EPT8 Monaco $25,000 High Roller: Rolling ever higher
Picture the scene sometime in the middle of 2008: European Poker Tour regulars are up in arms that their tournaments simply aren't big enough. Glen Chorny has recently won £2m for taking down the Grand Final in Monte Carlo, Sebastian Ruthenberg has earned €1.3m in Barcelona and Michael Martin is battling back from less than one big blind to win £1m in London.
"Yeah, but what about people interested in real money? Pull your socks up EPT organisers. We want big buy in tournaments."
It's undocumented exactly how this discussion went down, but those put upon EPT organisers responded in the only way they know how: by giving the players what they wanted. The first ever High Roller event on the European Poker Tour was played out in London the same week as Martin was swiping the main event cash.
It was known then as the £1 Million Showdown, with a guaranteed million quid prize pool. It cost £20,000 to enter and reporters at the event were full of nervous chatter about whether the guarantee would actually be reached. Were there really enough poker players around who could afford to part with £20,000 for a single tournament? It seemed a reasonable question at the time. How green we were.
The answer, of course, was yes. There were 86 entries into the Million Pound Showdown, a prize pool of £1,720,000 and a fitting champion: Jason Mercier. Mercier had already won EPT San Remo and would soon join Team PokerStars Pro. He took £516,000 for sealing the Showdown, and getting the High Roller ball high rolling.
Even then we perhaps didn't quite realise the full potential of the concept. The huge buy in tended to bring out the best in everyone, and the cream of the crop duly tended to rise to the top.
Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier would win the first PCA High Roller, a year after his main event success. Then Vanessa Rousso won the first €25,000 event played on European soil. She won €720,000 for first place in the inaugural EPT Monte Carlo High Roller tournament.
High Roller fever swept through the EPT on season six, starting with Shaun Deeb's legendary victory at the EPT Kyiv High Roller final table. Well, final table overstates it. Only table is closer to the truth. And only three chairs were actually required as Deeb beat two others to the title, his first live tournament victory. They all count.
And didn't the biggest stars know it. They just kept snagging the top prizes. Dario Minieri won the High Roller in Warsaw. Matt Glantz won in London. William Reynolds won at the PCA and Martin Kabrhel took the title in Deauville.
Tobias Reinkemeier then joined the exclusive club with victory here in Monte Carlo, before we moved into season seven. There we found the likes of Nacho Barbero (London), Will Molson (PCA) and ElkY again back in the Principality. (Eugene Katchalov also took down the first Super High Roller event, which cost €100,000 to enter.)
Throughout all this, the numbers of participants has steadily increased, and the prizes have gone up in tandem. That brings us to this tournament going on right now, which is by some measure the biggest High Roller the EPT has hosted.
Biggest that is in terms of number - there were 133 entries at €25,000 a pop - and in terms of prizes. The winner here will win €1,080,000, which is the most any "regular" High Roller champion has ever won.
It's crazy really that we're even talking in terms of "regular" High Roller. That's because there's the "Super" High Roller, at €100,000, which was won earlier this week by Justin Bonomo.
Who reckons there'll be a "Mega" High Roller in five years? Yep, me too.
Click on the prize pool link at the main tournament coverage to see how the prizes are being distributed.
Previous Grand Final High Roller winners
Season 5, 79 players, Vanessa Rousso - €720,000
Season 6, 113 players, Tobias Reinkemeier - €956,000
Season 7, 58 players, Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier - €525,000
Season 8, 113 players, ??? ??? - €1,080,000