EPT10 Barcelona: Alexander Stevic looks back on making EPT history
Alexander Stevic sleeps like a baby. He may look tired, that much he'll confess, but the Swede insists that he's fine. Actually he looks fine, using his arms as he speaks to emphasize his infectious enthusiasm for everything, and doesn't look much older than he did in his winner's picture, taken ten years ago, when he became the first ever winner on the European Poker Tour.
Ten years ago the EPT was an altogether different place. The brainchild of John Duthie, who famously came up with his master plan while in the bath tub, Barcelona marked the leaping the tour's off point, the first of what has so far been 92 main events, and €499,908,225 awarded in prize money. Stevic earned the first 80-grand of that, igniting its popularity which would ultimately lead it to become the world's biggest, richest and most prestigious poker tour.
Back then Stevic held aloft that first trophy as the press, still new to this poker thing, stuck camera's in his face and wondered how a man might spend his winnings. That was still a question asked to professional players back then, before the answer "I'll increase my bankroll" became so repetitious that the media began to twig that this was about more than the money.
The Barcelona event gave the EPT the start it needed, so too Stevic, who six months later nearly bookended the year with another win, finishing third in the Monaco Grand Final for more than twice what he'd earned in Spain.
"It was not just another tournament when I won," he said. "I felt that this could be something big. And I knew that I was the first winner of something that will probably grow big. I remember people saying that they were going to play more on this tour."
Back then the poker scene was just on the brink of change. Chris Moneymaker had just shown the world how to turn a few dollars into $2.5 million, inspiring floods of internet players to cross over into the live game. Stevic watched this evolution take place as one of the existing generation of live poker players.
"Ten years ago there were a lot of these illegal poker clubs, and a lot of gangsters, also a lot of funny people - characters that you don't see any more," said Stevic, who has since made Madrid his home. "I loved that. That was the best time for me. Even though we got robbed a lot of times - even that I enjoyed!
But that era was giving way to a vastly improved acceptable face for poker, and young players from Scandinavia, England, Ireland and Finland began winning poker's biggest prizes - a popular uprising now taken over by players from Russia, Italy and Brazil.
Naturally this new interest meant bigger prize pools. The field of 229 back in Season 1 created a prize pool of €229,000, from which Stevic claimed €80,000. Back then that was a lot of money, but does Stevic ever wish he'd won few seasons later?
"Always!" he says with a grin. "I would prefer to be runner-up three years later and never be a champion! It's a lot more money. But still it's fun to be the first winner, the most special guy. I always say that."
Stevic, delighted to take his seat
Today, Stevic takes his seat among the Day 1A field, intent of a famous re-run of his former Barcelona glory, although the scene today bears little resemblance to past experience.
"I like that it's so big and I love everything, I have a really good feeling," said Stevic. Everybody seems really friendly. I feel really good."
No wonder he sleeps well.
Click through to live coverage of the EPT Barcelona Super High Roller and the EPT Barcelona Main Event. Check out all the festival results here. Follow the @PokerStarsBlog Twitter account to keep up-to-date with all the EPT action and check out the EPTLive webcast.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.