200 PCA: The quest for poker's Holy Grail

The European Poker Tour is now in its fourth season. There have been 27 tournaments played under the EPT banner, with ever-growing buy-ins and fields since 229 players sat down in Barcelona in 2004 to contest the first event, costing €1,000.

At the time, it was something of an experiment. No one really knew whether there was sufficient appetite for high-stakes tournaments on the other side of the Atlantic to support such a tour. But by the time we reached the Monte Carlo Grand Final in season three, 706 players were persuaded to part with €10,000. No such doubts could possibly remain.

Ever since the early days, however, we have been looking for the first two-time champion. From 27 tournaments we have crowned 27 winners; no one has yet held the trophy aloft more than once. Some have come close -- Brandon Schaefer and Mark Teltscher have a first and a runner-up finish on their resume -- and there have been a number who have final tabled more than twice. But the highest figure in anyone's win column remains 1.

Will this change in the Bahamas this week?

Well, it's unlikely but is by no means impossible. In today's field, we still have five former champions -- Noah Boeken, Mats Iremark, Rob Hollink, Pascal Perrault and Gavin Griffin -- while Julian Thew made it through yesterday.

If proof were needed of how tough a task this is, Arnaud Mattern, Andreas Hoivold, John Shipley and Jeff Williams all fell by the wayside on day 1A.

Of those still in the hunt, Griffin would appear to have the best chance at this early stage. The young American was already a World Series bracelet holder when he crushed the field at the season three Grand Final in Monte Carlo.

He was also PokerStars qualifier when he took his seat in that tournament, and went all the way to the summit and a €1.8 million win. Here in the Bahamas, Griffin has flown out of the blocks, and had more than 60,000 at the mid-point of level three, triple his starting stack.

Griffin is in a pretty exclusive club as the holder of EPT and World Series crowns. Only Ram Vaswani has done the same, and Griffin beat him to it by a year. But not even those two luminaries have yet managed the triple crown of WSOP, EPT and WPT titles. That accolade remains something of a holy grail, and no one has pulled it off.


Swashbuckling their way towards it, though, are Daniel Negreanu, Barry Greenstein and Joe Hachem, all Team PokerStars Pro members, and all playing today. These are the three men whose mantelpieces are only missing an EPT trophy, a space they can fill this week.

Their chip counts, as well as the other notable stacks, can be found HERE.

Soon to be removed from that list, though, are the names of Greg Raymer and Annette Obrestad. The latest news from the tournament floor is that both are out: Annette on a failed bluff, Greg without any details at present. Well find out as and when the information is available.

Photo © Neil Stoddart