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DUTCHMAN DERK VAN LUIJK COMES BACK FROM THE DEAD TO CLAIM EPT MONTE CARLO TITLE

Derk Van Luijk: New EPT champion!

Monaco is where people come when they already have a million bucks. But tonight, a 43-year-old semi-professional poker player named Derk van Luijk is heading back to The Hague, in the Netherlands, from Monte Carlo with a first seven-figure payday to his name.

This was an extraordinary win. Not only did Van Luijk outlast a venue-record field of 1,208 entries in the EPT Monte Carlo Main Event, but he was convinced he had been eliminated when two other opponents were still left. One of them had to tell him that he had actually won what he thought was his final hand.

That followed from another heart-in-mouth moment on the tournament’s penultimate day, where Van Luijk cracked aces with AJ, turning and rivering two more jacks. The Dutchman will be the first to admit he rode his luck in this tournament, particularly in a long and tortuous heads-up battle against Boris Angelov.

But Van Luijk is our champion, and €1 million richer. His pregnant wife Marie, standing on the rail throughout the whole final table, was the first to congratulate him after an old-school EPT epic. It took a long time to get to a winner, but there were thrills aplenty along the way.

“I still can’t realise it,” Van Luijk said during his winner’s interview, after Joe Stapleton teasingly asked him if he knew he’d actually taken it down. “It’s amazing…I got down, but I got back up again.”

The heads-up duel with Angelov, a 27-year-old pro from Sofia, Bulgaria, lasted approximately six hours, and featured numerous short-stack double-ups. There was close to €400,000 between first and second-place prizes, but the two fighters never even seemed to be interested in discussing a deal.

So it was that the tournament became incredibly shallow, with Angelov repeatedly building up a chip-leading stack slowly, only for Van Luijk to swallow it all back again. “Never,” Van Luijk said when asked if he ever doubted he could take it down.

It is that kind of confidence that makes an EPT champion.

TOURNAMENT ACTION

Players had arrived in their droves to play this most prestigious of tournaments. By the time counting was done, we were looking at the biggest ever EPT Main Event for Monte Carlo, and organisers were able to promise that €1 million first prize.

After five long days, the tournament hit its last table with several levels still to play last night, but only two players ended up departing before the scheduled end. It meant we returned with seven players for the finale and some comparatively shallow stacks heading to a conclusion.

They lined up as below, with most commentators expecting only a four or five hour day. Those commentators were wrong.

FINAL TABLE STACKS

Seat 1: Rania Nasreddine, USA, 7,900,000
Seat 2: Derk van Luijk, Netherlands, 3,200,000
Seat 3: Jovan Kenjic, Serbia, 4,750,000
Seat 4: Jonathan Pastore, France, 3,350,000
Seat 5: Jonathan Guedes, Brazil, 1,900,000
Seat 6: Niclas Thumm, Germany, 3,650,000
Seat 7: Boris Angelov, Bulgaria, 11,500,000

Brazilian qualifier Johny Guedes was the shortest stack at this point, and the day was only seven hands old when he picked up pocket jacks. He got his chips in and chip-leader Angelov called with KQ.

Guedes would have been delighted to see a jack as the window card on the flop, but with the 9 and 10 lurking behind it, his top set was way behind the straight. The A turn and Q river could not bail him out, and the PokerStars qualifier from Sao Paulo hit the rail in seventh.

That earned him €154,900, which was well worth extending his European vacation for.

Johny Guedes waits for his fate to be decided

As can often be the case in tournament such as this, stacks evened out enough at this stage to make it ICM madness to play too many pots. Pay jumps were at least €60K each, so survival became super important. It meant that as Nasreddine moved into a sizeable lead, her opponents jostled in small pots below her.

Derk van Luijk doubled with aces against Jonathan Pastore’s pocket fives. Then Pastore doubled with pocket kings beating Boris Angelov’s KQ. Angelov, however, moved back into the chip lead when a battle of the blinds against Nasreddine ended in two full houses, with Angelov’s a shade bigger.

Niclas Thumm was now the short stack, but seemed set for a double up when he flopped trips with A8 to vault into the lead against Angelov’s pocket kings. But after that glorious AAQ flop, and the innocuous 3 turn, the K river was one of two outs for Angelov and dealt a killer blow to Thumm.

The man known as “Flushiisback” had certainly made the most of his online qualification ticket here, as he returned to action following a post PSPC-heroics lay off. But Thumm could go no further here than in the Bahamas and finished sixth once again. This time he picked up €201,000, to add to his previous seven-figure result.

Another great day in the spotlight for Niclas Thumm

Pastore reassumed the role of short stack, but the World Series bracelet winner did not seem daunted. It’s just that he couldn’t get anything going. He ended up losing the last of his chips in what seemed initially to be an innocuous pot: chip-leading Angelov opened for the minimum from under the gun with QJ and Pastore was the lone caller in the big blind, reasoning his 108 was good enough to see a flop.

That board of 5910 brought Pastore top pair and he checked it. But Angelov had an open-ended straight draw plus the over-cards and got it all in. Pastore called off but he couldn’t fade all of Angelov’s outs. The Q river was the killer for the Frenchman, and Pastore’s fifth place earned him €261,700.

Jonathan Pastore fell narrowly short of adding an EPT title to WSOP success

Despite a clear pedigree in MTTs, Jovan Kenjic hadn’t managed to seize control of the final table on the tournament’s last day like he had for long periods yesterday. His game had been more about consolidation and laddering up; all he could really do with little in the way of playable hands.

By contrast, Van Luijk was up and down: he lost with pocket kings against Nasreddine’s A8, but then doubled with pocket eights through Angelov’s K9. It seemed highly likely to be either Van Luijk or Kenjic to be eliminated next, but fate alone would decide which of them it would be.

Kenjic’s stack was shorter, but he doubled it with A6 through Van Luijk’s K2. However, soon after it was even more meaningful. The dealer put AK into the hands of Kenjic and JJ in Van Luijk’s. They had only 50K difference in their stack sizes now (the big blind was 250K at this point), and so the winner of this flip, once they’d opted inevitably to wager it all, would ladder one place further at least.

The board ran entirely dry, which meant Van Luijk’s tournament continued. Kenjic, however, had to wander away. His fourth place earned him €340,500, a new career high.

Jovan Kenjic was another to fall to Van Luijk

Van Luijk returned to 24 big blinds — about half as many as Nasreddine and a third of Angelov’s stack. But when Van Luijk doubled up again, with pocket nines through Angelov, the three stacks were all but even. Nasreddine had a slight edge, but not by much at all.

The last three went on a break, and there was plenty of talk in the media room about the potential of a three-way deal. But that chat got nowhere near the table itself. The three returned to those stacks — but it quickly went a bit mad.

Nasreddine and Van Luijk got involved in a big blind versus button encounter, with both players flopping a pair. Nasreddine had 54 to Van Luijk’s J10 and the flop came 43J. The madness came on the turn, however, where the 5 gave Nasreddine two pair.

Nasreddine shoved and Van Luijk snap-called, now a near four-to-one underdog. “No jack, no ten, no three,” Nasreddine chanted as the dealer prepared to put the river down. “No jack, no ten, no three.” The prayer was not answered. The 10 was a hammer blow.

Despite winning this hand, Van Luijk hadn’t immediately realised. He picked his jacket and bag up and bade farewell to Angelov. “What are you doing?” Angelov said. It was only after Nasreddine said, “You win the hand” that he realised.

Profuse apologies from Van Luijk after misreading a hand

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry,” Van Luijk said, stating that he was exhausted and simply hadn’t seen. He thought his day was done. But instead it was Nasreddine who was staring at elimination: he two-and-a-half big blinds went in on the next hand and she lost to Van Luijk’s full house.

Nasreddine took €442,900 for third, but we wait still for what would have been the female winner on the EPT for 10 years.

“She just played brilliantly,” said Griffin Benger in the commentary booth.

Don’t look back in anger, Rania Nasreddine

Two players were left, and suddenly Van Luijk was the dominant chip leader. He had 81 big blinds against Angelov’s 39. The difference between first and second was the best part of €400,000, but still they played on without any discussion.

This was quite possibly Angelov’s doing. His solid online background suggested he had been in this kind of position more frequently than his opponent, and he began chipping away at that chip lead. An uninterrupted succession of small pots pulled him level, and then pushed him ahead. Angelov was finding the angles that Van Luijk wasn’t, and that gave him the momentum.

