The European Poker Tour (EPT) is once again making its spring visit to Monte Carlo this April and May. Here’s all you need to know, and more, about this most celebrated gambling destination and the flagship poker event. Consider this the complete guide…
Europe’s historical gambling capital plays annual host to one of the continent’s most celebrated poker events. There’s really nothing like it when the European Poker Tour (EPT) swings into Monte Carlo every springtime.
Ten of the first 11 EPT Grand Finals took place here, awarding some of the era’s richest prizes. They include the €2.3 million won by Pieter de Korver in 2009, which is still the biggest single score at an EPT event in mainland Europe, and the legendary Season 9 tournament which produced the best ever final table for a Main Event in poker’s history.
The Main Event has twice attracted more than 1,000 entries, including last year when the poker world celebrated the end of the Covid-19 lockdowns with a 1,073-entry whopper. That was only a handful short of the 1,098 entries that amassed in 2016 for what is still the biggest EPT Monte Carlo Main Event.
The tournaments are invariably well attended — including a €100,000 entry Super High Roller event — and the limits rise high in the bustling cash game area too. Meanwhile the Salle des Etoiles at the Sporting Club, part of the Monte Carlo Bay Resort & Hotel, is the most spectacular tournament room in all of world poker, and it is just one captivating location in Europe’s glitziest city.
Everything you have heard about the tiny principality of Monaco is true: it is lavish, ostentatious and eye-wateringly expensive. But it is also exceptionally beautiful with a fine beach and stunning views across the Mediterranean.
It is full of high quality restaurants, galleries and museums, not to mention the world’s most famous casino and grand prix racetrack. Monte Carlo is the only place in the world where the low-priced practice of “watching the world go by” feels like attending the most illustrious international boat show, car show and fashion show at the same time.
The main tournament room for the EPT — the Salle des Etoiles, or Room of the Stars — is perched on a promontory jutting into the Mediterranean Sea. It offers floor-to-ceiling views over Monte Carlo Bay and has a retractable roof to allow the sun to sweep across the room. (Don’t worry, it closes again before play begins.)
Address: Sporting Monte-Carlo, 26 Avenue Princess Grace, Monte-Carlo 98000, Monaco. The license holder and operator of this event is Société des Bains de Mer.
2023 TOURNAMENT INFO
Festival dates: April 26 – May 6, 2023
April 26-30 – FPS Main Event
Buy-in: €1,100, four starting flights
Single re-entry per flight; re-entry permitted into subsequent flight
April 29-May 1 – EPT Super High Roller
April 30-May 6 – EPT Main Event
Buy-in: €5,300; Two starting flights
Single re-entry permitted
May 4-6 – EPT High Roller
All tournaments are open for pre-registration so you can secure your seat by registering online via PokerStars client under events > live tab.
The closest airport to Monaco is Nice (NCE), which is about a 45-minute taxi ride away. However, it’s also possible to get to Monte Carlo via bus, train or helicopter. As you might expect, the latter is the quickest, but also the most expensive.
BUS: The number 80 bus (previously the 110 AirportXpress) runs between Nice Airport and Monaco every 45 minutes, seven days a week. It leaves outside Terminal 2 and there are at 15 minutes past the hour. The journey takes approximately 50 minutes and there are nine stops in Monaco, including outside the Monte Carlo Bay Resort, the Meridien Hotel and the Fairmont. The first bus is at 8.15am and the last at 8.15pm. It costs €19. Full details: https://www.nice-facile.fr/en/bus-110-airportxpress-nice-airport-monaco-menton/
TRAIN: A direct train runs from Nice’s central station to Monte Carlo four or five times per hour and costs less than $5 for a single ticket. The first train is around 5:40 a.m. and the last at 9.25 p.m. Trains run in the opposite direction at between similar times and with similar frequency. Local buses 98 and 99 link the airport to Nice’s central railway station. English language websites, including TheTrainLine.com have full timetable and reservation details. Click for more information: https://www.thetrainline.com/en/train-times/nice-to-monaco-monte-carlo
TAXI: PokerStars Travel can arrange a taxi service from Nice Airport to your hotel in Monaco, as well as a return trip. There are several taxi companies that will also fulfil your booking for around €70 (if arranged in advance). Uber also operates in Nice and quotes around €50 for a ride to addresses in Monaco. However, the service is not licenced in Monaco itself so cannot pick up from addresses in the principality.
The closest hotel to the EPT Main Event is the five-star Monte Carlo Bay Resort. The Salle des Etoiles tournament room is in the Sporting Club towards the back of the resort property.
Monaco is small and numerous other hotels are within walking distance or a short taxi ride away. They include the four-star Méridien Beach Plaza (22 Avenue Princesse Grace, Monte Carlo 98000 Monaco), only a few minutes from the tournament venue and with its own beach, and Fairmont Monte Carlo, which sits on the iconic hairpin of the Monte Carlo grand prix and has an exceptional view across the bay.
