Season 3 of EPT Retro aired on PokerStars’ Twitch and YouTube channels during April 2020. It offered a glimpse of the way the European Poker Tour (EPT) used to be, and added new commentary to old footage. At the same time, we dipped back into our PokerStars Blog archive to find how we reported the same events on the earliest days of the EPT. Here’s everything together: streams, results, reports and pictures. In other words, here’s all you didn’t realise you needed to know about EPT Season 3.
Knowing what we know now, it seems remarkable that no German player won a Main Event on the European Poker Tour (EPT) through its first two seasons. But as the tour grew on its third trip around the continent, we went right into the hornets’ nest with a March visit to Dortmund. It was an immediate hit, with a field of 493 representing the second-biggest event of the season.
Season 3 was all about expansion like this. Numbers rose significantly in all established destinations, while Warsaw also appeared on the schedule, testing the appetite among players to travel further east. To no one’s surprise, this proved to be a success too as 284 players went to Poland.
The list of champions from this season is the now familiar mix of stars and up-and-comers. Both Vicky Coren and Roland de Wolfe won titles, while Gavin Griffin burnished his reputation as one of the hottest talents in the game. But this was also the season on which the less heralded players seemed to cause heads-up upsets time and again. Both Phil Ivey and Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier finished second, and neither of them have ever since had a better chance at a Europe-based EPT Main Event.
STREAM 1: Barcelona and London
In 2006, if you had asked 100 people who was the best poker player in the world, 99 of them would have said Phil Ivey. Plenty would say the same thing now, of course, but Ivey really loomed large over the tables in the mid-2000s. He was almost supernatural in his powers. There was a fitting stir, therefore, when Ivey made his first appearance on the European Poker Tour in Barcelona, and of course he eased to the final table. He also effortlessly made it heads up and the reporters all prepared to dust down their immortal Ivey headlines once again. Except nobody told an unassuming Norwegian, with a background in chess, named Bjorn Erik-Glenne.
In truth, Glenne had a 15 to 1 chip lead when there were only two players left and managed to lay a trap with pocket tens to finish Ivey off. But it will always go down as one of the EPT’s great near misses that Ivey did not bag the Barcelona title.
“These European Poker Tour events are excellent,” Glenne said. “The atmosphere is simply great.” He then paid tribute to his rail, who celebrated the first Norwegian champion. “!t was wonderful to have the Norwegian drunks cheering for me!”
Greetings from Barcelona
The dynamic doctors take to the felt
Gus Hansen joins for Day 1B
Ivey battles Norwegians on the feature table
Bubble burst as aces are cracked
Thirteen survive to final day
Final six, including Ivey and Jeff Lisandro
The final word
The European Poker Tour made mainstream news after the September visit to London, thanks to a popular regular at the Grosvenor Victoria card-room. Victoria Coren, as she was then, was already arguably the best-known poker player in the UK mainstream thanks to her work as a journalist and occasional TV appearances. But when “Vicky won at the Vic” and earned £500,000, the whole of the UK suddenly knew that not only was high-stakes poker a thing, but that Coren was rather good at it. (She also came back after being reported out.)
The final table also featured American actor and TV presenter, Chad Brown, who recorded the best European result of his career. Brown and Coren went on to become Team PokerStars Pro team-mates, before Brown’s untimely passing in 2014. The list of in-the-money players included other well-known British pros, including Barny Boatman (who knocked out fellow Hendon Mobster Ram Vaswani) and Neil Channing, as well as another TV presenter, Ashley Hayles. Chef, critic and son of the Duchess of Cornwall, Tom Parker Bowles, also made the money, banking £10,000 for 15th place.
All of them did well even to get past the first level. At the time, British casinos had some draconian laws, including the insistence that everyone was seated at the very first deal. If not, your chips were removed from play.
Phil Ivey played, but didn’t cash. Terrence Chan was first out. On Day 2, Bengt Sonnert and Isabelle Mercier were working out going on a date together, but Mercier knocked Sonnert out as romance was blossoming.
STREAM 2: Baden and Dublin
Contemporary poker was already teeming with exceptional young hotshots from across Europe and North America by the time the EPT visited Baden for the third time. Small pockets of talent had developed in a handful of American and Canadian cities, while the influence of the maniacs based in the Nordic countries was being honed and cultured most brilliantly in Germany.
All of this is prelude to the remarkable fact that the first German winner on the EPT turned out to be a middle-aged restaurant owner from Hamburg, who watched as two Swedes, Peter Eichhardt and Jonas Molander, were mashed, ended the challenge of “Super” Dario Minieri and crushed New York’s Ben Johnson to win the title. His name was Duc Thang Nguyen, he was unpredictable, but he was unstoppable.
Our coverage from Baden started with a touching tribute to the Sound of Music, dropped in on a couple of PokerStars players who met at the PCA and became and item before they headed to Baden, and also Daniel “DanHartman” Hartman, who paused life as a criminal defence lawyer to come to Austria.