But Van Luijk had shown nothing if not resilience in this tournament, and he then started chipping back. In the final hand before a 50-minute dinner break, Van Luijk picked up pocket kings to Angelov’s J8. When Angelov hit an eight on the flop, he saw reason to continue through to the turn, but he shied away from Van Luijk’s shove on the turn.

When they went for a 50-minute dinner break, Van Luijk was back into a two-to-one lead, but there were only 70 blinds between them.

With sustenance in their bellies, players returned to play a familiar game. Van Luijk now had the edge and extended his lead, until the dealer served up a cooler. It was pocket kings against AQ, with Van Luijk needing those kinds to hold to win the event. But there were too queens on the flop and a third on the turn. Death by quads. “Overkill much?” a member of Van Luijk’s rail muttered.

Boris Angelov simply couldn’t get the job done

The war of attrition continued, with Van Luijk next to double, getting pocket queens to hold up against Angelov’s Q5. Angelov won most of the small pots to get back into a sizeable lead again, but then Van Luijk hit two pair with 54 and faded Angelov’s straight draw after they got the money in on the turn.

This pattern repeated, with Van Luijk needing a double again with A3 against K8. One of two things needed to happen to get it done: Van Luijk would need to find a way to win the small pots and edge into a big lead, or Angelov would need to figure out a way to win an all-in.

The play extended past midnight and into another tournament break. Van Luijk came back to 25 million chips while his opponent had 11.3 million. That sounds like a lot, but the big blind was now 1.2 million.

An epic heads-up battle between Angelov and Van Luijk

Finally, after all the to-ing and fro-ing, the pendulum had to stop. It came about when Van Luijk found AQ and Angelov got it all in with K7. Despite loud Bulgarian-tinged calls for a king, the biggest card that arrived was a queen.

Van Luijk’s previously silent crowd erupted as they celebrated their new winner.

EPT Monte Carlo Main Event
Dates: April 28-May 4, 2024
Entries: 1,208 (inc. 376 re-entries)
Prize pool: €5,858,800

THE 6 CRUCIAL HANDS THAT LED DERK VAN LUIJK TO THE EPT MONTE CARLO TITLE

On Saturday, May 4, 2024, Derk Van Luijk took down the European Poker Tour (EPT) Monte Carlo Main Event for €1,000,000.

While Van Luijk would be the first to admit he was saved by the Poker Gods on multiple occasions (some of which you can read about below), the Dutchman also showed us all how you can ladder up the payjumps when perpetually short-stacked. 

Here are the six most crucial hands that led Van Luijk to victory.

JUST CALL HIM LAZARUS

Nine players remaining
Level 29 : Blinds 50,000/100,000, 100,000 ante

Derk Van Luijk’s EPT Monte Carlo Main Event was one card away from ending on multiple occasions, yet somehow the river resurrected the Dutchman time and time again. 

Take this first hand, for example. It’s the suck-out that got him behind the wheel at the final table, but it’s certainly not the piece of good fortune that drove him home to the win (we’ll get to that later).

It took place late on Day 5. Germany’s Philipp Wenzelburger picked up AA in the hijack and min-opened to 200,000 before Van Luijk looked down at AJ on the button. He was the table short stack with just over a million chips and shoved it all in, much to Wenzelburger’s delight.

Wenzelburger gets the bad news

Delight would soon turn to pain, however. The 286 flop gave Van Luijk a flush draw and Wenzelburger was praying for no more clubs. He got his wish – but unfortunately for him, the board ran out with the J and J to give Van Luijk trips.

He went on to finish the day sixth in chips of the seven survivors. 

WIN YOUR FLIPS

Four players remaining
Level 33 : Blinds 125,000/250,000, 250,000 ante

They say you’ve got to win flips to win poker tournaments. Derk Van Luijk might not remember this one when he reminisces about his victory tomorrow, but without it, he’d have been gone.

Action folded to him on the button and he looked down at 88. “It’s a crucial spot to find a shove,” said Sam Grafton in the booth, pointing out that Van Luijk – who had just 1.9 million chips – could pick up 2.5 big blinds if he got no callers. That’s huge when you’re so short-stacked.

Start-of-day chip leader Boris Angelov

Online qualifier Boris Angelov then found K9 in the big blind and had a decision. With almost 20 million chips, he certainly had the chips to call and lose… but was his hand strong enough? 

“It’s close,” said Grafton. “It feels like might dominate nine-ten, jack-nine and the like.”

Angelov made the call. “You’ve got to feel for Derk here,” Grafton continued. “To find yourself flipping when you have such a strong hand.”

He needn’t have worried about him though. This is Lazarus after all. Van Luijk smashed the 682 flop and only improved after the 3 turn and 3 river. 

The pot proved pivotal in more ways than one. Van Luijk not only had a playable stack, but it left the other short stack – Jovan Kenjic – completely on his own with just five big blinds. 

KENJIC KO’D

Four players remaining
Level 33 : Blinds 125,000/250,000, 250,000 ante

Van Luijk’s stack dwindled down again and both he and Jovan Kenjic had almost identical stacks when the two clashed.

Rania Nasreddine made it 550,000 to go under the gun with AJ and then Van Luijk shoved for 2.55 million on the button with JJ. Kenjic had 2.5 million and called from the small blind with AK and after some deliberation (“Can I phone a friend?”) Nasreddine folded.

Van Luijk says goodbye to Kenjic

The board ran out clean for the pocket jacks and Kenjic was eliminated in fourth for €340,500.

Van Luijk was back in the game. “He’s been super super short for much of this tournament, but now has a comfortable stack: 24 big blinds,” said Joe Stapleton.

OH MY GOODNESS

Three players remaining
Level 34 : Blinds 150,000/300,000, 300,000 ante

The very next hand was as huge as they come at an EPT final table, and once again, Derk Van Luijk was delivered a miracle – one he didn’t even recognise.

“Fate has it that he’s meant to be here,” said commentator Maria Ho. She had no idea how right she was.

Finally armed with a playable stack, Van Luijk got to work and opened to 1.1 million on the button with the always-pretty J10. Rania Nesreddine had 54 and made the call from the big blind with her connectors.

Rania Nasreddine

Both connected with the 43J flop and Nasreddine check-called a 1.5 million c-bet. “This is just a spot where she’s going to take one off and see what develops,” said Ho. “Having that five is nice, you can turn some straight possibilities… or two pair…”

Before Ho could finish her sentence the dealer laid the 5 on the turn giving Nesreddine two pair. “This is a brutal spot for [Van Luijk] now,” said Griffin Benger. 

Nesreddine checked again and Van Luijk continued to fire, this time 3 million into a pot of 5.6 million. Nesreddine then shoved for 9.35 million and Van Luijk couldn’t have called any faster.

“Please hold. Please hold. Please hold,” pleaded Nesreddine. “No jack no ten no three. No jack no ten no three. No jack no ten no three.”

The river? The 10

“Oh my goodness,” said Ho as Nesreddine saw her tournament chances decimated. She was left with just two big blinds.

But it was Van Luijk who started to gather his things. Somehow it hadn’t registered with the Dutchman that he’d won the pot. He had his jacket and bag over his shoulder and went to shake Boris Angelov’s hand before Nesreddine told him he’d won the pot.

Van Luijk realises he’s still in

“Oh my God, shit. I’m so sorry,” said Van Luijk, who just rivered his way into a chip lead.

“It takes a lot to get me speechless, but I really don’t know what to say,” said Benger in the booth. “I will say that I think Van Luijk quite significantly overplayed his hand and didn’t have to play for stacks there whatsoever. 

“The turn is not the card you want to bet and call off. Your opponent is going to turn some two pairs, straights sometimes. So incredibly fortunate and frankly a misplayed hand. 

“But that’s the incredible nature of the game. You can get so lucky that you don’t even know how lucky you’ve gotten.”

Nasreddine’s tournament ended shortly after, her Q9 falling to Van Luijk’s pocket threes. The lawyer from Tulsa, Oklahoma took home €442,900 for third place.

NO END IN SIGHT

Two players remaining
Level 39 : Blinds 500,000/1,000,000, 1,000,000 ante

Yep. We’ve skipped ahead through five levels of absolute madness because trying to pick out a specific hand from the ping-pong heads-up match we just witnessed would be a fruitless endeavour. You really need to go back through the live updates to get a taste of it: back and forth, back and forth, double up after double up and no end in sight. 

But if we have to pick one (and for this article, we do) then let’s go with this double-up – a doozy for Derk Van Luijk and one that set him up to snag the win. Boris Angelov limped in holding Q6 and Van Luijk checked holding a nice suited connector hand in 54

The 43Q flop gave both something they liked. Angelov continued for one big blind when checked to, only for Van Luijk to raise to 3x. “There’s no chance of Angelov folding. Van Luijk is going to have too many draws here.”