Cheaper options are also available, including the four-star Riviera Marriott Hotel La Porte de Monaco and the three-star Novotel Monte Carlo. The former is around 20 minutes by car through the centre of Monaco. The Novotel is closer to the centre of the town. Other hotel options are available. Visit the PokerStars Travel website to get the best rate on these and other hotels.
Several AirBnB properties are also within walking distance of the tournament.
There’s more to Monte Carlo than meets the eye. Specifically: not everything is as expensive as it might seem. PokerStars Blog has been travelling to the principality with the EPT every year and we are only too happy to share a few insider tips.
DINNER IN FRANCE?
Cross the line into France for cheaper eats
If you want to spend a few satellite buy-ins on your dinner, Monte Carlo is truly the place to be. Food options are spectacular here, but there’s no denying that they’re pretty pricey too. That said, there are options that won’t break the bank.
The Monte Carlo Bay Resort is at the northern end of Monaco and is only a few hundred metres from France. You can therefore take a walk across the border and find yourself in the French commune of Roquebrune Cap Martin, in which there are at least three options for food. Le Vietnam is a perfectly serviceable Asian restaurant (Chinese as well as Vietnamese food); Zamane Couscous, across the street, is a Moroccan restaurant serving delicious tagine (which also delivers); and Pizza Sant Romaine and Bar La Siciliana are pizza joints.
The quickest, though lung-busting, route to the area is via a staircase up to the hillside directly over the roundabout outside the Monte Carlo Bay Resort. Alternatively, walk down to the Meridien and take the elevator up, or wend your way on the street past the Monte Carlo Tennis Club.
Other reasonable options close (or close-ish) to the tournament include:
Miami Plage — Decent pizza and salad on the beach level, just beyond the Meridien. La Note Blue is also next door, which is pretty good too.
Meridien — There’s a daily dinner buffet open to anyone in the Meridien restaurant. The price isn’t exactly a giveaway, but you can go back as many times as you want.
Il Giardino — A small family-run Italian restaurant with a neighbourly feel, which is not to be underestimated in an often standoffish place like Monte Carlo.
NEED TO KNOW
They do their best to disguise it, but Monégasque need groceries too. Arguably the world’s most hidden Spar can be found in the Metropole shopping mall close to Casino Square. Look for the bakery counter on Avenue des Spelugues and the door to the supermarket is beside it, leading downstairs. There’s everything you’d expect in there — including wine, beers, and bathroom essentials — at relatively normal prices.
A DAY AWAY FROM THE TABLES
Although it’s easy to miss if your focus is on either the poker tables or the boutiques and bars, Monaco also has a historical old town. It’s located on high, on a hill surrounded on three sides by the Mediterranean, and with dramatic views over both major ports, the winding streets that comprise the grand prix racetrack and the football stadium, among other sights.
This is also where you’ll find the Prince’s Palace, replete with attendant guards, the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas, which is the final resting place of a succession of royals (including Grace Kelly), and the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco. The latter is part aquarium part national history museum and offers the most charming respite from the high pressure environs of the gambling halls. (Who wouldn’t prefer to live under the sea?)
You can while away several hours up here in Monaco-Ville, where the restaurants tend to be more basic and affordable, and your major battle is only with the hundreds of jutting elbows of fellow tourists, rather than pinchers of your big blind.
EPT MONTE CARLO TV EPISODES
There’s been a TV show from Monaco on every season of the EPT, and you can watch pretty much all of them on the PokerStars YouTube channel. It doesn’t take much more searching around to find footage dating from the very first year, when Rob Hollink prevailed and production values and commentary were, well, let’s say developing.
However, if you only have time to watch one episode, make it the one where all of Daniel Negreanu, Steve O’Dwyer, Jake Cody, Johnny Lodden, Jason Mercier, Noah Schwarz, Andrew Pantling and Grant Levy made the final table. It’s never been matched.
DID YOU KNOW?
Only three EPT tournaments in Europe have ever awarded winners’ prizes of more than €2 million, and all were in Monte Carlo. In addition to Pieter de Korver’s €2.3 million Main Event triumph in 2009, Glen Chorny won €2.02 million at the 2008 Main Event and Erik Seidel won €2.015 million in the 2015 Super High Roller.
1. The EPT Monte Carlo Main Event champions Marcelo Mesqueu, Jan Bendik and Nicolas Chouity have what in common?
2. The only woman to win an EPT High Roller did so in Monte Carlo. Who was she?
3. Identify these EPT Monte Carlo Main Event champions from their PokerStars screen names:
e) Mr. Tim Caum
Answers at the bottom of the page.
A FULL RECAP
Here’s the full list of results from former visits to Monte Carlo. Click the winner’s name for the tournament reports.
|2009||Pieter de Korver||935||€2,300,000||€9,350,000||Results|
SUPER HIGH ROLLER
1. They are the only EPT Main Event winners from their respective countries: Brazil, Slovakia and Lebanon.
2. Vanessa Rousso (2009)
3. a) Mohsin Charania
b) Manig Loeser
c) Jeff Williams
d) Gavin Griffin
e) Steve O’Dwyer