There’s a weary but durable belief in the poker world that everyone who writes about poker is just a frustrated player who wasn’t good enough. We don’t subscribe to the opinion at PokerStars Blog (we’re all terrible at poker and don’t care), but we realise we’re in the minority.
Although it’s impossible to trace the origin of the belief, it might well have taken hold during the third season of the EPT, particularly when Roland De Wolfe, who was the editor of a British poker magazine at the time, played and won EPT Dublin. De Wolfe picked up his cheque for more than half a million euros, deposited his celebratory bottle of champagne in the media room and essentially walked out of it for the final time, going on to complete the Triple Crown and amass $5.5 million in live tournament earnings. (He had already won on the WPT in Paris before triumph in Dublin.) By his own admission, De Wolfe was not much of a journalist but he was one hell of a player. (He also did what few manage: shut up fellow Brit Ade Bayo.)
With 389 entries, the Dublin tournament continued to prosper and the latter stages featured a clutch of players who were titans of the early-season EPTs. Johnny Lodden, Marc Goodwin, Jonas Helness, Paul Testud and Luca Pagano were all in the money (it was already Pagano’s sixth cash), while an aggressive Swede named William Thorson also progressed deep for the first time. Thorson, who has now retired from poker, is one of the best players never to win a major title, and his third-place finish in Dublin actually proved to be his best EPT result. The final table also featured a man named Rob Yong, who went on to become a significant industry figure as founder of Dusk Til Dawn poker club in Nottingham.
It was all about De Wolfe, though, who paraded an extraordinarily destructive style to bully his way past everyone, knocking out seven of the last eight players. It bought him eternal relief from the world of magazine deadlines forever.
Dublin: More than just the Guinness
Chris Moneymaker among the early arrivals
Day 1A recap | Day 1B
Andy Black falls on the bubble
Day 2 recap
Final table preparations | Player profiles
Final table live updates
Final table report
STREAM 3: Copenhagen and Dortmund
There was another 400-strong sell-out in Copenhagen during another subzero Danish January, and true to the established pattern, the tournament ended with another stellar final table. Places two through four were occupied by players who were already (or would end up) as Team PokerStars Pros — Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier, Richard Toth and Theo Jorgensen — while the winner, Magnus Petersson, proved his mettle by going up against those three and coming out on top.
Our reporter on the ground in Hamlet’s birthplace, Simon Young, got swept away in Shakespearean fancy in his opening post, imagining “Wild” Bill Shakespeare going up against the PokerStars qualifiers (“To fold or not to fold”, etc.) before the boundaries between truth and fiction were blurred further by the arrival of Mads Mikkelsen to play. The man best known as Le Chiffre in Casino Royale was quickly crying tears of blood. He couldn’t make it through the opening day.
Mikkelsen was also on hand to hand out the gongs at the glitzy Scandinavian Poker Awards, which honoured Bjorn-Erik Glenne, Anina Gundesen, Mats Iremark, Johnny Lodden and William Thorson. And back at the tables, we got a first glimpse in Europe of Brent Wheeler, a future WSOP bracelet winner, but here just another PokerStars qualifier with a dream. (He was Day 1A chip leader.)
Day 1B began with Marcel Luske, TJ Cloutier and Alexander Stevic all sat together. It was a table of death in more ways than one: Cloutier ended up in conversation with John Kabbaj about people in poker who had died.
Magnus Petersson won one of his own, with 7-2, and that ended up propelling the hitherto unheralded Swede all the way through a heads-up battle for the title.
“This is a very good feeling,” Petersson said. “I played tight early on and then changed gears when it mattered. I have no real plans for tonight – maybe a drink. My girlfriend lives a couple of hours from Stockholm and bought a car today, a BMW. This money will pay for it. I am a financial advisor, so I will now advise myself to invest in some stocks and bonds.”
Take a look back on how the final went down.
The EPT finally made it to Germany in March 2007 and nearly 500 players swarmed to Spielbank Hohensyburg in Dortmund to say, collectively, “What kept you so long?” The tedious answer to that question was “licensing issues”, but once the red tape had unravelled, it was all systems go on a maniacally popular new stop.
At the time, there were few hotter talents in the German game than Sebastian Ruthenberg, and he ended up mounting the strongest showing among local players. Ruthenberg, who later went on to be one of PokerStars Shooting Stars and win on the EPT, had to settle for third this time. The two men who outlasted him were Italy’s Cristiano Blanco, who finished second in his first ever poker tournament, and Andreas Hoivold, a Norwegian at the start of a career that rapidly blossomed.
This trip to Dortmund was special for other reasons too, including the launch of a hot new service called EPT Live. As our reporter Simon Young hyperventilated at the time: “PokerStars has set up a live television stream of the action as it happens at Casino Hohensyburg at EPTlive.com, making it the first-ever major European tournament to be shown live over the internet.” Whatever happened to those EPT Live guys?
Players came from Japan and also Australia, while former Team Pro Katja Thater was among the strong array of German players.
None could match Hoivold, however, who became a fixture on the global tournament circuit for a few years, playing the highest cash games and tournaments.
By 2007, scores of countries were clamouring for a visit from the European Poker Tour, but organisers moved quickest to send the tour to Poland. It was the furthest east the tour had yet gone, but with Russia inevitably set to become a poker powerhouse, Warsaw proved to be a perfect bridge between the two European blocs.
For all that, only one Polish player made the money — Lukasz Wasek, who went out in 22nd of 284 — as Scandinavians were again the dominant force. Fourteen of the 24 in-the-money places went to players from one of Sweden, Norway or Denmark, including the champion Peter Jepsen, from Copenhagen. There was another fine showing from Patric Martensson, who reached his third final table, and PokerStars’ Katja Thater again came good with a fifth-place finish.
With no television coverage, the text and photos of PokerStars Blog’s archive are the best way to revisit the event. It was held in the casino beneath the Hyatt Regency Hotel, and where in Monte Carlo there are chandeliers, in Warsaw there was cigarette smoke. It was quite a dingy, low-ceilinged room, and felt perhaps more like a spieler of old rather than the opulent surroundings that the EPT came to expect.Nevertheless, there were a ton of PokerStars qualifiers, and some interesting early match-ups including a hungover Andy Black vs. Roland de Wolfe, and Marcel Luske going up against Luca Pagano. ElkY also came third in a weird coup, where his jacks lost to both pocket tens and pocket nines. One made a set the other a straight.
Jepson’s charge to the final started with a huge hand early on Day 2, which saw him through the bubble (Age Spets missed out on the cash by one spot). He then took the second biggest stack to the final.
The final table was a slow-burner, but exploded when three players went out in the space of four hands. Relive all the hand-by-hand action. Jepsen allowed Farid Meraghni to make all the running, and the two players’ styles contrasted significantly. Our reporter, Joanne Bartley, wrote: “There are vast differences in the player’s styles. Farid has been cautioned for messy chip stacking in this tournament, his stack looks like it’s infested with a kind of chip-fungus. Whereas Peter regularly uses a solitary chip to carefully straighten his neat piles into orderly, sharp-edged, towers. Farid’s jacket looks like it needs an iron, whereas Peter wears a smart, black, PokerStars dress shirt. Apparently he’s not wearing the PokerStars shirt because he’s sponsored, or because he qualified at the site. He just likes PokerStars. Or perhaps nice smart, black, shirts?”
Jepsen’s solidity eventually prevailed, catching Meraghni bluffing with three-high before they went at it with pocket sevens against ace-high. Jepsen flopped a set, faded a straight draw and picked up the title, worth around €325,633.
STREAM 4: Monte Carlo
The EPT blasted its way past a significant landmark when the tour returned to Monte Carlo for a third time. The Grand Final offered the grandest prize yet: €1.825 million to its winner, the first time the prize had grown to more than €1 million. When Jeff Williams won in 2006, he earned €900,000 for beating a 298-entry field, but 706 played the €10,000 buy-in event this time as everything more than doubled.
Gavin Griffin had already set a brilliant new mark in world poker when he became the youngest winner of a World Series bracelet in 2004. He then became the first WSOP bracelet winner to claim a title on the EPT when he sliced through the Monte Carlo field — all with hair dyed pink in support of Avon Walk for Life to benefit Breast Cancer Research.Griffin, who was 26, went on to become the first person to complete the Triple Crown, winning on the WPT in 2008, by which point he was a Team PokerStars Pro.
The tournament in Monaco was notable too for a number of other names making their first splash on the European circuit. Jonathan Little cashed in 62nd, Vladimir Troyanovskiy came 45th, Johannes Strassmann was 23rd and David Peters finished 12th. Soren Kongsgaard nearly won it, but went out in third. Meanwhile stalwarts Patric Martensson, Johnny Lodden, Anthony Lellouche, Ram Vaswani and Andy Black were back in the money, the latter two making the final.
The final began with Griffin as the chip leader, but Marc Karam soon took control. Vaswani, Black, Steve Jelinek and Josh Prager were fairly rapid eliminations, before Griffin knocked out Kristian Kjondal after a few hours. Kongsgaard’s elimination in third left Karam heads-up with Griffin, nearly even in chips.Through 90 minutes, Griffin gradually nibbled at Karam’s stack before a major explosion on a very low flop got all the chips in the middle. Full details are in our blow-by-blow coverage of the final. Hear what Griffin had to say in our final report.
A welcome to Monte Carlo (with some great behind-the-scenes photographs)
Chris Moneymaker, Greg Raymer and Humberto Brenes among the early arrivals
Day 1A recap, with links to all coverage
Phil Ivey and Vicky Coren play 1B
Is Gus Hansen taller than Tom Cruise?
Day 1B recap, with links to all coverage
Phil Hellmuth’s latest bullet-dodging attempt
Day 2 ends with Andy Black leading
Day 3 blow-by-blow
Day 4 blow-by-blow
Final table live updates