Angelov called with his top pair, keeping in Van Luijks draws and weaker hands. But this is Van Luijk we’re talking about.

The 5 hit the turn giving the Dutchman two pair and when he jammed for 6.5 million he was quickly called. Angelov needed a deuce or seven to make a straight or a six or queen to improve, but the J river was a blank.

Once again Van Luijk survived and now led with 22 million to 14.3 million.

And once again, the chip lead switched. Van Luijk soon found himself short once again but secured another double-up with A3 versus K8, all-in pre-flop.

The never-ending heads-up battle continued.

THE FINAL HAND

Until it didn’t.

By this point, stacks were very shallow and it was just a matter of time until one of our players won two in a row. 

That player – as destiny and fate had been telling us for the past two days – was Derk Van Luijk.

It was K7 for Angelov. AQ for Van Luijk. The flop ran out QJ4 leaving Angelov desperate for a king. No dice. 

The man was down and almost out so many times – in fact, at one point he thought he was out when he wasn’t – but congratulations to Derk Van Liujk who topped this massive Monte Carlo Main Event.

He’s now a millionaire.

Derk Van Luijk: New EPT champion!

FINAL TABLE PLAYER PROFILES

Some more information about the final seven players in the EPT Monte Carlo Main Event. Play resumes at 1pm Saturday as they play to a winner. A reminder of the remaining payouts appears at the bottom of this update.

SEAT 1 – RANIA NASREDDINE, 43, TULSA, OKLAHOMA – 7,900,000 CHIPS

Rania Nasreddine has already locked up the biggest cash of her career by reaching the EPT Monte Carlo final table. “I’m not that good,” she says. “I’m outkicking my coverage, as we say in America.”

But don’t let her modesty fool you. Nasreddine, a lawyer from Tulsa, Oklahoma, has tons of live poker experience and has racked up more than $600k in cashes since 2016.

The 43-year-old picked up the game from her college debate team – a “bunch of nerds” who would play for more money than she had. By the time she began working as a lawyer, she was organising fun poker games as a method of “client development”. 

Now with a busy law career, real estate dealings, and a young child at home, Nasreddine only gets to play poker every four to six weeks. “So it’s really a treat when I get to play,” she says. 

She decided to play at EPT Monte Carlo as she was already in Europe thanks to a girls’ trip to Paris. But this isn’t her first time battling across the pond against a predominantly European field. She took some shots at EPT Barcelona last year, but the trip, she admits, was a disaster. Monte Carlo has been the complete opposite.

“The perception is that Europeans are the hardest to play against, so to fade 1,207 people and get a win would be shocking,” she says.

Whatever happens at the final table, Nasreddine has already had a Monte Carlo experience to remember. “This is the most lux tournament I’ve ever played,” she says, beaming. “I mean, we get free smoothies and pancakes at the door! Food is my love language.”

SEAT 2 – DERK VAN LUIJK, 43, THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS – 3,200,000 CHIPS

Derk van Luijk

Derk van Luijk calls himself a semi-professional poker player – and the 43-year-old investor has already come close to an EPT Main Event final table when he made it to 28th place in Paris earlier this year.

He had already gone further than that in Monaco when he found the hand that may end up defining his tournament: a miraculous turn and river that brought two jacks and helped his ace-jack crack aces and keep him alive. They were nine-handed at the time, and it gave Van Luijk the momentum to make it to the final day.

Van Luijk’s partner, who is expecting their third child, witnessed the hand from the rail, and the Dutchman has enjoyed her support all week here in Monte Carlo. 

He is now guaranteed to pick up the biggest prize of his poker career, having locked up his first six-figure score. Van Luijk already boasts a PokerStars spade, though, thanks to victory in a €2,100 side event at EPT Barcelona in 2022. 

SEAT 3 – JOVAN KENJIC, KRAGUJEVAC, SERBIA – 4,750,000 CHIPS

Jovan Kenjic

Serbia’s Jovan Kenjic strikes an imposing figure at the poker table, but he broke into a jubilant smile as he described a pivotal moment in his surge to the EPT Monte Carlo final table. “I couldn’t believe it, I had quads and he was check-raising me!” Kenjic said. 

The pot in question came during nine-handed play and was worth close to 2 million in chips, which Kenjic took from his opponent Philipp Wenzelburger. Kenjic’s quads were the best kind too: aces. 

Kenjic, 28, was already the chip leader at that point, and he comes to the final table with 4.75 million in chips — in third place. This tournament in Monaco is a breakout moment for Kenjic, whose poker resume to this point shows immense promise without a standout success. He has cashed three times before in EPT Main Events, twice in Prague and once in Cyprus, and has scored numerous side-event results. It’s not bad for someone who has only really been travelling the circuit for three years, having turned pro about five years ago.

Serbia is still seeking its first EPT Main Event champion, and the man from Kragujevac, in central Serbia, would leap into his country’s top five with victory here in Monte Carlo.

SEAT 4  – JONATHAN PASTORE, 29, LE MANS, FRANCE (LIVES IN MEXICO) – 3,350,000 CHIPS

Jonathan Pastore

Jonathan Pastore has been a regular at the PokerStars tables for 10 years, first on the .fr client and then, after a move to Malta, in the global .com player pool. He now lives in Mexico with many other French grinders. Originally from Le Mans, Pastore has climbed the poker ladder step by step, starting out in small poker clubs and working his way up to the professional ranks. He hit a peak in 2022 in Las Vegas, where he won a WSOP bracelet in a $5,000 buy-in 6-max event. A few months later, he finished runner-up in the WSOP Europe Main Event in Rozvadov. The two cashes brought him more than $1.6 million in earnings in just 5 months.

Away from poker, Pastore’s main passion is tennis and he might have pursued the sport to a professional coach level. However, Pastore devoted himself 100 percent to poker during the Covid years, and even became a coach for various French stables. 

Before now, his EPT results have been modest. He has only one previous Main Event cash. This final table offers him the chance to add another prestigious title to his collection.

SEAT 5 – JOHNY GUEDES, 27, SAO PAULO, BRAZIL – POKERSTARS ONLINE QUALIFIER – 1,900,000 CHIPS

Johny Guedes

Johny Guedes is a 27-year-old poker pro from Sao Paulo, Brazil, who predominantly plays online. So much so, in fact, that this final table appearance in Monte Carlo represents only his second live tournament score after a small cash in a BSOP event.

It has also come during his first ever international trip, planned with his fiancee Fernanda. The couple went first to Germany, but Guedes won a Silver Pass from the PokerStars Power Path and he decided to spend it on the FPS in Monaco. He then went on to win a €250 online satellite on PokerStars and earned a full EPT package as well, meaning the European trip was extended once more.

Guedes only took up poker in 2018, but was immediately successful and turned pro a year later. He now has the chance to become only the second EPT Main Event champion from Brazil.

SEAT 6 – NICLAS THUMM, 31, GERMANY (LIVING IN AUSTRIA) – POKERSTARS ONLINE QUALIFIER – 3,650,000 CHIPS

After a $1 million windfall at the PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC) in January, Niclas Thumm took a year away from the game, contemplating his future. But the man better known among the Twitch community as “flushiisback” is indeed now back.

Thumm’s story began in 2021 when he took part in PokerStars’ Dare2Stream competition – a contest for aspiring streamers promising a PokerStars Ambassadorship for the winner. That went to Seb “peace&loove” Huber, but as a runner-up, Thumm was awarded a Platinum Pass worth $25k.

Back then he was a low-stakes player with little live experience, yet he turned his free Pass into a sixth-place finish and just over a million bucks in the Bahamas.

Explaining why he then disappeared for a year, the 31-year-old said: “There are so many opportunities I have now, so I wanted to choose the right ones.” After much consideration, he realised nothing makes him happy quite like travelling to poker events, meeting up with friends, and having a positive impact on his community.

One such opportunity now available to him was to fire some online satellites for EPT Monte Carlo, and he managed to qualify for €500. This week he’s been able to try out new strategies he learned while out of the spotlight. “I’ve made several bluffs throughout this tournament that I wouldn’t have at the PSPC. So it feels different,” he said.

Now Thumm is close to yet another seven-figure score. “I’m over the moon,” he says. “I’m just doing what I’m doing, improving every day, and it’s working out so far.”

SEAT 7 – BORIS ANGELOV, 27, SOFIA, BULGARIA, POKERSTARS ONLINE QUALIFIER – 11,500,000 CHIPS

Even though he qualified online via a €500 satellite, Boris Angelov is far from a poker beginner. “I started over six years ago, mainly in cash games, before turning to tournaments during the COVID pandemic,’ Angelov explained on the eve of the EPT Monte Carlo final table. 

