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Home / Features / EPT Retro: A look back at Season 1

Season 1 of EPT Retro aired on PokerStars’ Twitch and YouTube channels during March 2020. It offered a glimpse of the way the European Poker Tour (EPT) used to be, and added new commentary to old footage. At the same time, we dipped back into our PokerStars Blog archive to find how we reported the same events on the earliest days of the EPT. Here’s everything together: streams, results, reports and pictures. In other words, here’s all you didn’t realise you needed to know about EPT Season 1.


Season 1: Barcelona, London, Dublin, Copenhagen, Deauville

Season 1: Monte Carlo (and start of Season 2)


Dates: September 17-18, 2004
Buy-in: €1,000
Players: 229
Prize pool: €229,000
Winner: Alexander Stevic, Sweden, €80,000

Dates: October 9-10, 2004
Buy-in: ÂŁ3,000
Entries: 175
Prize pool: ÂŁ524,410
Winner: John Shipley, UK, ÂŁ200,000

Dates: October 23-24, 2004
Players: 163
Buy-in: €1,500
Prize pool: €244,500
Winner: Ram Vaswani, UK, €93,000

Dates: January 29-30, 2005
Buy-in: DKr 20,000
Entries: 156
Prize pool: DKr 2,883,825
Winner: Noah Boeken, Netherlands, DKr1,098,340 ($191,355 approx)

All that’s survived of the first PokerStars Blog

PokerStars Blog took its first ever trip to Europe for the Scandinavian Open in January 2005. That meant a former TV news reporter named Brad Willis traded the crime beat in Greenville, South Carolina, for the international poker circuit.

Apart from losing his luggage, buying Guinness (in Denmark!), and spelling “Scandinavian” incorrectly for the first day, Willis proved to be quite good at the poker blogging game. So much so that Willis is still in charge of PokerStars Blog 15 years later, while numerous other poker reporters have come and gone, attempting (but never quite managing) to replicate the original and best at the tournament reporting game.

It’s notable that the first poker player Willis encountered from his despatch from Denmark was a young kid best known by his online moniker “ZeeJustin”. That kid, Justin Bonomo, is now second on poker’s all-time money list. Willis is undisputedly top of something similar for poker bloggers.

Read some of Willis’s despatches by clicking the links below. Unfortunately none of the images have survived the shift across numerous platforms and URLs, but the words are a crisp as ever. In Copenhagen, we watched on as a young Dutch hotshot named Noah “Exclusive” Boeken beat the British pro Ram Vaswani heads up.

Vaswani, you might note, was already a previous EPT champion having prevailed in Dublin a few months before. Had Boeken not been so ruthless, Vaswani would have become the first double champion within the first season, and ended what became one of the EPT’s longest hoodoos before it even began.

Welcome to the European Poker Tour
The boy had never been to Spain. And he’d never been to England…READ MORE
Naked in Copenhagen
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against being naked… READ MORE
Pre-Game, Scandinavian Style
There is something physically and emotionally satisfying about a workday that begins in the PM…READ MORE
Saturday final report
You are now entering the den of insanity…READ MORE
EPT Scandinavian Open Final Report
These guys were artists. They were scientists. They were championship players. They may have been hanging on each other for strength and throwing half-hearted gut-punches when they could find the energy, but they had gone the distance. READ MORE

Dates: February 16-19, 2005
Buy-in: €2,000
Entries: 245
Prize pool: €465,500
Winner: Brandon Shaefer, USA, €144,000

The final table in Deauville proved to be an American dominated affair, with all of the prize money from the top four places heading over the Atlantic from northern France. Not only that, but all of the top four finishers were PokerStars qualifiers, earning their passage to Normandy after playing online. It was very much the shape of things to come.

Carl Olson, left, and Brandon Schaefer placed first and second in Deauville

Justin Bonomo made the first major final table of his career and finished in fourth. And then when Mark Ristine went out in third, Carl Olson and Brandon Shaefer were the final two. What was even more remarkable was the fact that those two were old buddies from Washington, who went to the same high school, and had taken the trip together. Schaefer came out on top, banking €144,000 and winning a seat in the grand final.

Brad Willis was again in attendance, peering over the final table, battling his Bonomo fetish, hearing John Gale utter “That’s poker!” as he was knocked out, and struggling to come to terms with the absence of a bathroom.

He also listened to a woman who “had blonde hair, hanging long down over her low-cut shirt“, and watched as Dave “Devilfish” Uliot accepted his lifetime achievement award.

Dates: March 10-12, 2005
Buy-in: €2,100
Entries: 297
Prize pool: € 594,000

The Concord Card Casino in the Austrian capital hosted the penultimate stop of the first season of the EPT — and I, for one, remember it well. (That’s my one and only attempt to play a tournament with a buy-in of more than about $50, by the way, and I didn’t even pay for it.)

Pascal Perrault: He even beat me

It all went even better for the French pro Pascal Perrault, who held off Andreas Harnemo to win €184,500. The field sizes were slowly edging upwards and this tournament welcomed 297 players, which meant an extremely long three days. In his Day 2 wrap-up, Brad Willis surveyed what he said looked like a morgue.

In his now-typical post-flight musings, Willis was sarcastically chastised for losing his baggage tag (especially galling because Lufthansa had lost the actual bag). But he eventually got to the tournament room and found Kevin Fangerow, from Chicago, to share some dinner chit-chat with, before becoming mesmerised by rising star Luca Pagano and an epic fold he made on the last hand of the first day.

He watched extraordinary carnage on Day 2, before Perrault’s calm surge to the title.

Since you’re asking, I finished 73rd. I was not featured on PokerStars Blog.

Dates: March 16-20, 2005
Buy-in: €10,000
Entries: 211
Prize pool: €2,110,000
Winner: Rob Hollink, Netherlands, €635,000

Rob Hollink: The first Grand Final winner

THE FULLER STORY: For its first few seasons, the EPT rewarded its individual tournament champions with a free ticket to the Grand Final as an added sweetener. The buy-in for the Grand Final was €10,000 at the time, so this was a big deal. These tickets proved to be golden on several occasions and in Monte Carlo on Season 1, two of the last three players, from 211, were playing thanks to their free pass. Alexander Stevic took €178,000 for third and Brandon Shaefer won €350,000 for second.

That left Rob Hollink to become the second Dutchman to win on the EPT.

Before all that, we saw a heated Day 1, with cameos from Marcel Luske, Schaefer, Ben Grundy, Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer, among others.

Brad Willis had his eyes on the prize all the way, of course. “I also had a nice strawberry tart,” he relates as the Monte Carlo money got serious.

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