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Go West, Young Man

by Brendan Murray |  Published: Jul 01, 2008


With all eyes in Europe looking west to Las Vegas and the World Series of Poker, it seems a good time to reflect on the achievements of players and tournament organisers on our own continent during the past season. Season four of the European Poker Tour was a triumph, with new stops (San Remo, Caribbean), records broken (Monte Carlo), and a growing prevalence of North American players and winners (Copenhagen, Dortmund, San Remo, Monte Carlo).

The Grosvenor UK Poker Tour went from strength to strength and is bedding in as Britain's premier circuit, while charity tournaments from Simon Poker Day for the homeless to Interwetten's Amnesty International gala and PRK's children's charity event raised hundreds of thousands of euro for good causes while attracting star names to the game.

The Norwegian Championship came to the UK and, by all accounts, was comedy and chaos in equal measure, while a host of interesting PartyPoker events on land (Premier League) and on sea (Million VI) thrust pros and recreational players together and brought poker into living rooms from Reykjavik to Rome.

The 888 World Poker Crown broke new ground with its unique online/live structure and live video streaming of a final table with holecards, and the Irish Open offered a juicy overlay of €200,000.

Overall, it is fair to say that the European tournament circuit has really come of age and now challenges, if not surpasses, the U.S. circuit for variety, quality destinations and venues, and good old-fashioned action.

WSOP Final-Table Delay
Much has been made of the decision by Harrah's to delay the final table of the World Series of Poker main event by several months in an attempt to grow interest in the event and its participants. While the widespread hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth show genuine concern for the integrity of the game and its colourful history, it is important to keep things in perspective.
Evolution and change are natural -- just ask those innovative souls who built the first online poker rooms or figured out how to show holecards -- and while there is no guarantee the move will have the desired effect for Harrah's and ESPN (an increased TV audience), we should watch, listen, and learn from this daring experiment.

The media, of course, is the big winner, with millions of words written by journalists, bloggers, forum members, industry insiders, and other interested parties, and when the dust settles, cool, clear heads should be brought to any analysis of the success or otherwise of the newly restructured event.

Ones to Watch -- WSOP 2008
Germany and Ireland both won two bracelets at last year's WSOP (Michael Keiner, Katja Thater, Ciaran O'Leary, Alan Smurfit); Denmark's Rene Mouritsen came close twice with two second-place finishes; three Europeans made the final table of the main event (Alex Kravchenko, Jon Kalmar, and Philip Hilm); France's Bruno Fitoussi came second in the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event; and Sweden's Chris Bjorin, England's Roland De Wolfe, Germany's Andreas Krause, and Denmark's Thor Hansen all made the money in multiple events.

I expect last year's great performances by European players to be surpassed this year. Good luck to everyone heading to Sin City -- bring home the bracelets, boys and girls!