Angelov, from Sofia, Bulgaria, began his career online, surrounded by some very good Bulgarian players, such as Alex Kulev, whom he describes as a close friend. He then moved into the live circuit after the pandemic and made his debut on the EPT circuit in March 2022. That proved to be a successful decision: he finished 59th in the EPT Prague Main Event and hasn’t missed an EPT event since. “This is obviously my deepest run yet,” Angelov said. 

Angelov only sat down at the start of Day 2, so he has played one day fewer than most opponents. But he readily admits that his life revolves around poker, leaving him little time for other hobbies. 

With 11.5 million chips, he will start this final as a dominant chip leader assured of his biggest win in his live career. 

EPT Monte Carlo Main Event
Dates: April 28-May 4, 2024
Entries: 1,208 (inc. 376 re-entries)
Prize pool: €5,858,800

1 – €1,000,000
2 – €620,500
3 – €442,900
4 – €340,500
5 – €261,700
6 – €201,000
7 – €154,900


FEATURE COVERAGE

THE POWER PATH EXPERIENCE MARCELO SGARI WILL NEVER FORGET

“How would I sum up this experience? One word: surreal.”

You’ll have to forgive Marcelo Sgari for his brevity. The excitement hasn’t stopped since the Power Path Gold Pass qualifier arrived in Monte Carlo for his maiden European Poker Tour.

If you recognise his name, we’ve already written about Sgari a lot on this trip: first, when he made a deep run in the Main Event, finishing 96th for €11,500. Then when he took part in an all-in freeroll shootout open to everyone with a PokerStars Live account and won it, nabbing himself a Silver Pass worth $2,500 that he can use at a future live event.

It just goes to show what can happen when you qualify for an event through Power Path.

That’s probably enough to make you try and win a pass yourself. But it’s the experiences Sgari has enjoyed away from the tables that have also blown his mind.

Andre Akkari: Sgari’s poker hero

The 34-year-old Brazilian – who works for a tech company in Vancouver, where he recently moved – has had the chance to meet his heroes, most notably PokerStars Team Pros Andre Akkari and Rafael Moraes. 

“I always follow them,” Sgari told interviewers as his epic Monaco trip ended. “They were so nice. Akkari came up to me and it felt super genuine – not like someone asked him to be there. He wanted to know about me, and how the tournament was going.”

They weren’t the only ones. We’re told that Sgari was spotted walking on air back to his luxurious hotel room after winning the Silver Pass – not just because of his good fortune, but because Sam Grafton came up to him for a chat.

“He said, ‘I saw your interview’. I would never have imagined something like this would happen to me. It has been so great.”

The Power Path experience begins as soon as you win your Pass and select which event you’d like to attend. Each qualifier is assigned a committed player liaison to help them organise their trip – from travel and accommodation (the latter often covered by the Pass) to off-the-felt activities upon arrival.

This was Sgari’s first event, but he felt taken care of immediately.  “We got here, there was a transfer from the airport, the hotel is amazing, then the staff give you all the support you need,” he said, beaming.

Sgari playing the All-In Shootout that won him his second Power Path pass

Sgari admits he was nervous before taking his seat in the Main Event, but with his wife and PokerStars staff cheering him on, he soon got comfortable. “I observed what other participants were doing, how they were handling things. You try to adapt and bring your own style during the event – then I began to slowly build a stack.”

You never know who you’ll get to play with at an EPT or PokerStars regional event. You might hope for a table for unfamiliar faces, but if you do find yourself next to a superstar, at least you leave with a story to tell.

For Sgari, that famous face belonged to number five on poker’s all-time money list: Dan Smith, who was sat to his left. “I’m always watching him and how he plays,” he said. “I was super happy to be on the same table as someone who has such huge achievements already, and to feel like I can play with him.”

But nothing tops getting interviewed by Akkari. “I saved the video, I was watching it after it happened,” said Sgari.

“The overall experience… I’ll definitely remember it for a long time.”

Power Path qualifiers are running every day on PokerStars, and every PokerStars player receives a free Step 1 ticket every day they play. Learn more about Power Path here.


ALREADY AN ONLINE POKER GOAT, BERT “GIRAFGANGER7” STEVENS ISN’T DONE YET

Bert Stevens, aka “girafganger7”

There aren’t many online tournament players considered among the greatest of all time by the OG noughties grinders, the new wave of crushers who emerged in the 2010s, and today’s young upstarts. 

Bert “girafganger7” Stevens is one of them.

He’s usually seen playing high-stakes online sessions from a more-than-modest setting: a fizzy drink-strewn barn attic from his farm in Belgium, where he sits on a dilapidated desk chair in front of an old webcam. 

But Stevens has become a regular on the PokerStars live circuit throughout 2024, showing up at the European Poker Tour (EPT) Paris, the Irish Open, and now EPT Monte Carlo, playing everything from small side events to Super High Rollers.

“I want that pretty winner’s picture, me lifting the trophy, bragging rights forever…all that good shit, y’know?” says Stevens, whose new goal is to add a live title to one of poker’s greatest résumés.

Bert “girafganger7” Stevens battling in Monaco

Stevens made headlines around the world last October when he took down the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Online Main Event for a mind-boggling $2.78 million. What followed was an outpouring of respect from fans and peers. Scott Seiver described the Belgian as “One of the all-time legends”. Jason Koon considers him “Incredible”.

“I really do appreciate it,” he tells us at EPT Monte Carlo, where he says he’s also received plenty of kind words. “I don’t really play live but a lot of the guys know who I am. It’s kind of funny. I really enjoy it and I hope I can keep doing this.”

According to Stevens, the fields on this trip have been especially good. “I think [Monte Carlo] attracts a lot of recreational players — even the €100k was very good,” he says. “This €25k is massive, I had no idea it would be this big.”

He adds: “The experience is always great. I’m not really a live player but I do like all the PokerStars events. I also like playing some lower stakes too.”

Low stakes is not somewhere you’d expect to see a player with as much success as Stevens. If you could browse his online results, next to the behemoth WSOP win you’d see multiple COOP titles, High Roller Series triumphs, at least two seven-figure scores, and even a final table in the Sunday Million 11th Anniversary for almost $300k.

It’s one of the greatest online poker careers in history, but Stevens chooses to keep his results hidden.

Stevens is one of the most respected online tournament players ever

We ask Stevens how his life has changed since the huge windfall. A huge smile spreads across his face. “I mean…I’ve got a lot of money…,” he says, chuckling. He’s since become an award-winner, picking up the Best Streamer award at the Global Poker Awards. 

Stevens plans to continue streaming and will be live just about every day throughout the Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP). “I’m looking forward to it,” he says. “There’s nothing like a live trip to boost the will to play online.”

What hasn’t changed is his love for the game. “Poker doesn’t stop. It always keeps evolving and I just want to keep going,” he says. “I think I can still do it. It takes a lot of work but… I probably have a couple more years left in me.”


HIGH ROLLER BUILDS ON LONG LEGACY

Sam Grafton enjoying one of the best €25Ks in world poker

Sam Grafton rarely minces his words.

“This is one of the best €25Ks in the world,” he said. “I’ve always said that.”

Grafton should know. The Team PokerStars Pro has travelled the world playing the highest buy-in poker tournaments, and he knows a good €25K when he sees one.

And Grafton is right, by just about any metric. When registration closed today on the EPT Monte Carlo €25K, tournament staff had taken buy-ins for 247 entries, including 81 re-entries, making it the biggest EPT High Roller this venue has seen.

There’s nearly €6 million in the prize pool and more than €1.25 million for the winner. Although the PSPC has spoiled us when we think about €25K buy-in tournaments, this one is still worth shouting about.

While the EPT enters its 20th year, the High Roller event here has had only 12 previous iterations. It started back in 2009, when Vanessa Rousso beat a 79-entry field to a €532,500 first prize.

That remained the biggest prize of Rousso’s decorated career, before she stepped away from the game about eight years later.

The list of former champions of the EPT Monte Carlo High Roller actually serves as something of a trip down memory lane featuring a handful of players we never see anymore.

Rousso’s successor, Tobias Reinkemeier, was one of the brightest shining high-rolling superstars 15 years ago, but after taking career tournament earnings of $11 million, he became a psychotherapist instead.

He was so good as a reader of opponents’ intentions that he once famously got Roland de Wolfe to muck a winning hand, shipping a major pot to Reinkemeier despite the latter only calling De Wolfe’s bet. He’s using those skills in a therapist’s role now, and no doubt doing a world of good.

Previous high roller champion, Ben Pollak

The next two champions, Steven Silverman and Philipp Gruissem, are only occasional poker players these days as well. Silverman, once known as “Zugwat” online, and Gruissem, aka “Philbort”, are now getting their kicks elsewhere. Gruissem’s social media profiles show him adopting meditative poses in various tranquil locations — similar, actually, to Charlie Carrel, who won the Monte Carlo high roller the following year.

Carrel plays more poker than the other four, but when he’s not producing online poker content, he can usually be found — or, more probably, not found — in a remote retreat somewhere.

All of which brings us back to this “juicy” €25K here in Monaco, and a field that is steadily thinning towards its money bubble. Thirty-one players will be paid, with the min-cash worth €51,000.

Last year’s winner Mikita Badziakouski remains in the field, as is the 2019 champion Ben Pollak. The other former champions? They are otherwise engaged.

KEY STATS

EPT Monte Carlo €25K High Roller
Entries: 247 (inc. 58 re-entries)
Prize pool: €5,930,470
First place: €1,253,070
Min-cash (31 places paid): €51,000

PREVIOUS EPT MONTE CARLO HIGH ROLLER WINNERS

2009: 79 entries, €1 975,000 prize pool, Vanessa Rousso (USA) for €532,500
2010: 113 entries, €2,825,000 prize pool, Tobias Reinkemeier (Germany) for €956,000
2012: 133 entries, €3,325,000 prize pool, Igor Kurganov (Russia) for €1,080,000
2013: 158 entries, €3,871,000 prize pool, Steven Silverman (USA) for €775,400
2014: 214 entries, €5,243,000 prize pool, Philipp Gruissem (Germany) for €993,963
2015: 215 entries, €5,267,500 prize pool, Charlie Carrel (UK) for €1,114,000
2016: 231 entries, €5,659,500 prize pool, Alexandru Papazian (Romania) for €1,197,000
2017: 187 entries, €4,581,500 prize pool, Julian Stuer (Germany) for €1,015,000
2018: 119 entries, €2,828,035 prize pool, Albert Daher (Lebanon) for €595,386
2019: 142 entries, €3,374,630 prize pool, Benjamin Pollak (France) for €705,840
2022: 179 entries, €4,297,790 prize pool, Gianluca Speranza (Italy) for €853,000
2023: 211 entries, €5,066,110 prize pool, Mikita Badziakouski (Belarus) for €938,042
held as PokerStars Championship in 2017


GUEDES MAKING THE ABSOLUTE MOST OF FIRST EUROPEAN TRIP

Jonathan Guedes: The last Brazilian standing

The list of online qualifiers heading into the penultimate day of the EPT Main Event is down to two. Niclas Thumm we know all about. But what about Jonathan Guedes?

Well, first things first, the man from Brazil is a Johny not a Jonathan. Not even his mum uses his full name, apparently. Secondly, he’s 27 years old, a Sao Paolo native, and has been playing poker since 2018.

He took to the game pretty quickly, and turned pro in 2019. Most of his best work has been done online — including winning his package to Monte Carlo in a €250 satellite on PokerStars — but has shown here that live poker is something he seems to enjoy as well.

“I’m feeling really good,” Guedes said, preparing to take a seat among the last 16 of the EPT Monte Carlo Main Event. “I’m happy to have got this far, but I’m trying to win, obviously.”

It was in this room two years ago that Marcelo Mesqueu became the first EPT Main Event champion from Brazil, and although Joao Sydenstricker came very close to making it back-to-back Brazilian champions in Barcelona, it’s still only Mesqueu who has draped the green and yellow flag around a trophy.

“I’m a big fan of all Brazilians,” Guedes said. “They’re very energetic, great people overall. It’s great to be representing them.”

This is actually Guedes’ first ever trip outside of Brazil, although EPT Monte Carlo was not the intended original destination. Guedes is travelling with his fiancée Fernanda and first went to Germany with her.

Guedes’ European trip took a slight diversion

However, he won a Silver Pass through the Power Path on PokerStars and knew he would play the FPS Main Event and High Roller at least — until he also won an EPT Main Event package and realised the flight home would need to wait until after a diversion to Monaco.

Sitting second in chips heading into the penultimate day, it seems like a very good extension.


QUALIFIERS WALKING ON AIR – AND INTO THE BIG MONEY

Marcelon Sgari’s great week got even better in the final All In Shootout

The final All In Shootout of this festival in Monte Carlo took place last night, and it found a perfect winner.

Marcelo Sgari has been one of the stars of this EPT, converting his Gold Pass won through the online Power Path into €11,500 for 96th place in the Main Event. Then last night, he took his place in the last freeroll shootout and won it, landing himself another Silver Pass to come along to another PokerStars live event.

It’s truly the stuff of dreams for Sgari, who has also been hanging out with one of his heroes, countryman Andre Akkari, while in Monte Carlo. And yesterday, another PokerStars Ambassador, Sam Grafton, sought out Sgari to celebrate him on his week.

Sgari practically walked on air all the way back to his luxurious hotel room. He has been made to feel appropriately welcome here in Monaco. The VIP experience, promised to all PokerStars qualifiers, is very enjoyable indeed.

It’s actually been a fine showing from Power Path winners and online qualifiers here in Monte Carlo.

It started when Silver Pass winner Robbie Bull finished seventh in the FPS Main Event, banking more than €47K. Gold Pass winner Kevinas Korsakas finished 58th in the Main Event, for €15,200. And satellite qualifiers Esteban Maquillon finished 33rd for €20,100 and Matthias Lipp finished 46th for €17,600.

We’re not even done yet. It’s deep on Day 4, with 32 players left, and online qualifiers Jonathan Guedes, Niclas Thumm and Gerard Carbo are still involved.

Gerard Carbo: PSPC hoodie taking him deep

Carbo is today kitted out in a hoodie bearing the gold and black livery of the PokerStars Players Championship, for which he won a Platinum Pass. Carbo’s wife also had one: they were one of only very few married couples to play that event.

Estrada is a repeat qualifier for PokerStars live events through online satellites. Barely an EPT passes without Estrada’s name appearing on the list of qualifiers, but here she’s had to play second fiddle to Carbo, who is enjoying another deep run. Carbo, who also qualified for this event via a €250 online satellite, previously finished in 11th place at the EPT Cyprus Main Event. He could go better.

It’s worth also pointing out that Felix Schneiders was technically playing here in Monte Carlo thanks to a Gold Pass. As detailed in our catch-up with xflixx yesterday, he officially qualified to EPT Prague through the Power Pass, but saved up his expenses after booking an Air BnB.

He spent those expenses on the buy-in to the EPT Monte Carlo Main Event, and ended up cashing for the first time. He won €11,500 for 109th place.

It’s important to stress the flexibility of the Power Path prizes, and see how they can be used in a variety of ways. Daria Krashennikova, for example, has won seven or eight Silver Passes and two Gold Passes.

Daria Krashennikova demonstrated the flexibility of the Gold Passes

She used both of the Gold Passes to fire two bullets in the EPT Monte Carlo Main Event, and though she didn’t make the money, she has saved up the expenses portion of one Gold Pass, which is big enough to provide a buy-in for another major EPT tournament.

Just like Schneiders, she is turning her online satellite prowess into numerous live experiences.

Commentator Joe Stapleton realised that a player winning 10 Gold Passes would have a battle chest of €100,000 to take to the EPT. He personally offered to pay anyone’s expenses who decided to take their €100K in T-money and give a Super High Roller a spin.

Come on folks, get qualifying, if only to make Stapes pay!

Make Joe Stapleton, left, pay your expenses!


15 months since PSPC triumph, Flushiisback (Niclas Thumm) is just that

A great Monte Carlo performance from Niclas Thumm

Back in January 2023, Niclas Thumm arrived in the Bahamas as a wide-eyed Platinum Pass winner who had never cashed a live event with a buy-in bigger than $170.  A week later, thanks to a sixth-place finish in the $25,000 PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC), he left a millionaire.

We’ve all dreamt of receiving a large, unexpected windfall, but knowing what to do with a huge amount of cash once you have it isn’t so clear. Thumm – then a low-stakes player and Twitch streamer known in the community as “Flushiisback” – returned to his home in Europe with $1 million in his bank account. To protect himself, he entered a self-prescribed hibernation period.

“I took a long break after the PSPC so I could think about everything,” he tells us in Monaco. “There are so many opportunities I have now, so I wanted to choose the right ones.”

