Monaco isn’t the simplest place to get to. If you’re from the US, chances are it requires multiple flights to get to Nice. If you’re from Europe, it’s probably a flight or two. Then, it’s a 30-minute car ride, 30-minute train ride, or seven-minute whirlybird adventure to get there.
But once you’re in Monaco, all of the traveling is well worth it, especially for the over 300 online qualifiers in the European Poker Tour’s Grand Final Main Event in Monte Carlo, which featured two starting days on Saturday and Sunday. They’ve joined the hundreds of other players in attendance at the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel on the eastern edge of Monaco.
Take Joseph Prichard, who calls the UK home and qualified for this year’s Main Event not once, but twice. It’s his first time playing in Monaco and he got in via a €700 satellite and then again via a €215 qualifier for a total of two packages.
“I’m feeling alright right now,” Prichard said from Blue Table #1, tucked in the corner on the far side of the tournament room from its entrance. “I thought it’d be fun to play in an EPT event in Monaco.”
This isn’t the UK player’s first foray into EPT Main Events, however. He also played in London, where he bubbled after losing with trips over trips.
“It’s a pretty cool setup here,” Prichard said. “It’s better than London because all the tournament tables are in one big room.”
Qualifiers and first-timers from all walks of life have descended upon the French Riviera. It was sunny for most of the day on Saturday before a warm front rolled in on Sunday, when the wind made the Mediterranean look angry.
Anthony Harnden, a doctor and professor of primary care at Oxford University in England, was true to form, jokingly concerned about players’ Vitamin D levels being precariously low in the black-roofed, black-walled tournament room with a white sandy beach directly outside. “I wish they would open the curtains and open the roof. We could get our Vitamin D levels up.”
“It’s going okay so far,” Harnden said. “I’m confident.” He qualified for €50 on PokerStars and originally planned on playing in the Grand Final’s Seniors Event, which took place on Saturday. However, he saw an online qualifier for the Main Event and decided to give it a shot.
“I started at 8:00pm on a Saturday and ended at 3:00am on a Sunday and had to go to work the next day,” the professor said. “I was literally playing all day and night and went to work the next day.” His students, however, aren’t aware of his successes in poker thus far since the topic never comes up.
Entering on Day 1A was another online qualifier, Thomas Miller. Despite live mis-clicking in a hand on Day 1A, Miller, who calls the US home, was relaxed. He qualified early on in the process and said, “I was just clicking away and qualified.”
He’s originally from New York City, but plays online in Montreal. He called the decision to head out of the country hard and added that he misses his family and friends back home when he’s in Canada grinding.
Miller was one of many players singing PokerStars’ praises. “EPTs are the best because PokerStars knows how to throw a party,” he said.
One of the most successful online qualifying stories for the EPT Grand Final Main Event belongs to Ben ‘f3nix35’ Dobson, who has almost $2 million in career online MTT winnings. Dobson earned his way into the Main Event in Monaco via a €4 hyper-hyper. For doing so, he received a seat into a €200 satellite, which he won for the Monaco package. He essentially qualified for the price of a cup of coffee, or half a Coke in the hotel’s restaurant.
Dobson, who played on Day 1B, shortened a planned trip to Asia with his wife in order to be in Europe.
“My wife was a little mad because we cut our trip to Asia short,” Dobson said as he checked his phone from the cup holder’s built-in USB charger. “We flew in from Thailand the other day. I would have come here anyway, but I wanted to play the qualifier. I didn’t think I’d win.”
Here are more details on Spin & Go qualifiers who made their way to Monaco: