EPT Barcelona: Surf, sand and awards for EPT birthday

This week, the European Poker Tour celebrates its fourth birthday. It came blinking and stumbling into the world in Barcelona in 2004, began with baby-steps that soon became a cocksure swagger, and yesterday there was a party in recognition of the start of its fifth year. People stood around the room gossiping as though maternal aunts and said: "My, hasn't he grown."


Watch EPT Barcelona 2008 Promo on PokerStars.tv


And he sure has. There were just 230 runners on that debut event, each paying €1,000 for a shot at an €80,000 prize-pool. Today is day 1A of the fifth renewal and there will be closer to 600 players paying €8,000 and the first prize will be something like €1.3 million. All this before most people have learned to ride a bike.

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Daniel Negreanu and Gloria Balding present the awards

Typically, the party was a star-studded affair. Poker superstars from across the globe gathered in the opulent Opium del Mar bar and nightclub where if you looked one way there were World Champions, and in the other direction there was the Mediterranean Sea. All that separated us from the surf was a neat strip of golden sand, and as the revellers revelled into the night, the beach people came out to comb it flat, working long past midnight to keep the beautiful just the way it should be.


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By that point, we had all be welcomed in characteristic EPT fashion to another wonderful event. This time, in addition to the fire eaters, jugglers, and generous food and drink, there was also the no-small matter of the inaugural, annual, EPT awards, recognising the achievements of some of the players from last season's record breaking tour. Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu took to the stage alongside Gloria Balding to present trophies to the best newcomer, best tournament performer, best online qualifier, best overseas player, a poker writers and people's award.

And then there was the player of the year trophy, picked up by Daniel's Team PokerStars Pro team-mate Luca Pagano. There could have been no more popular winner. (Full results are below.)


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Player of the Year award winner Luca Pagano

Once the awards were done, the party continued. The resident artist sketched caricatures of the party-goers, as some serious, sedate, polite people became caricatures of themselves, accepting the invitation to eat, drink and dance with a rare vim. Names have been withheld to protect the innocent.

But it becomes increasingly more serious from this afternoon onwards, once everyone has filed into the Gran Casino, Barcelona, to begin their quest for the title. We have all been here before and it feels like home from home. But nobody will be relaxing just yet: it's only just the start.

EPT season four awards:

Player of the Year: Luca Pagano
Best newcomer: Trond Eidsvig
Performance of the year: Julian Thew
Overseas player of the year: Mike McDonald
PokerStars qualifier of the year: Danny Ryan
Poker writers award: Julian Thew
Peoples choice award: Mike McDonald

Day 1A begins at 3pm central European time. Day 1B, for the remainder of the field, is tomorrow, with days two and three on Friday and Saturday, ahead of Sunday's final table. We will, as ever, have all the action here.

Stephen Bartley
@StephenBartley in European Poker Tour