From Barcelona, via London to Budapest. Then from Warsaw, through Prague, the Bahamas, to Deauville, Dortmund and San Remo. And now, the long and winding yellow-brick road of the European Poker Tour has reached its Oz, otherwise known as Monte Carlo for the EPT Grand Final.
This season has been everything to which we have previously grown accustomed – and that little bit more. The fields have been the largest we have seen, the prize pools have been that little bit richer. And yet again champions have been crowned who represent a dazzling future for the game: Sebastian Ruthenberg, Michael Martin, William Fry, Joao Barbosa, Salvatore Bonavena, Poorya Nazari, Moritz Kranich, Sandra Naujoks and Constant Rijkenberg. A weary crow would have had to fly more than 13,000 miles to watch them all receive their prizes this season. But it would have been wing-power well spent.
More than €10.5 million has been shared among those winners over the past nine months, and more than €40,000 in prize money has been paid to 735 others. But before we can call all this a wrap for another year, there is the largest poker festival ever held in Europe to navigate. This week, the Monte Carlo Bay Resort and Hotel will host about five tournaments and more than 1,000 players, culminating in the naming of the new EPT Grand Final champion, the player whose bank balance will swell by an approximate €2.5m and who will join Rob Hollink, Jeff Williams, Gavin Griffin and Glen Chorny in Europe’s most exclusive poker club.
Today is the eve of the big off, with the taxi drivers and helicopter pilots of the principality of Monaco working all hours of the day to ferry to their seats the numerous pretenders to that grand prize. Tonight there was a pause for the Ante Up for Africa charity event in the main tournament room (full updates and report available on PokerStars blog), but hundreds of players were wedged in beside them for a last-minute satellite to the main event.
There won’t be any official word on the full number of runners here until tournament registration closes on day 1B. We don’t even yet know an official number of PokerStars qualifiers, but one word will definitely be accurate enough: a “lot”. Indeed, to date we have 2,331 satellite tournaments for EPT events, and should we get the estimated 700 here, our total will be more than 7,500 players winning their seats in the biggest live arena on PokerStars. The figures, for once, speak volumes.
For tonight, though, it’s all about relaxation and focus, or feasting and boozing long into the night. There is no other place in the world like Monte Carlo to do either of those things. Just make sure you are with us from noon tomorrow (CET) for the big off.
Watch EPT Monte Carlo S5: Event Promo on PokerStars.tv