The European Poker Tour heads back to London this weekend although in reality it’s already there in the form of the UKIPT. This is a sort of warm-up act if you like–you arrive in London early you give it a try and by the end of the week you decide you liked it enough to buy the album. Then the feature act arrives on stage.
London has been one of the mainstays of the tour (an honour shared only by Barcelona), having appeared on the EPT calendar in each of its now 11 seasons. Back in Season 1 the first prize was a “mere” €200,000 (hindsight is a wonderful thing), won by John Shipley. But London was also where Victoria Coren won her first of two EPT titles amid memorable scene in her home casino. Year on year though London has delivered something memorable.
But while several places lay claim to being the spiritual home of poker, London can’t quite live up to such billing. It could, however, be regarded as poker’s administrative home, with PokerStars, dealing to more tables than anyone else, at least doing its paperwork out of their London office.
In fact, when plotted on the map, there will be a sort of PokerStars line of latitude, a parallel running from the PokerStars office, through the Hippodrome Casino all the way to the Grand Connaught, which is where all the fun stuff will take place starting on Sunday.
Last year some 604 player took seats beneath chandeliers, buttresses and the odd dash of Art Deco, one of the most ornate venues on the tour. That was when Swedish player Robin Ylitalo triumphed to collect a first prize of £560,980, beating crowd favourite Leo McClean–who was profiled on PokerStars.tv this week–along the way. Then there was Martin Finger who picked up even more, £821,000, by winning the Super High Roller. It was a corker of a festival, and one that was available to watch all the way through on EPT Live.
Last year’s Main Event winner Robin Ylitalo
The EPT Live team will of course be back in London to provide full coverage from Day 2 on Tuesday, all the way through to a winner a week on Saturday. They bring with them the usual analysis, repartee, film references, contests, the latest Challenge Stapes sequence and all sorts of other stuff that will keep you glued to the screen. And there’s always the mute button is the boss walks in.
For players London always offers something of a treat. It’s a city that is difficult to tire of, and the Grand Connaught Rooms is slap bang in the middle of it. Major landmarks and attractions–Covent Garden, Leicester (pronounced “Lester”) and Trafalgar Square are minutes away, as is the British Museum, Parliament, the South Bank and the nearest branch of the, erm, Aberdeen Steakhouse.
As we highlighted earlier this week the player experience remains at the heart of each EPT festival. To help a little there will be regular shuttle buses between the Hippodrome and the tournament venue, although you can also walk it in roughly ten minutes. And you’ll pass about six Starbuck’s on the way.
They’ll also be food trucks outside the Grand Connaught Rooms to satisfy appetites during the breaks. No more dashing down the street to grab something to eat. Simply walk outside between the hours of 11:00 and 20:00 BST.
Then there’s the poker, some 45 tournaments during the entire festival with highlights being the £4,250 Main Event and £10,000 High Roller, with various other side events fitting budgets and needs. It’s really no wonder if was voted best tournament at the 2013 British Poker Awards.
So as the warm-up act continues–a pretty good one at that, as you can see for yourself in our live coverage of the UKIPT–we look ahead to the main feature. It all kicks off at 12:00 BST (07:00 ET) on Sunday, with coverage on the PokerStars Blog through to a winner late on Saturday night.
For everything else, check out the EPT website for details of the entire EPT London festival.
See you in London.
Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.