Tuesday, 23rd April 2024 08:18
Home / Poker / The work of art and love that is the EPT Mystery Bounty box

First published in April 2023. Updated February 2024.

When players queue up to draw an envelope containing a mystery bounty on the European Poker Tour (EPT), they can be forgiven for focusing solely on the contents of that envelope. Depending on the event, it might offer them up to €250,000.

But next time you wander close to the mystery bounty desk, take a while to admire the box those envelopes are stored in. It’s an exemplary piece of craftsmanship, handmade in a workshop in Hastings, on the south coast of the UK, by the EPT’s artisan-in-residence, Joe Page.

By day, Page is logistics manager for the EPT. He makes sure that all the tables, chips, screens and other assorted equipment finds its way to the venue ahead of these enormous festivals. That’s a massive and business-critical role. If Page forgets something, the whole EPT might grind to a halt.

But in the downtime from such a demanding role, Page is a self-taught joiner who rents a triple garage close to his home that he has transformed into a woodworking workshop. This came in very useful over the past year or so, as mystery bounty events became a popular part of the EPT schedule.

Joe Page with his lovingly crafted bounty box

A PROBLEM SOLVED

Everyone on the EPT always calls Page if they need anything. Chances are, he’ll have whatever they want buried in one of the massive chests that ride across Europe for the EPT.

But when tournament organisers wanted a box to store up to 500 of the specific-sized mystery bounty envelopes, they couldn’t find one. Not in any of the travel chests. Nor in a shop. Not even on Amazon.

“Eventually I got sick of the search,” Page says. “So I made one myself.”

A friend’s aunt was throwing out an old chest-of-drawers, which Page reclaimed and repurposed for this specific commission. He used the particularly thick sides and back of the chest-of-drawers to make the box, adding some walnut splines to strengthen the corners.

He then laser-engraved the iconic PokerStars spade in three places on the box, immediately turning it into a recognisable, bespoke PokerStars piece of kit.

All in all, it took about two and a half days of work.

The result is not only beautiful, it does the job absolutely perfectly. Page will also now make similar items for the various PokerStars regional tours, where mystery bounty events will also appear. They will all be unique items, dependent on the wood Page can find for the purpose.

(He says he sources lots of his wood from carpenters who are retiring or otherwise shutting down workshops. It is all reclaimed and repurposed.)

PAGE’S PASSION PROJECT

Page approaches joinery as he does other artistic pursuits: as a way of winding down from his day job. It’s a hobby he wants to enjoy rather than one he wants to exploit for money.

“I have a little workshop and I potter around,” Page says of his joinery. “It’s my escape from poker. It’s so therapeutic and relaxing.” Of the Mystery Bounty box, he says, “This is where two worlds collide.”

Having previously studied photography for seven years, he feels similarly about that. He says he’s had only about three paid photography jobs in his life and prefers to wander around with his camera and shoot things purely for fun.

Page previously had an Etsy page, through which he took commissions for furniture, etc., but shut it down when he became too busy. He says he didn’t want a passion project to feel like a job.

Mystery Bounty draw in Monte Carlo

“I do it because I love it,” he says. “None of my friends or family get birthday presents. I make them something.” He adds that he hand made all the furniture in his own house, including chests, bedside tables, shelving and a chess board.

Wait a minute, did he say chess board? The collective ears of the PokerStars staff room pricked up at the mention. Buoyed by the arrival on the EPT of the chess superstar Magnus Carlsen, the poker world has gone slightly nuts about chess.

It gets mentioned frequently in feedback surveys, and there are now plans afoot to provide chess sets to allow poker players to wind down over the chequered board between tournaments.

But where can we find chess sets that will be beautiful enough to grace the tables of the EPT? Who is going to make them? Well, we know who would be perfect for the job.

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