One such opportunity was to qualify for the EPT Monte Carlo Main Event. Thumm did that (twice). And at the time of writing, he has another opportunity to return home with a fresh million in his account.

BACK AND LOVING IT

Thumm says he always knew that poker would play a part in his plans, post-PSPC. He just didn’t know how big. “I asked myself, what makes me happy?” he says. “I really like to compete and interact with people, so it makes me happy to travel to live events and have a positive impact.”

To those who know him, it’s hardly a surprise to see him back in the poker world a year later. He was never incommunicado throughout his hiatus and continued to support the Twitch community – the same one who helped him win his Platinum Pass to the PSPC via the Dare2Stream competition – from behind the scenes. But he needed a break.

Niclas Thumm with his rail at the PSPC final table (Feb 2023)

“The last year has been quite unreal. It took months to sink in because it was life-changing money,” he says. “I’m proud that I took my time to think about what to do. I spent time with my loved ones. But now I’m getting back into poker. I started playing again in February at EPT Paris [Thumm played the record-breaking FPS Main Event]. I’m back at the felt and I’m loving it.”

Paris was a losing trip for Thumm, a relatively inexperienced player who won huge in his very first Main Event. But with a bankroll now padded enough to allow a little discomfort, he looks at the experience positively. “I think it was important for my mindset to have a losing streak,” he says. “I’m happy I played through it and didn’t give up.”

He adds: “I’m still collecting experiences. It sounds unreal after such a huge score at the beginning, but that’s the truth.”

NO FEAR

The latest experience is his return to Monte Carlo, a destination he once visited as a child on a family holiday. “It’s very different this time, of course,” he says. “I really love the area around the venue here. It’s super nice with the fresh air and the sea next to it.”

The Salle des Etoiles is indeed one of the nicest places to play in the world, and it’s proving to be a fortunate one for Thumm. He has played excellently throughout the EPT Monte Carlo Main Event, finding help when he needs it and pulling off moves he wouldn’t have dreamed of back at the PSPC.

“When I was on the feature table at the PSPC I had to make a lot of folds because it was life-changing money,” he says. “Now, when I was on the EPT feature yesterday, it felt different. I made some three-bet bluffs and several bluffs throughout the tournament that I wouldn’t have at the PSPC. So it feels different.”

Thumm on the feature

He adds: “I’m a bit more light-headed when it comes to making decisions that are more high variance but very profitable. I can pressure my opponents more and I observed a lot from better players in the Paris tournaments I played. That has made me a better player so I’m grateful even for the losing days. It’s all part of it.”

As for his future in poker, Thumm is going to take it slow. He feels comfortable playing €5,300 Main Events but is humble when assessing where he stands. “I wouldn’t say I’m beating the fields,” he says. “But I’m just doing what I’m doing, improving every day, and it’s working out so far.

“I’m over the moon.”

At the time of writing, Niclas Thumm is among the 33 players remaining in the EPT Monte Carlo Main Event.


DUTHIE RETURNS, FOR EPT MEMORIES AND SENIOR’S EVENT

John Duthie: We owe it all to him

Everyone on the European Poker Tour has been delighted this week to see John Duthie back in town.

There are probably some people who have been sitting on the same cash-game tables as Duthie in the Sporting Club who don’t even know who he is, and that’s forgivable. It’s been 20 years since this former TV director and poker enthusiast dreamed up the idea of the EPT itself.

And not only did he dream it up, he delivered it.

Back in September 2004, Duthie led the first bunch of players and staff to Barcelona for what would become an annual jamboree. Twenty years and 142 Main Events later, we’re still going strong. We owe all of this to him.

Although Duthie is no longer officially involved in the EPT, he’s made a welcome visit here in Monaco as preparations step up for the official 20-year celebrations later this year. He’s been catching up with old friends and spending a good amount of time in front of the TV cameras, revealing a few old secrets for whatever the broadcast team have in store for the anniversary.

Right now, it’s down time for Duthie, which means he’s playing poker. At time of writing, he’s chip leader in the Senior’s Event, which is open to players aged 50 and over.

Duthie was 42 when he won the Poker Million in 2000, which gave him the financial clout to back up his EPT dreams. He was 44 when the EPT launched. And now, at a sprightly 65, he is comfortably qualified for the Senior’s Event. His old pal Barny Boatman, 68, also took a seat in that game.

The fact that Duthie and Boatman are now older than average in the Senior’s Event is one way to underline just how durable the EPT has been. Twenty years is a long time in any industry, let alone the fast-moving gaming and tech sectors. Yet here the tour remains, still leading the market.

John Duthie and PokerStars produced the sensation that is the EPT

The early days of the EPT were characterised by hotshot young guns showing the old guard how they should really be playing no limit hold’em. However, four of the seven champions from the opening season of the EPT would now qualify to play the Senior’s Event.

John Shipley was 44 when he won and is 64 now. Ram Vaswani is now 54. Pascal Perrault is 65. And Rob Hollink is getting on for 62. Indeed, the tour’s first champion, Alexander Stevic, was 29 when he won in Barcelona and will be able to play the EPT Senior’s Event next year, if he so wishes.

It’s quite interesting to take a look at the age of EPT champions through the years. The youngest remains Mike McDonald, who was 18 when he won in Dortmund in February 2008. McDonald was one of four people who have won an EPT Main Event as a teenager.

Boatman, of course, became the oldest EPT winner when he triumphed in Paris earlier this year. He was seven years older than Uri Gilboa was when Gilboa won EPT Sochi in March 2019. They are the only two players over 60 to have won an EPT Main Event, but as Boatman himself observed: “The great thing about being the oldest ever EPT winner is that every time I play I’ll have a shot at breaking the record.”

It seems far more likely that McDonald will hold on to his record than Boatman will his.

As you would probably expect, the average age of EPT winners has grown gradually older as the years have gone by. It represents the inevitable aging of the boom-year players, many of whom are still regulars on the circuit.

Through all EPT Main Events, the median age of EPT champions was 27. But through the first 70, it was 29 and the second 70 it was 31. The shift owes a lot to those real youngsters winning in the early seasons. It’s been 14 years since anyone younger than 20 triumphed — Harrison Gimbel, at the PCA in 2010.

Poker has also found a really enthusiastic audience in players over 50. Take someone like Judy Whitlow, who discovered the game at 75. Her story is sensational: she wanted to play the WSOP; she met PokerStars Ambassador Jen Shahade there; she then got a Platinum Pass to play the PSPC and is now a regular on the EPT circuit.

Judy Whitlow took up poker when she was 75

Whitlow is sitting on the same table as Duthie in the Senior’s Event today, guaranteed another cash for her blossoming Hendon Mob page.

It’s usually been prudent to look at the online MTT results to predict where the next EPT winner will come from. But perhaps it’s worth looking at the Senior’s Event too. There are some real talents playing down there.

YOUNGEST EPT CHAMPIONS
Mike McDonald 18, Canada – (EPT German Open, Dortmund, 2008)
Jeff Williams 19, USA – (EPT Grand Final, Monte Carlo, 2006)
Jens Kyllönen 19, Finland – (EPT Scandinavian Open, Copenhagen, 2009)
Harrison Gimbel 19, USA – (PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, 2010)
Six players were 20 when they won their title.

OLDEST EPT CHAMPIONS
Barny Boatman 68, UK – EPT Paris 2024
Uri Gilboa 61, Israel – EPT Sochi 2019
Marcelo Simões 55, Brazil – EPT Monte Carlo 2022
António Matias 54, Portugal – EPT Vilamoura 2009
Three players were 51 when they won their title.

Mean age of EPT Main Event champion: 30
Modal age of EPT Main Event champion: 24 or 27 (both have 11 winners)
Median age of EPT Main Event champion: 27

First 70 MEs: Average age: 29
Second 70 MEs: Average age: 31

(Stats include all EPT Main Events for which we know the age of the winner. Three are uncertain, including both EPT Online events.)


WHY EVERYONE SHOULD PLAY IN THE SALLE DES ETOILES AT LEAST ONCE

The European Poker Tour (EPT) is currently taking place at the Salle des Etoiles in Monte Carlo, a stunning and historic venue that might just be the best place to play poker in the world. But what makes it so special?

Many of my all-time favourite meals took place on tiny plastic furniture next to a small food cart by the side of a busy road on a humid night, tucking into cheap, plentiful and delicious food as motorbikes whizzed past just meters away.

The point is, that sometimes the best things come in humble packages. 

Think of your fondest poker memories. They probably took place in a friend’s basement, or playing with family around the dining table during the holidays.

The truth is, all you really need for a great game of poker is a deck of cards, a set of poker chips, and a table and chairs. Everything else is a bonus.

But those occasions when you decide to take things up a notch – either by treating yourself to a fine-dining, Michelin-starred meal, or by playing poker in a spectacular venue? Those occasions can become equally special and memorable. They might even be a once or twice-in-a-lifetime thing.

And let us tell you, without any recency bias, that there’s no poker venue on the planet quite as spectacular as the Salle des Etoiles in Monte Carlo – currently hosting the European Poker Tour (EPT). Playing here is a poker experience you should definitely add to the old bucket list.

But what makes this unique room so special? What’s the history of the venue? And when was poker first played here?

Let’s take a walk through the Salle des Etoiles (any excuse, honestly) and answer those questions.

WHAT MAKES THE SALLE DES ETOILES SO SPECIAL?

There are hundreds of awesome poker venues around the world, and many of them have played host to PokerStars Live events over the years. But we’ve never seen a poker room quite like the Salle des Etoiles, located at the Sporting Club, part of the Monte Carlo Bay Resort & Hotel. 

It’s a mix of space, comfort and theatrics that make it one of the most interesting event spaces in Europe, not to mention such a unique place to play poker. 

For starters, its immense windows offer stunning views of Monaco. For those moments when you need to step away from the tables for a spot of fresh air, the gorgeous location just couldn’t be better.

The room itself is also enormous, allowing for separate tournament areas and plenty of space in between tables. This makes it a very pleasurable poker-playing experience.

But the star of the show is the Salle des Etoiles’ roof. Yep, the roof.

It’s retractable and can be opened and closed on demand. This means that when PokerStars staff and tournament dealers arrive to work, they’re greeted with blue skies and a cool ocean breeze that drifts in from the French Riviera.

For other events, such as award shows or weddings, the roof can be opened in the evenings to allow guests to see a firework display, or simply to revel in the starry night sky.

Unfortunately, when the tournaments are being filmed for live streams, PokerStars has to close the roof and cover the windows to avoid unwanted glare. 

So, here’s a tip: 

If you ever plan on making the trip or trying to qualify for EPT Monte Carlo, try to come early each day, before play officially begins, because you’ll see something you won’t see anywhere else on the EPT. Likewise, if you play events before filming begins, you might be treated to an unforgettable poker experience.

THE HISTORY OF THE SALLE DES ETOILES

The Salles des Etoiles is part of the Monte-Carlo Sporting, a building complex that was initially opened in 1974 before being renovated in 1999.

Instantly recognised as one of the most magical and majestic venues in Europe when it was inaugurated by Joséphine Baker, the 1000m² grand hall has since become the venue of choice for various award shows and galas. 

Such events include the legendary Monaco Rose Ball, an annual charity event organised by the Princess Grace of Monaco as a way to raise money for The Princess Grace Foundation, her charity supporting sick children.

It’s also the home of the Monte-Carlo Sporting Summer Festival, an open-to-the-public festival celebrating art, culture, shopping, and all the pleasures Monaco has to offer.

An eclectic mix of musical acts has graced the Salle des Etoiles stage during the festival, including Frank Sinatra, Rihanna, The Who, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Céline Dion, Lionel Richie, Peter Gabriel, Robert Plant, and Alicia Keys, to name but a few.

The World Music Awards, Monaco Red Cross Ball and World Athletics Gala are just some of the other prestigious events that choose the Salle des Etoiles as their home.

WHEN WAS POKER FIRST PLAYED AT THE SALLE DES ETOILES?

As far as we know, the first official poker event to ever take place at the Salle des Etoiles was in 2005, when the EPT Monte Carlo Grand Final first came to Monaco.

The tour has returned to the Salles des Etoiles every year since (except for 2020).

Interestingly, only three EPT tournaments in Europe have ever awarded winners’ prizes of more than €2 million, and all were in Monte Carlo. In addition to Pieter de Korver’s €2.3 million Main Event triumph in 2009, Glen Chorny won €2.02 million at the 2008 Main Event and Erik Seidel won €2.015 million in the 2015 Super High Roller.


BARNY BOATMAN’S ENJOYING THE RIDE

This trip we’ve talked to first-timers, serial qualifiers, high rollers and YouTube sensations, but no other player has enjoyed an EPT Monte Carlo experience quite like Barny Boatman’s.

This is the first opportunity to play an EPT that Boatman – and everyone else, for that matter – has had since his superb victory in Paris, one of the most celebrated wins in tour history. But he’s kept himself busy since, visiting Madrid in March for the Estrellas Poker Tour – a trip he’d planned well before he became the talk of the poker town. 

The trip just happened to fall days after the announcement that he was joining Team Red Spade as a PokerStars Ambassador. “Madrid was great,” says Boatman, who spent years living in Spain and speaks the language fluently.  “I got to know all of the Spanish Team Pros and I had a good time.”

Not surprisingly, however, his EPT experience as its latest champion has been on another level, in terms of both the enthusiasm from those who cheered him on and members of the media who – like us – have loved telling the story.

“I’ve had a lovely reaction,” he says. “Loads and loads of people congratulating me, asking me questions, and obviously, there’s been a lot of media interest as well. It’s been really great fun.”

We remind Boatman that, as one of British poker’s best-loved stars, he’s always a person of interest in the poker media. “Yeah, but I feel there’s actually a reason for it now,” he laughs. “It’s justified now.”

“I’m sure the next thing will happen and people will forget about me, but I’m not going to lie, I’m enjoying the attention… because it’s all positive.”

It was always justified, Barny.

A FOOT IN BOTH CAMPS

Boatman’s fine form followed him from France to Spain and he finished 24th out of 629 entries in the ESPT Madrid, cashing for €3,630. His luck ran cold here in Monaco, but a bad Main Event run hasn’t put a damper on his victory lap.

Last week he filmed episodes of Mystery Cash Challenge Season 2 up on the feature table stage. “I really enjoyed that,” he says. “I can’t wait to see it and find out what everyone had.”

At 68, Boatman became the oldest Main Event champion in EPT history. As we wrote on the day, it was a victory “for the old school and the resilient, but also for the innovators and the ageless.” So it’s fitting that today, the poker legend is grinding the Senior’s Event, a €1,100 buy-in tournament reserved for players aged 50 years or older. 

“These events are always particularly friendly,” he says. “They’re a nice way to relax, blow off some steam, and hopefully get a result.”

Boatman enjoys the Senior’s Events: “They’re relaxing”

He’s also received plenty of kind words from his Senior opponents, for whom his €1.28 million win was an inspiration. 

“it’s always been the case that I’ve had one foot in both camps — playing poker at a reasonably high level and being a recreational player who people can relate to,” he says. 

“Regardless of my age, I feel like when people see me do something, there’s a bit of ‘well, maybe I could do it, too.’”


FELIX SCHNEIDERS WANTS YOU TO KNOW: ‘IF I CAN DO IT, ANYONE CAN’

Felix “xlixx” Schneiders is enjoying his deepest ever run at an EPT Main Event

There’s almost nobody in the world game who has done so much to promote poker as Felix Schneiders. And that’s because Schneiders is keen to acknowledge the core truth of poker: without the low-stakes, recreational players, the game doesn’t exist at any level.

As an enthusiastic poker streamer pretty much from the very moment such a thing existed, Schneiders — “xflixx” to his many, many fans — has shone the spotlight on the kind of players who do this just for fun, wagering a small portion of salaries earned in other jobs, but still experiencing the same highs and lows of this thrilling game as anyone else.

And right now, Schneiders is on a high. He’s sitting among the final 118 players in the EPT Monte Carlo Main Event, having already locked up at least €11,500. It’s his first time in Monte Carlo, and only the third time he has ever played an EPT Main Event. But he’s there, enjoying every minute.

“I did it, and I want to show if I did, everybody else can,” Schneiders says, underlining another of his firm beliefs, that poker is uniquely open to all.

“I think that [smaller players] should always be the focus,” Schneiders says. “If you look at football, it’s the grassroots, the small clubs, the fans of the game that make the game what it actually is. If there’s nobody to watch it, if there’s nobody rooting for people, wanting to be like them, it’s nothing. And poker actually gives you the chance. To be an athlete? It’s tough. It’s super tough. But becoming a poker player, and becoming better at the game, and qualifying for, like, $11 for an EPT? This is a crazy chance you can get. PokerStars offers this to everybody.”

Felix Schneiders: Still getting a thrill even after many years as a pro

The $11 satellite route is precisely the path Schneiders took to this EPT Monte Carlo Main Event. He won a Gold Pass through the PokerStars Power Path, qualifying him for his first shot at an EPT Main Event in Prague last December. Having already arranged to stay in an Air BnB with friends, he saved the hotel expenses part of his Gold Path package, ready for a later date.

