EPT10 Vienna: Eureka gets the party started
PokerStars.tv can take credit for many things, including bringing increased exposure to the European Poker Tour via the exemplary EPT Live broadcasts. But although the Eureka Poker Tour makes its debut on EPT Live today (they don't even need to change the acronym), it would be a step too far for Messrs Hartigan, Stapleton et al to claim credit for the record numbers in this week's Eureka event.
This tour has been slithering through Central Europe, the Balkans and the Baltics, for three seasons, quietly content to do its thing away from much of the western mainstream's glare. During that period, Bulgaria's Dimitar Danchev and Poland's Dominik Panka have won the PCA, Prague has become one of the hottest poker destinations on the planet and a full on poker boom is occurring in what has been dubbed the "Eureka Zone".
EPT Live is therefore very late to a party that has been raging without it. Hartigan and Stapleton can just go huddle in the kitchen with all the other flakes.
The statistical proof of the Eureka's success is not difficult to obtain. There were an average 262 players at the five events on Season 1; 338 players through four events of Season 2; and 606 players (on average) during Season 3. The Vienna stop this week was the first of Season 4 and it attracted 1,432 players. That's the most ever.
Big fields mean big prize pools and that bumper field has here contested a pot worth €1,389,040, of which the winner gets €244,270. It's a staggering amount for a €1,000 buy-in tournament.
A glance at today's final eight indicates exactly the kind of field complexion this tour attracts.
Two of the players, including the final table chip leader, Markus Stöger, were from Vienna itself, an ideal state of affairs for a tour that places its emphasis on attracting local players. Stöger is not a professional and would almost certainly not be playing were the tournament not on his doorstep.
Robert Malinowski and Blazej Przygorzewski are both from Poland and are both PokerStars qualifiers. They are also, respectively, the oldest and the youngest players remaining. Malinowski is a businessman, who has played poker recreationally for many years; Przygorzewski is predominantly an online player in only his third live tournament. He is also, as it happens, a national sailing champion.
Over recent years, since the Eureka and the EPT joined forces to produce long festivals, the player pool has also begun to merge. Stavros Kalfas, from Greece, has been seen many times on the EPT and is now on the Eureka final. He has also won the Sunday Warm-Up twice.
Bryan "bparis" Paris also brings a powerful international reputation to the Eureka Poker Tour. Paris, who is originally from California, has won more than $6m in online tournaments.
Meanwhile, the EPT Main Event is only just getting warmed up.