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  1. [caption width="640"] The European Poker Tour has launched the careers of some of the biggest and brightest stars in the game today (PokerStars photos)[/caption] 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. Patrik AntoniusIt 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. Mike McDonaldThe 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' GrospellierAlready 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. Liv BoereeIt 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. Jason MercierIt’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.
  2. Just like every other year going back to 2004, a fresh start to poker's yearly tournament calendar kicks off with the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas. This year brings a heightened level of excitement with the PokerStars Players NL Hold’em Championship headlining the event in what is lining up to be a record-setting PCA. Speaking of records, in anticipation of the 2019 PCA festival, PocketFives went looking through the poker history books at HendonMob to find the biggest winners in history from PCA. Here’s what was found. Thanks to a gigantic $3 million payday in 2009, Poorya Nazari holds the record for the largest first-place prize at PCA. He won the 2009 PCA Main Event from a field of 1,347 entries to claim that prize. Three other times in history has the PCA Main Event winner taken home at least $2 million. In 2008, Bertrand 'ElkY' Grospellier took home $2 million, Harrison Gimbel won $2.2 million in 2010, and in 2011 it was Galen Hall scoring $2.3 million. But, none of those players is the top all-time money earner from PCA. That title currently belongs to Bryn Kenney, and it doesn’t appear that Kenney is going to be caught anytime soon. Top 25 PCA All-Time Money List PLAYER EARNINGS 1 Bryn Kenney $6,245,111 2 Steve O'Dwyer $3,800,542 3 Tony Gregg $3,096,596 4 Poorya Nazari $3,000,000 5 Scott Seiver $2,970,620 6 Galen Hall $2,877,080 7 Vanessa Selbst $2,824,640 8 Isaac Haxton $2,583,616 9 Jason Koon $2,555,555 10 Daniel Negreanu $2,521,490 11 Bertrand 'ElkY' Grospellier $2,484,120 12 Harrison Gimbel $2,329,220 13 Dan Shak $2,278,140 14 Cary Katz $2,257,420 15 Byron Kaverman $2,213,355 16 Mustapha Kanit $2,020,200 17 Justin Bonomo $1,991,372 18 Dimitar Danchev $1,985,000 19 John Dibella $1,955,300 20 Ty Reiman $1,937,770 21 Chris Oliver $1,834,160 22 Eugene Katchalov $1,763,220 23 Will Molson $1,750,735 24 Daniel Dvoress $1,607,302 25 Nick Petrangelo $1,581,665 As you can see, Kenney is worlds ahead of the competition, winning more than $2.4 million more than anyone else on the list. That $2.4 million gap alone is good enough for 12th place on this leaderboard. Kenney's largest score from PCA came in the 2016 Super High Roller, an event with a buy-in of $100,000 that saw him win $1.687 million. The following year, Kenney won a $50,000 and $25,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em events for $969,075 and $392,876, respectively. He also has a trio of third-place finishes over the years worth $873,880, $686,960, and $643,000. Steve O'Dwyer is the second highest money earner from PCA entering 2019, taking home more than $3.8 million in prize money throughout the years. O'Dwyer's a pretty good chunk of change away from Kenney, and he's also more than $700,000 ahead of Tony Gregg in third place. Knowing some of the performances O'Dwyer has put together over the years combined with what's on the schedule for 2019 doesn't make it out of the realm of possibilities that he can catch Kenney in 2019. O'Dwyer has one win in a $100,000 buy-in event and two wins from $50,000 buy-in events at PCA for $1.872 million, $945,495, and $760,500, respectively. The 2019 schedule features the $25,000 buy-in PSPC, three additional $25,000 buy-in tournaments, one $50,000 buy-in event, and two $100,000 tournaments, there certainly won’t be a lack of opportunities for O'Dwyer to win a ton of money in the Bahamas this January. That's not to mention the PCA $10,300 Main Event as well. Looking at the rest of the list for players we could see make big moves on the leaderboard after 2019, Isaac Haxton, Jason Koon, and Daniel Negreanu are a few of the ones to watch, given their appetite for and success in high buy-in tournaments coupled with the robust schedule to suit their palate. Negreanu's largest score out of PCA came in 2011 when he finished second to Eugene Katchalov in the event’s inaugural $100,000 Super High Roller. Negreanu earned a cool $1 million for that result. He followed that finish up by returning to the final table of the event in 2012, when he took fifth for $250,900. In 2018, he took fourth in the same event for $521,140. Another big score Negreanu had from PCA came in the 2017 PCA $25,000 High Roller. In that one, he took fifth for $268,780. Byron Kaverman and Justin Bonomo are also ones from this top 25 list to keep an eye on. For players not currently in the top 25, don't be surprised if you see Mikita Badziakouski, Alex Foxen, Stephen Chidwick, or David Peters take home a ship full of money from the Bahamas and find themselves listed on the updated list of top 25 winners from PCA when the 2019 version is all said and done. Action from the Bahamas kicks off Sunday, January 6, 2019, with the $25,000 buy-in PokerStars Players NL Hold'em Championship from Atlantis Resort & Casino. PovketFives will be on site all the way through until the event's final day on January 16, so stay tuned for more coverage from the 2019 PCA poker series.
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