to this day.

Season 3

The buy-in for all EPT events was increased again in the 2005-2006 season, from €4,000 to €5,000. Dortmund, Germany, and Warsaw, Poland, were added to the schedule, and Deauville in France was dropped.
Tournaments in Barcelona, London, Copenhagen, Dortmund, and Warsaw all sold out. A record field of 706 players showed up for the Monte Carlo Grand Final its prize pool of €6.6 million – 192 of which qualified online through PokerStars. Indeed, the first prize of €1.85 million was won by PokerStars qualifier and World Series of Poker bracelet winner Gavin Griffin.
The total prize pool of season three of the EPT was €26.6 million, with more than 3,400 participants. This cast of thousands was distilled to just eight winners: Bjorn-Erik Glenne (Barcelona), Vicky Coren (London), Thang Duc Nguyen (Baden), Roland De Wolfe (Dublin), Magnus Petersson (Copenhagen), Andreas Hoivold (Dortmund), Peter Jepsen (Warsaw), and Gavin Griffin (Monte Carlo).

Season 4

Kicking off Season Four, Denmark’s Sander Lyloff, a former chess champion, won the €1,170,700 first prize in Barcelona when he hit a set of jacks in heads-up action against his friend and roommate Mark Teltscher’s pair of kings.
More exciting moments were to ensue throughout the season, most especially at the €8,000 buy-in Dublin tournament, which featured 221 players. A record six PokerStars qualifiers made it to the final table. Then-prodigy and now-champion Annette Obrestad made it heads-up with a 5-1 chip lead over American qualifier Reuben Peters. It was Peters who triumphed, however, clawing his way back to win more than €500,000.
To continue its tradition of innovation and expansion, Season Four of the EPT included a new stop: the Bahamas PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA).  The new "European" destination in the Caribbean – the biggest televised poker tournament other than the WSOP – would prove massively popular: a field of 1,136 players, in which more than half the field qualified on PokerStars.com. Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier banked $2 million for his victory.
Prague in the Czech Republic  (won by Backgammon champion Arnaud Mattern, winning over €700,000) and San Remo, Italy (won by 21-year-old Internet qualifier, James Mercier, pocketing €869,000), were also added as destinations on tour.
More thrilling moments ensued when Dortmund, Germany, saw the youngest-ever EPT winner 18-year-old Canadian Mike McDonald take €933,600 back home across the Atlantic, and another qualifier, Tim Vance from the U.S., took down Copenhagen for a first prize of €834,964. Michael Schulze of Germany won €609,782 in Warsaw, Poland.
The season-four Grand Final offered the largest first-place prize in European poker history, and an amazing €8,420,000 prize pool. In total, season four attracted 5,902 players – quadruple the size of Season One!  1,682 of those players qualified for their seats on PokerStars.com. Players from 75 different countries fought for the €38,248,788 total prize pools.

What does the future of the EPT hold?

If the EPT keeps aging as gracefully as it has over the first four seasons, more sights are to be seen, records are to be broken, and millionaires to be made. Through four seasons, 33 events, and a dozen countries, the European Poker Tour has truly been an innovative force in European poker. Season 5 will surely provide us with many more exciting moments – qualify for your seat today on PokerStars.com!

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