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European Poker Tour Season Three

A grand tournament schedule

by Conrad Brunner |  Published: Oct 01, 2006


Season three of the European Poker Tour kicks off in a few days in Barcelona. The buy-ins for all EPT tournaments have gone up from €4,000 to €5,000, but otherwise the tour should have a reassuringly familiar shape, with all of the venues of season two signed up again: London, Baden, Dublin, Copenhagen, Deauville, and, of course, Monte Carlo, home of the EPT Grand Final. PokerStars will once again be the headline sponsor, and as I write, there are thousands of online players busily trying to secure their seats for the EPT.

It was at Barcelona last year that we really got wind of how popular the EPT had become. A field of 325 runners took the organizers by surprise (there were 212 runners for a €1,000 event the year before), and Casino Barcelona had to put up "Sold Out" signs, which put a few noses out of joint. EPT Director John Duthie has since taken steps to expand the capacities at all venues (it will be 480 in Barcelona this time), as well as establish a set structure of 10,000 starting chips and one-hour levels. That is now the tried-and-tested format for all regular-season EPT events in season three, except for the Grand Final, which will have 90-minute levels.

Looking beyond Barcelona, the Baden EPT in Austria has great potential. Last year, the tournament drew a field of 180, the smallest of the season. This was because Baden, a 20-minute drive from the capital, Vienna, was an entirely new tournament, and its midweek scheduling was unfortunate. Despite these drawbacks, however, I got better feedback from Baden than any other venue: The players and bloggers absolutely loved it. The tournament was smoothly run by Tournament Director Edgar Stuchley, the elegant Casino Baden is perfectly designed for a large-scale poker tournament, and the performance of winner Patrik Antonius – who began with half a chip stack after arriving late following a lost-luggage drama – was something to behold. The TV set will be located in the ornate main cardroom, which, with its high ceilings and carved-wood balustrade, is surely the prettiest in Europe. The Baden EPT, which runs just before the popular and well-established Poker EM seven-card stud tourney, promises to be a big hit.

The EPT Deauville was the single most successful event last year, with a jump in attendance from 243 in 2005 to 434 players in 2006. The EPT will now expand the playing area at Casino Barrière significantly to accommodate the demand, which is likely to reach 500-plus with a top prize of more than €800,000. One of the main complaints about Deauville has been its poor access, so British players will be interested to see that budget airline Ryanair has just opened a route from London Stansted direct to Deauville airport. EPT Copenhagen is so popular that all of the seats were sold out two weeks in advance in season two, so expect a major expansion at Casino Copenhagen, as well.

Finally, there is the possibility of another event being added to the schedule, so watch this space.

The full EPT season three schedule is as follows:

City Country Tournament Dates Buy-in

Barcelona Spain Barcelona Open Sept. 13-16 €5,000

London England EPT London Sept. 21-24 €5,000*

Baden Austria EPT Baden Oct. 7-10 €5,000

Dublin Ireland EPT Dublin Oct. 26-29 €5,000

Copenhagen Denmark Scandinavian Open Jan. 17-20 €5,000**

Deauville France French Open Feb. 21-24 €5,000

Monte Carlo Monaco EPT Grand Final March 28-April 1 €10,000

* = £3,500 approx.; ** = £40,000 DKr approx.

The end of the Barcelona EPT will mark the start of the fifth-annual WCOOP – the World Championship of Online Poker on PokerStars. The WCOOP remains the big daddy of online poker festivals, with 18 days of high-stakes tournament action starting Sept. 16 with a $200 razz tournament and culminating in the $2,500 no-limit hold'em main event with a guaranteed prize pool of $3 million. To put the size of the WCOOP into perspective, last year's version generated more than $12 million, which is almost exactly the same as the entire prize pool for the EPT season two. As a stand-alone festival, the WCOOP was the world's third-biggest poker series (live or online) in 2005.

High-stakes H.O.R.S.E. action is the coolest thing in poker right now. The combination of hold'em, Omaha eight-or-better, razz (seven-card stud low), stud, and eight-or-better stud is so demanding and so expensive that it has proven itself to be the best possible test of poker excellence. The $50,000 event at the World Series of Poker produced a remarkable concentration of poker talent, and was won by Chip Reese, who – fittingly – has long been recognized as one of the world's finest all-around players. PokerStars has consequently added a $5,000 H.O.R.S.E. event, hosted by Barry Greenstein, to the WCOOP schedule.

The WCOOP has been a happy hunting ground for the growing army of European online poker enthusiasts. Two years ago, the top four places were taken by Europeans, with EPT regular Edgar Skjervold of Norway taking the top prize. In 2005, Sweden's "Vendetta" was the runner-up, with an additional eight Europeans in the top 20. I have mixed feelings about this, because I have long campaigned for more European-friendly tournament times at PokerStars, but my argument tends to be undone by the extraordinary volume of Brits and Scandinavians who are prepared to stay up past dawn to play online poker. spade

Conrad Brunner is head of communications for PokerStars Europe.