There may or may not be an office within PokerStars where creative types swing from trapezes, bounce around on space hoppers and play X-Box while thinking up new ideas. But the idea to revamp the European Poker Tour, bringing regional and international events together, such as happened this week with the Estrellas, was genius in terms of boosting turn out.
With an added reason to head to Barcelona ahead of the main event (hundreds of local and foreign players played the Estrellas), many more stuck around for the Estrellas High Roller and Day 1A of the main. The result, when combined with the natural phenomenon of the bigger Day 1B, resulted in a field of more than 1,000 players – the first time it has ever topped four figures in this event’s history.
The Gehry fish at the entrance to Casino Barcelona
Barcelona is a flagship destination on the EPT. It’s where the first ever main event on the tour took place. While we’ll be looking back on that first event later in the week, it’s worth remembering how it was back in September 2004.
In season one the Barcelona Open featured 229 players. The tournament room today caters to 43 tables plus and a feature table in comfort. Back then the gaming floor was used for poker, with tables packed in under a staircase, between table games and next to a bar. Never since has a player been able to cash in a poker tournament, lose it all on blackjack and drown their sorrows on the way out, all within the space of a few feet.
Those weren’t just the early days of the EPT but for PokerStars too. It was a time before side events, player lounges, Zoom poker, a VIP store, press rooms (and press come to think of it), mobile apps, Slyde watches, Salvatore Bonavena and winner photos featuring two dozen grinning friends.
At least 20 EPT champions were not old enough to play poker on that momentous day. Luca Pagano, who played this week, finished third.
“I went out dominating my opponents and maybe I could have won my first EPT on the really first event,” said Pagano earlier today. “Now after nine years I’m still chasing! But if I’d won that tournament, who knows, maybe today I wouldn’t be here. So after nine years I’m proud of what I’ve achieved.”
I remember when… Luca Pagano in action this week
Of course it was Alexander Stevic who became the EPT’s first champion (trivia: who finished second?), collecting €80,000, ahead of 26 players who finished in the money (27th place returned a profit of €100). The other 202 were left with nothing more than token recognition for having taking part in poker history. And a free baseball cap, handed out as players busted.
Mad Harper, now the media co-ordinator for the tour, was responsible for handing out those caps, quickly becoming the bringer of darkness.
Not wanting anyone to miss out of a free hat, she took to hovering near the short stacked players. Who knows what the players thought, but it must have been close to watching the doctor in your ward shaking his head and whispering to a nurse while thumbing through your notes.
Despite all of this (Harper is now largely forgiven) we’re now at the stage where for the first time EPT Barcelona sits alongside events at PCA and in Sanremo as having more than a thousand players- 1,082 to be exact – 403 on Day 1A, 679 on Day 1B. That makes for a total prize pool of €5,247,700, with €1,007,550 for the winner.
Some 160 players will be paid, with a min-cash worth significantly more than a €100 ROI. Min-cash now and your €5,300 buy in becomes €8,400. The turn out since 2004 has increased by more than four-and-a-half times. A min-cash by 31 times.
Here’s how the money will be dispersed this week…
1st – € 1,007,550
2nd – € 629,700
3rd – € 404,050
4th – € 301,750
5th – € 230,900
6th – € 178,400
7th – € 125,950
8th – € 76,100
9th and 10th – € 55,100
11th and 12th – € 46,700
13th and 14th – € 40,400
15th and 16th – € 34,650
17th to 24th – € 29,400
25th to 32nd – € 24,650
33rd to 40th – € 20,000
41st to 56th – € 16,800
57th to 72nd – € 14,150
73rd to 96th – € 11,550
97th to 120th – € 9,950
121st to 160th – € 8,400
By the way, Irishman David O’Callaghan finished second to Stevic.
Lynn Gilmartin talks to Lex Velduis mid way through Day 2: