Let’s be honest, everybody involved with the organisation of the European Poker Tour is always going to be keen to say how wonderful the whole thing is, whether or not it is actually true. We could be sitting in a car park in Solihull and it would be described as a “beautiful parking experience” with “the most stunning views of industrial cooling towers” and a “perfect aroma from the steaming sluice”.
Here we are in Barcelona, though, for the 100th stop on Europe’s premier tour and all of the superlatives suddenly don’t seem quite enough. It’s extraordinary to think that when the EPT first started out, there were many, many commentators who thought it wouldn’t work, that this continent couldn’t sustain a series of high buy in tournaments. (It cost €1,000 to enter back then.)
But moments ago, in the heaving tournament room at EPT Barcelona, players watched a short introductory video welcoming them to this event. There were shivers sent up and down at least 300 spines as the likes of Alexander Stevic, the first EPT champion, Jason Mercier, Steve O’Dwyer, Mohsin Charania, Victoria Coren-Mitchell and Liv Boeree told stories of how this tour has changed their lives.
“I went there as a 21-year-old kid and won,” Mercier said. “It made me the man I am today.”
“Winning was magical for me,” Coren-Mitchell said. “It changed my world.”
With the lights in the tournament room turned down, and the space illuminated only by a fluorescent strips beneath the elbow rails on the tables, the players gathered for this one were allowed a moment to dream. Then Edgar Stuchly, President of the EPT, took to the microphone to make the welcome official:
“It is my enormous pleasure to welcome you on behalf of the whole team to the 100th stop of the European Poker Tour,” Stuchly said. “This is a huge milestone in the history of PokerStars and we have put in great efforts to make this event the best event ever.
“We are very excited to host this event in Barcelona. Back in 2004, the success story of the EPT kicked off with 80 players in the main event and a first prize of €80,000. Since then, the EPT has moved on and we have crowned 98 champions and have given away more than €620 million in prize pools.
“First and foremost, I would like to thank the hundreds and thousands of players who have joined and supported the EPT over the last ten years. Without you there would be no tour at all and we are thankful that you make the EPT the richest, biggest and most prestigious poker tour on the planet.
“I want to extend my thanks to our sponsors as well as to the media and the staff. I wish you success at the tables and a great time, a fantastic time here in Barcelona.”
Stuchly then handed the microphone to Daniel Negreanu, of Team PokerStars Pro, who reiterated the excitement felt throughout the PokerStars operation for this tournament.
“Well players, you’re all part of something extremely special: EPT 100,” Negreanu said. “The video got me riled up and I hope you guys are as excited as I am to play this thing. If I’ve got one message to you, it’s to do your best and have fun.
“So without further ado, dealers, the button is in the five seat. Blinds are 50 and 100…Shuffle up and deal!”
And with that, the 100th EPT Main Event is under way. Presumably the telegram from the queen is in the post.
Follow all the action from the tournament floor on the main EPT Barcelona page. There’s hand-by-hand coverage in the panel at the top, including chip counts, and feature pieces below. Live coverage of the Estrellas Poker Tour final table is now on EPT Live.