EPT11 Barcelona: What to look out for during Season 11?

A new season on the European Poker Tour brings a keen sense of anticipation for the months to come, and it really feels as though we're entering a new phase on this charabanc as we begin our 11th year. We are 100 tournaments in and we have had our first two-time champion, and it's hard to guess where things might go now that those landmarks are passed.

Nevertheless, it's worth taking a moment to think about the future of the EPT, and wonder for a while what could be in store. There are certainly a few things to look out for as we go from EPT100 through to what will likely be EPT109 by season's end.

Open the floodgates on the two-time champions?
It was the subject of a hundred blog posts and many more discussions in the bars around the cities on the EPT: when will we get a double champion, and who will it be? As you will no doubt know, it happened for the first time at the 98th attempt when Vicky Coren-Mitchell added victory in Sanremo to her triumph in London. The hoodoo was finally put to bed.

But will the floodgates now open? Will Mike McDonald, ElkY, Jason Mercier, Jake Cody, Kevin MacPhee, Davidi Kitai, Steve O'Dwyer, Dominik Panka, Tom Middleton, Mickey Petersen or others, now follow Coren-Mitchell's lead? Or might even somebody like Ole Schemion or Vanessa Selbst win a first title, and then another straight after?

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Mickey Petersen: In the running for second two-time champion

Statistically it's still unlikely. But I don't think anybody would now be surprised.

Climbing the ladder
For the past few years, the regional PokerStars tours around various areas of Europe have provided access to top-level competition for players with a smaller bankroll. These have become exceptionally popular, especially when the regional tours' grand finals tack themselves to the EPT event in the particular country.

It stands to reason that the EPT will continue to see graduates from the regional tours progressing to the higher buy in events, walking in the footsteps of the likes of Adrian Mateos Diaz, Max Silver, Ludovic Geilich, Nikolai Villa Lobos, et al. They all cut their teeth on smaller tours before becoming established at the top tables and securing some tremendous results.

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Adrian Mateos Diaz: A fast learner

The EPT awaits its latest breakout stars.

The continuing B.R.I.C. invasion
Player numbers will always fluctuate in poker, with booms exploding in one part of the world as interest wanes elsewhere. Over the past couple of years, new poker hot-beds have grown up in the former Soviet countries and Brazil in particular, with many more players from those regions making their way to the EPT.

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Alex Kravchenko: An early member of the Russian invasion

After the success of the recent Beijing Millions, and the first Chinese winner on the APPT, poker in China is also becoming extraordinarily popular. Although travelling restrictions mean it's not as easy for Chinese to head to Europe as it is for residents of many other countries, it seems possible that more and more Asian players will make their way to the EPT tables -- in addition to the continuing throngs from Brazil, Russia and Ukraine.

PokerStars also now has a Japanese Team Online Pro: Naoya Kihara, who is appearing with more regularity at major live events. He has a World Series bracelet and he is here in Barcelona. He is as good a bet as any to put a Japanese flag on the EPT roll of honour.

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Naoya Kihara: Can Japan make its move on the EPT?

Asia v Latin America ... v Spain?
For all the increase in player numbers from Asia and Latin America, there have still not been any champions from those countries. Brazil have had a few near misses, and Mayu Roca brought the Colombian flag to a final table at the Grand Final last season. It seems likely that as numbers continue to increase, a full breakthrough is imminent.

And what about poor old Spain? Barcelona has been on the EPT calendar every year since the start and there's a full on boom going on in these parts. Can Europe's least successful poker nation finally crown a champion this year? I'm happy to put my neck on the block and say: Yes.

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Ana Marquez: One of many top-quality Spanish players still searching for a title

How long can the heaters last?
Last season's EPT Player of the Year "race" was barely worth the name. Ole Schemion was so dominant at the tables -- particularly in the biggest buy in events -- that it was a foregone conclusion from very early on.

But Schemion is now starting the season after the season before and his reputation precedes him. Can he continue to play this frightening rush?

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Ole Schemion: Can he play the rush

The same question applies to Daniel Colman, who seems to be unstoppable at the moment. Similarly Stephen Chidwick and the aforementioned Silver showed throughout last season that they could put together consistent results back-to-back.

Have these guys cracked variance? Can their hot streaks continue? It seems certain that we will find out.

Return of the sleeping giants?
Luca Pagano hasn't cashed in an EPT Main Event since January 2012 yet is still in the top three all time in terms of in-the-money finishes. Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier hasn't finished in the top 100 of an EPT Main Event since March of that year. Jason Mercier also whiffed in Main Events through Season 10.

Although we're a long way from weeping for any of these guys -- Pagano's business goes from strength to strength, ElkY still tops the France money list, and Mercier had four final table finishes in that period in High Roller events -- they're not going to turn down a big score at an EPT Main Event. #whenwillitend?

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.

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour