EPT Barcelona: A history lesson

ept-thumb-promo.jpgEPT Barcelona is a few short days away, and now seems like a fitting time for a little history lesson. Join us as we take a look back at some quick highlights from the first seven EPT Barcelona events.

You EPT buffs out there will remember that the Spanish port is the city where the whole EPT story began seven years ago. In September of 2004, the EPT Barcelona Open kicked off the new European tour with a €1,000 Main Event that drew 229 runners. Modest beginnings, you know. Swede Alexander Stevic won that first EPT, taking home €80,000 and etching his name into the public records. Stevic bookended that first season nicely, closing with a third-place finish at the Grand Final in Monte Carlo.

Tidbit: EPT1 Barcelona was the event in which Team PokerStars Pro Luca Pagano made himself known to the poker world outside of Italy, working his way to a third-place finish in the first of his five EPT final tables.

Barcelona continued to bat in the EPT's leadoff spot for the next few years, and Season 2 saw the Main Event buy-in bumped up to €4,000. You can imagine the EPT staff holding their collective breaths as they hoped the players would show up for another year of tournaments -- a much more expensive year, at that. When a full house of 325 players were all settled into their seats, a sigh of relief was likely exhaled as it became evident that the tour's infancy stages were over. The prize pool reached €1,300,000, and Frenchman Jan Boubli took home the lion's share of that for the win. Boubli may want to consider relocating south; he has a total of four EPT cashes, and three of them have come in Barcelona.

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Jan Boubli

Tidbit: Expect the road to an EPT title to be a little easier back in 2005? Not so much. Other notable final tablists from EPT2 Barcelona included Patrik Antonius (3rd place), Gus Hansen (5th), and Dario Alioto (7th).

For Season 3, the Main Event buy-in was once again given a bump, this time up to €5,000. And once again, Barcelona drew an impressively strong leadoff crowd with 480 players putting up the buy-in to push the prize pool well over the €2-million mark. Bjorn-Erik Glenne became the first man from Norway to taste EPT glory, and his road to the title was inexplicably tough. After four days of poker, Glenne found himself sitting across from none other than Phil Ivey with a huge heads-up chip lead. He limped tens on the button, Ivey shoved with ace-five, and the rest of the story is sitting on Bjorn-Erik Glenne's mantle. Along with the nearly €700,000 he earned for besting Ivey and the rest of the record-setting field.

Tidbit: Before this performance on the felt, Glenne was better known as one of the top 50 chess players in Norway.

Season 4. Let's get that buy-in up again, shall we? It was up to €8,000 this time around, and the big price tag didn't exactly scare anyone off. Another record-setting crowd of 543 players returned for a fourth go-round in Spain, and this time the prize pool had swollen over €4 million! Like Glenne before him, Sander Lyloff knows a thing or two about board games. As one of the top-ranked players in the world in 2005, he and his buddy Mark Teltscher finished second in a Pro-Am backgammon event in Las Vegas. Two years later, they traveled to Barcelona together and split a room for the EPT. A couple days after that, they were sitting heads-up at the final table, sharing a bottle of Cristal and playing for the top prize of €1,170,700! Teltscher found pocket kings on the final hand, but Lyloff's ten-jack rivered lucky trips to seal the deal and make him the second Danish EPT champion.

Tidbit: Team PokerStars Pro and local sensation Juan Maceiras gave Spain a good sweat, but he was eliminated in ninth place when his ace-six fell to Greg Dyer's ace-king.

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Juan Maceiras

The fifth EPT Barcelona kept the same €8,000 buy-in that worked so well the year before, and the field size increased even further to 619. In his second EPT final table, PokerStars Shooting Star Sebastian Ruthenberg claimed Germany's second title on his way to full-time Team Pro status. The victory came just a couple months after he won his first WSOP gold bracelet, beating Chris Ferguson heads-up for a Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo title. When asked about it, Ruthenberg freely admitted that the EPT title meant more because it earned him a bigger payday by more than €1 million over the small WSOP field . All told, Ruthenberg has won nearly $3.5 million, notching seven EPT cashes along the way.

Tidbit: Also in the class of Team PokerStars Pros and poker multi-millionaires, Jason Mercier made this final table as he looked to become the first repeat EPT champion following his Season 4 win in San Remo. It was sixth place for Mercier in this one, though.

While it didn't shift from its early-September spot in Season 6, Barcelona did drop out of the leadoff position on the EPT calendar with two events wedged in front of it. When Barca did arrive, it experienced its first drop in attendance with 478 players turning up to play. Relatively unknown at the time, American Carter Phillips binked the win for €850,000. Like Ruthenberg, Phillips also has a WSOP bracelet to go with his EPT hardware. They came in opposite orders, though, with Phillips adding his gold bracelet in 2010.

Tidbit: Carter Phillips was 20 years old when he won his EPT title. His heads-up opponent Marc Godwin had been winning poker tournaments for more than 30 years, and the two battled heads-up for about three hours before Phillips finally finished him off.

In last year's Season 7, the Barcelona stop was squeezed all the way back to late November as the sixth stop of the long year. The buy-in was dropped back to €5,300, and a whopping 758 players packed themselves into the Gran Casino to play. Seven nationalities were represented at the final table, and it was another Swede who came away with the top prize. Kent Lundmark cashed four times in Season 7, but that first one was the biggest, earning him €825,000 and the EPT Barcelona title. His heads-up victory came against one player plus an entire nation as Spain's own Jesús Cortes Lizano was battling with a chip lead on his home turf. But Lundmark would not be deterred, fending off waves of Spanish cheers to collect all the chips and the trophy.

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Kent Lundmark

Tidbit: More players played Day 1b (495) than the total number of players from the year before (478). Twenty of Spain's 121 entrants cashed. Season 6 Grand Final Champion Nicolas Chouity also played, finishing in 83rd place.

The EPT is set to return to the Gran Casino de Barcelona for an eighth time, and the Main Event runs from August 27 through September 1. The buy-in set at €5,300 once again.

Eric Ramsey
@PokerStars in European Poker Tour