EPT11 Barcelona: Time to raise the buy-in of the Main Event?

Like so many storms in a teacup, this one began on Twitter. Last night, after it became abundantly clear that this was going to be a beast of a High Roller event, Shaun Deeb loitered by the digital water-cooler and posited: "Goes to show maybe it's time for mains to be 10k cc @PokerStarsEPT."

Deeb's tweet was in response to Mike McDonald, who had written, regarding the €10,000 High Roller event: "This prize pool is already bigger than the majority of EPT main events have been. It could potentially be bigger than 60/100 of them."

Like so often, McDonald was almost exactly right.

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Doug Polk and Mike McDonald in the High Roller event

By the time registration was closed this morning, there had been 393 entries into this tournament, representing 295 entries and 98 re-entries. That created a prize pool of €3,851,400.

Over ten seasons of the European Poker Tour, plus the €5,000 tournament here this week, only 34 Main Events have had a bigger total prize pool than this. That total includes seven PCAs, with their $10,000 buy ins, and eight Grand Finals, which cost €10,600 for a ticket.

It also includes a short period between Seasons 4-6 when the EPT did experiment with a bigger buy in for Main Events. It was €8,000 in Barcelona for three seasons, as well as in Dortmund, Dublin, Baden and London for a season each.

But as many players said this morning, a higher buy in does not immediately guarantee a huge turn out and a monster prize pool. The success of the €10,000 High Roller here this week is a clear knock-on from the enormous numbers attracted throughout the entire festival.

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Every event has been close to capacity

We have broken attendance records in the €2,000 Estrellas Main Event, the €5,000 EPT Main Event, the €10,000 High Roller and the €50,000 Super High Roller. It does not take a biologist of any great renown to see a thriving, mutually supporting eco-system at work here, the kind for which the conditions in Barcelona are uniquely suited.

"There's been a lot of buzz about EPT 100 and how excited everyone is for the tournament," Vanessa Selbst says. "There are a lot of people who want to get in this [the High Roller] and win, and it kind of snowballs. Once people see that the field is 200, 250, then they want to hop in because who wouldn't want their chance at winning a million euros in three days?"

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Vanessa Selbst in action in the record-breaking High Roller

Robin Ylitalo, the EPT London champion, admitted this morning that he had originally been undecided about playing in the €10,000 High Roller, especially as he continued a deep run in the Main Event. But with his quest for a second title ending in 35th place, Ylitalo noticed the High Roller field size tick towards an artificial line he had drawn. He knew he would play if it went over.

"I was going to play if it got 160," Ylitalo says. "And I've actually now taken a re-buy [in the €10,000]. The tournament is that good."

Ylitalo, who first played a High Roller event in Prague two years ago, says that this particular €10,000 event is a good degree softer than most tournaments of a similar buy-in, which makes it more attractive to the pros. (McDonald, incidentally, says it's probably softer than most $14,000 tournaments, but resolutely not soft for a 400-player tournament.)

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Robin Ylitalo: Tempted into the High Roller

However Ylitalo says it does not follow that the EPT should raise the buy in for the Main Event. "I think €5K is perfect," he says. "It's not like it's going to be like this at all stops."

Ben Wilonofsky agrees.

"I feel that you want a High Roller that's in this range, so if you move the Main Event to a €10K, the High Rollers would be €25K and that would be really exclusive," Wilonofsky, who won EPT Berlin, says. "I don't think you should move the Mains."

He added: "Also, Mains in the €5K range let more satellites run and more people win satellite packages. If you have $500 satellites on PokerStars paying out €10K packages, plus the hotel, there would be a lot fewer people winning the packages and that would be more prohibitive."

Selbst added that field sizes for the €10,000 High Roller events have gradually been growing over the past couple of EPT seasons, and that it doesn't necessarily seem like a smart move to start tinkering with what is clearly a winning formula.

"I kind of like the price it's at now," Selbst says. "You get a lot more qualifiers. The EPT has been a €5K for a long time and I don't know that poker is in the right state to change it right now. But having 400 player high rollers is not too bad either."

Sarah Grant, of PokerStars.tv, put a simple question to a number of players waiting for the High Roller to begin its second day today: "Is €10K the new €5K?" For once in poker, there seemed to be a general quorum.


Good news, then, that the general rule of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" is being applied in EPT towers too.

Edgar Stuchly, the President of the European Poker Tour, told PokerStars Blog: "The European Poker Tour will continue to listen to players and look to deliver the most exciting schedules for players. We have plenty of space for players wanting to play the EPT Main Events at the current buy-in, and have no current plans to adjust their buy-in."

That's the end of that then.

Follow all the action from the tournament floor on the main EPT Barcelona page. There's hand-by-hand coverage in the panel at the top, including chip counts, and feature pieces below. Follow the action from the High Roller on the High Roller page. There's also EPT Live, which is streaming action from Day 5 of the Main Event.

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour