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Poker in Europe: Growing Like Mad

by Jeff Shulman |  Published: May 21, 2008

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As poker becomes more and more popular on a global scale, players now have more choices for big buy-in tournaments than ever before. But, if you look at recent marquee poker events in the U.S., the numbers show a downswing. At the recent $25,000 buy-in World Poker Tour Championship, 545 players ponied up, compared to 639 in 2007, a 15 percent decline. The three WPT events prior to this one also saw notable field shrinkage: a 39 percent reduction at Reno's World Poker Challenge, a 17 percent downturn at the Foxwoods Poker Classic, and a 16 percent dip at the Bay 101 Shooting Star event.

While this is by no means the only indicator of the health of poker in the U.S. (Florida, for example, just started holding large buy-in tournaments that are selling out), it is interesting to see where our industry is growing and where it's not.

While some tournaments in the U.S. are drawing fewer players, poker is exploding in Europe. In mid-April, the largest tournament (in terms of prize pool and number of players) ever to take place outside of Las Vegas was held there. The 2008 PokerStars.com European Poker Tour Grand Final hosted 842 players from 48 different countries. A prize pool of more than $13 million ensured that three players would be newly minted millionaires, and the top prize of more than $3 million would be one of the largest top prizes in poker history. In the end, Glen Chorny, a 22-year-old student from Ontario, Canada, emerged victorious. Card Player was there, and you can read all about the event in this issue.

The EPT has grown to be such a successful tour thanks in large part to its title sponsor, PokerStars.com. The online site qualifies about a third of the players who participate in the events, many for as little as a few dollars. Add in a list of exciting stops such as London, Barcelona, Prague, Copenhagen, and San Remo, and the ability of players between 18 and 21 to participate, and you have one of poker's emerging powerhouses. The EPT, which began three and a half years ago with a €1,000 buy-in event that drew 229 players, continues to grow like crazy, and in 2008 it doubled the total amount of prize money awarded in the previous year. The Tour is also creating its own group of successful tournament superstars. Check out this issue to learn about the players who are defining consistency in Europe.

So, if you haven't taken a shot at poker riches across the Atlantic, perhaps you should dust off that passport and try the EPT.