EPT9 Prague: Poker's Eureka moment
If you had been sitting in Prague's Jama Bar and Grill last night, just off Petrska on the edge of the Old Town, you would have seen six poker reporters fresh off the plane. They were quaffing ale and preparing plans of attack for the coming week - hale and hearty, it was all about the possibilities for the coming seven days.
A few mouthfuls through the second draft, however, they were joined by a breathless seventh member. This was PokerStars Blog's Nick Wright, and he wasn't quite so fresh of face. Wright has been in Prague all week, bringing you all the details of the Eureka Poker Tour grand final, which kicked off this majestic poker festival in the Czech Republic.
The Eureka had been going since Wednesday - a €1,100 affair - and Wright had been plugging away all alone since then, grappling with the most consonant-heavy bunch of names of all of the PokerStars regional events through "days" lasting long into the night.
The Eureka Poker Tour (otherwise known as "not that EPT") snakes through Central and Eastern Europe, visiting Latvia, Bulgaria and Croatia before landing itself here in Prague. Player numbers tend to be between 200-300 and tournaments wrap in three days.
But during this EPT season, the grand finals of the regional tours are combined with the established monster, boosting numbers to unprecedented levels. The big guns arrive a couple of days early and treat the regional final as a side event.
It meant that in Prague, the Eureka main event attracted 652 players, a record number, and created a prize pool of €632,440, also a record. The winner was due to receive €140,000, and there was also a €2,000 High Roller event to entertain them.
It has been described by one hyperbolic media co-ordinator as a "mega-festival", and it did appear to be something like that today as the tournament room swarmed with the Day 1A crowd of the EPT main event as two Eureka tournaments played their final stages.
Not long ago, Menikos Panagiotou, a PokerStars player from Cyprus, was swept to the Eureka title by a vocal cheering section and one of those formidable runs. With around 22 players left yesterday, Panagiotou eliminated Andrew Hulme with aces against kings and has never looked back.
He knocked out six of his seven final table opponents today, usually having them crushed when the money went in, and even though they did a deal three-handed, Panagiotou's run continued until he was the one clutching the cheque.
The tournament director Teresa Nousiainen handed over the money and announced the schedule for next year's Eureka tour. It will be back to Bulgaria and there will be two trips to the Czech Republic. The first, from March 18, will be in the border town of Rozvadav, the second will be back here in Prague about a year from now. (Jonathan Raab, Eureka Poker Tour director, also hinted that there may well be at least one more event.)
The relationship between Eureka and EPT continues to prosper and it is a mutually beneficial arrangement. The winner of this year's Eureka leader board, Alija Filipovic, was also crowned today and decided to cash part of his prize immediately.
He earned an EPT buy in for his year's successes, and he decided to play here in Prague. Tomorrow. Meanwhile there's a hefty chance Panagiotou will also try to play the rush and buy in for Day 1B, as well as any of the final table players from the High Roller event, who are still battling to a winner.
I don't know who thought of all this - who had the Eureka moment - but they deserve a big pat on the back. Even Wright, still tapping away to bring you every last bit of action, would probably agree - so long as someone buys him a big flagon of ale tonight.
Kristy Arnett looks at the Eureka Poker Tour:
Follow hand-by-hand coverage, plus latest chip counts, in the panel at the top of the main EPT Prague page.