Many of the world’s best poker players are packed into a hotel in Prague right now, and the excitement in the air is irrefutable. You might say this is always the case when a big live tournament is about to take place, but this buzz is unique: EPT13 Prague is the last ever European Poker Tour festival, and will crown the final EPT champion before the series is re-branded.
From January, the events will now be known as PokerStars Championships, and they won’t be limited to European soil, starting with thePokerStars Championship Bahamas (formerly PCA) on January 6, 2017. The EPT will always hold a special place in the hearts of many players, and winning one has catapulted dozens of careers.
To mark the official end of the EPT, we’ve hand-picked ten of the biggest breakout stars of the EPT over the past 13 seasons. We start with five players who made a name for themselves in the early years of the Tour.
It feels strange to kick off a list of breakout tournament stars with a man known primarily as a live and online cash game player, but there’s no denying that Patrik Antonius’ win back at the EPT2 Baden Classic in 2005 for €288,180 was the first introduction to the Fin for many.
Antonius’ career post-EPT win is well documented; he’s played in the largest cash games around the world, including on sorely-missed TV shows High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark, not to mention playing in many of the biggest online pots in history.
The Mike McDonald of EPT4 Dortmund is barely recognizable compared to the McDonald of today. When the man known as Timex won the event back in 2008 for €933,600, he was a rake-thin 18-year-old with a clear talent for the game, both live and online. Fast forward eight and a half years and McDonald is now considered one of tournament poker’s best, with more than $13 million in live earnings and an additional $3.1 million won online.
As well as his many high roller results, Timex almost became a two-time EPT champ in January 2014 when he finished runner-up at the PCA, and he recently took down the first ever GPL Finals as part of the Montreal Nationals.
Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier
Already a celebrity in the gaming world (particularly in South Korea where he lived, worked, and played prior to his breakout poker success), ElkY burst onto the poker scene with his bright hair and big personality back in 2008. Having previously finished second at EPT3 Copenhagen, the Frenchman took down a massive $2 million when he won the 2008 PCA, and that led to a string of impressive results. In October 2008 he won a WPT for $1.41 million, followed by a $25K High Roller victory at the PCA a year after his win for $433,500.
By this point ElkY was a dominant force in tournament poker, securing him a spot on Team PokerStars Pro which he holds to this day. He’d cement his legacy with two wins at EPT7 Madrid; one in the $25K High Roller for $779,221, and another in a $10K Turbo High Roller for $227,087.
It would be impossible to create a list of EPT “stars” and not include Liv Boeree. She’s become one of the most popular and heavily marketed faces in all of poker, primarily due to her sponsorship deal with PokerStars. But Boeree can certainly play; she’d already racked up 23 live cashes before her breakout win at EPT6 San Remo in 2010 for $1.698 million.
Since then Boeree has notched up a string of EPT main event cashes, as well as almost clinching a UKIPT title (2nd for $97,057) and finishing third in a $25K High Roller at EPT12 Barcelona for $449,383. She’s no slouch on the online felt either, with almost $600,000 in earnings.
It’s pretty impressive when you scroll down to the bottom a player’s Hendon Mob page and see that their first ever live cash was an EPT win. That’s the case for Jason Mercier, who took down EPT4 San Remo in 2008 for $1.37 million. Of course, Mercier was already known as an online grinder prior to that, and he’s since gone on to become one of the most esteemed and established players in all areas of poker.
Five WSOP bracelets and a WSOP Player of the Year title; seven COOP titles (including three SCOOP wins in one year); win after win; final table after final table; deep run after deep run; to list all of Mercier’s accomplishments would take too long.
Look for Part 2 of this piece on Thursday, which will focus on players who found fame and fortune from 2011-2016.