EPT Monte Carlo: The hunt for the title begins

The welcome is complete, the parties are over. Having made the short hop over the Franco-Italian border the PokerStars.com European Poker Tour has pulled into its spiritual home to get back to business. If you like poker, if you like opulence and if you like all that’s great about this game, you couldn’t ask for anything more.

Just moments ago, under the pulse of the BodyRocker's "I Like the Way You Move," the stage curtain in this grand ballroom opened to smoke, lights, and a table full of Team PokerStars Pros. Though the table was only for ceremony, the meaning was clear. The Grand Final is here.

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When the EPT weighed anchor in Monte Carlo four seasons ago 211 players battled for part of a €2.1 million prize pool, an event won by Dutchman Rob Hollink in a fitting end to the tour’s inaugural year. It was a decisive moment in European and world poker that placed the EPT on the map. From there things would only get bigger and better and the whole poker scene on this side of the Atlantic was changed forever.

Blast back to now and nothing appears more natural than setting up an EPT tournament room, complete with the best players in the world, to the backdrop of a Monaco sky line. If it’s in Monte Carlo it tends to be the best, whether it’s a polished Bentley outside a mansion, or a red Ferrari parked curb side. It’s exactly the same here at the Bay Hotel & Casino where World Champions and Triple Crown winners, among others, take their seats for a shot at the biggest prize in European poker.

Last year Gavin Griffin, now one of the newest members of Team PokerStars Pro, triumphed in a tense final table, beating Canadian Marc Karam to the title and €1,825,010 in an incredible finale, a staggering amount that may yet be broken again come Friday.

Gavin’s is the enviable task this week of defending that title whilst around him a fearsome field of attack-pros strive to make his world a difficult one. They’re here in force of course, this being the event everyone wants to play, from champion pros, to low-limit guys wanting their shot at the big time.

Among that crowd are a cast of familiar faces; a mighty mob of Team PokerStars Pros among them, including Noah Boeken, Isabelle Mercier, Barry Greenstein, Tuan Lam, Humberto Brenes and Andre Akari, as well as Luca Pagano fresh from a busy week in San Remo, Raymond Rahme who cashed there, Katja Thater and 2004 World Champ Greg Raymer. Needless to say each has an extraordinary poker resume and an insatiable desire to add to it here.

The Monte Carlo Grand final feels different to other EPTs because it is different. Christmas, birthday, anniversary, and potential lottery win all wrapped up into one, served with drinks and the soundtrack of waves washing over a beach. And chip riffling. Few other venues deserve this kind of fanfare.

Stephen Bartley
@StephenBartley in EPT Monte Carlo