He then won a satellite to EPT Paris, but rolled over those Prague expenses into an EPT Monte Carlo buy-in. And that took him to where he is now.

His tournament got off to a flying start as he knocked out soccer superstar Sergio Aguero (“I checked his Instagram. Thirty million followers! OK,” Schneiders says) to build a stack of 300K. It slipped a bit ahead of the money bubble, and then Schneiders also began battling a more formidable foe.

“The bubble was difficult for me because it’s my first EPT Main Event bubble,” he says. “This means a lot to me still. I had to manage my emotions because they were coming up. Even though I’m used to playing professionally for so many years, this is still very special for me. To be here, first time in Monte Carlo, first EPT Main Event cash, it’s a big, special moment.”

It might surprise some viewers to learn that the familiar pros still encounter nerves when they play poker, but Schneiders says that it’s this emotional side of poker that has always most appealed to him. He describes first watching major tournaments on YouTube as he was playing tiny online games, dreaming of one day featuring himself on the grand stage.

“That’s why I’m in poker,” Schneiders says. “Poker puts me in new spots every time. There’s a lot of things I’ve seen, but there’s always so many new things that you get thrown into, and you have to handle them. That’s what poker does to you. New people, new situations, new surroundings, new settings.”

He continues: “This has been my dream all the way. When I started playing poker, I was watching the live events, the big WSOPs and EPTs on YouTube while grinding 2c-4c online. That’s how I started. In the end, you always want to be at the big tournaments. You want to get there at some point, and it feels amazing. This is what poker and life is about. It brings people together in awesome locations, you get to travel, you get to meet new people, you get to experience unique things.”

The Felix Schneiders grind is now on tour

Schneiders has, of course, been close to the action as a commentator for the live stream broadcast in his native Germany, but it’s still a step away from the real thick of the action. He is also enjoying life as a hosted player, lapping up everything on offer on the EPT.

“PokerStars does the best job of making a unique experience here at a live event,” Schneiders says. “It’s crazy what they do for the players. Every time you go to an event, I just want everybody to come along. That’s why we started to stream this, to share what it’s actually like to be here. People can actually say, OK, I want to be there with those guys.”

But don’t think any of this is going to his head. Schneiders remains perfectly grounded, and just happy to make the most of this blessed opportunity.

“I just want to say I’m really grateful to be here,” he says, offering thanks to the fans who continue to rail him from home and send a flood of messages of support. “It’s an amazing experience. I’m just grateful. This morning I was listening to a podcast and the guy on the podcast said something like, ‘Just be grateful for something that’s so rare, so unique, so unlikely to happen. A lot of things have to come together.’ I’m just enjoying it, grateful for what I can experience here.”


SECOND CHANCE FOR SUPER HIGH ROLLERS

It’s not just the flagship events that are booming here at EPT Monte Carlo. Side events – particularly the High Rollers – are also putting up massive numbers.

A €50,000 Super High Roller Second Chance event kicked off last night (Tuesday, April 30) with just about every entry returning for the second and final day today. In 2023, this event attracted 19 entries – three of which were re-entries – and created a €824,670 prize pool. 

Stephen Chidwick emerged victorious for €224,680 and his umpteenth PokerStars spadie, following a three-way deal with Isaac Haxton and Seth Davies. 

Only four players cashed.

A not-yet-handlebar-moustachioed Stephen Chidwick

FAST FORWARD TO 2024…

This year the same event has grown almost four times the size with 79 total entries, 19 re-entries, and a staggering €3,832,290 in the prize pool. Just like the EPT Main Event, there’s a million euros up top for the winner (€1,079,290, to be exact). 

They’ll play down to a winner tonight.

It’s not just the sheer size of the Super High Roller (won by Patrik Antonius on Monday) and this Second Chance that’s noteworthy, it’s the players who have shown up to take part.

Phil Ivey, widely considered one of poker’s all-time greats, is back in an EPT chair having already played the €30K Warm-Up and €100K. Recently retired Argentinian football superstar Sergio Aguero is also playing following a good run in the Main Event. The rest of the line-up is a who’s who of top talent. 

Alas, defending champ Chidwick and €100K champ Antionus are both out, so we’ll have a new champ to add to our winner’s list.

There are no live updates for this one, but we’ll bring you details of the winner and full results once this quietly enormous tournament comes to an end.

Mathias Eibinger and Phil Ivey

€1m MONTE CARLO PAYDAY POINTS TO NEW BOOM

The tournament room has been rammed for the duration of the EPT festival

The EPT’s latest trip to Monaco has become its most successful ever — at least in terms of entries to the flagship events. A record-setting 1,208 entries amassed for the €5,300 Main Event, while the €100,000 Super High Roller also set a venue record, with 72 entries.

Tournament organisers are also working on the assumption that the France Poker Series (FPS) Main Event would have been the biggest ever had it not been for an untimely strike among French airport workers. Still, 2,096 entries was pretty spectacular for that one too, only narrowly smaller than last year’s high of 2,138.

Players at the EPT Main Event final table may yet agree a deal to alter the payouts, but as it stands, the winner of the €5,300 tournament is set to win €1 million, which would mark the first seven-figure payday since 2015.

There is a crucial difference between this tournament and the event won by Adrian Mateos nine years ago: the buy-in is now only €5,000 instead of the €10,000 that it used to cost to play for the first 10 years of EPT events here in Monaco.

It’s certainly worth pointing out: these days, you can still stump up €10,000 to play this one, but it would be in the form of a single, optional re-entry. The €1 million first-place prize, plus the €5,858,800 total prize pool, comes from just that €5K buy-in. It’s like getting a chance at a million bucks for half the price.

A NEW UPTICK

Taking a look back through the EPT Monte Carlo stats tells an interesting story about poker’s boom years. From relatively humble beginnings — 211 entries for the first event in 2005 — the pre-Black Friday growth was simply sensational.

By 2009, the EPT Monte Carlo field hit 935 entries; that’s unique players paying €10,000 each. Pieter de Korver picked up €2.3 million for his win, which remains the biggest Main Event prize ever paid on the European Poker Tour. It’s bigger even than Poorya Nazari’s $3 million win at the PCA in 2009, when contemporary exchange rates are factored in.

Pieter de Korver won the biggest prize in the EPT’s history here in Monaco

The boom suddenly halted post-Black Friday, but the EPT Monte Carlo fields remained solid. Between 2012-15, fields stabilised between 513 and 665 entries. The boom might have ended, but the plateau occupied by live poker was far higher than anyone might have predicted.

When the buy-in was cut in half in 2016, entry numbers rocketed to 1,098 — a mark that still stands as the highest number of unique entries. The uncertainty of the PokerStars Chamionship era, compounded by the pandemic shortly after, had an adverse effect on numbers. But post-Covid, it’s clear that live poker is undergoing another renaissance.

There were 1,073 entries in 2022, 1,098 entries last year and now that record-setting 1,208 this time around. Patrik Antonius and Christoph Vogelsang both picked up seven-figure paydays for finishing first and second in the Super High Roller, and someone else will walk away from Monte Carlo as a millionaire when the EPT Main Event is done.

Meanwhile, the rest of us should simply continue to celebrate this live poker resurgence. With the WSOP coming up soon, followed by EPT Barcelona in September, it seems very likely we’ll be seeing many more new records set this year.

EPT MONTE CARLO MAIN EVENTS THROUGH THE AGES

2005: 211 players, €1,983,400 prize pool, Rob Hollink (Netherlands) for €635,000
2006: 298 players, €2,801,200 prize pool, Jeff Williams (USA) for €900,000
2007: 706 players, €6,636,400 prize pool, Gavin Griffin (USA) for €1,825,010
2008: 842 players, €8,420,000 prize pool, Glen Chorny (Canada) for €2,020,000
2009: 935 players, €9,350,000 prize pool, Pieter De Korver (Netherlands) for €2,300,000
2010: 848 players, €8,480,000 prize pool, Nicolas Chouity (Lebanon) for €1,700,000
2012: 665 players, €6,650,000 prize pool, Mohsin Charania (USA) for €1,350,000
2013: 531 players, €5,310,000 prize pool, Steve O’Dwyer (Ireland) for €1,224,000
2014: 650 players, €6,500,000 prize pool, Antonio Buonanno (Italy) for €1,240,000
2015: 564 players, €5,640,000 prize pool, Adrian Mateos (Spain) for €1,082,000
2016: 1,098 players, €5,325,300 prize pool, Jan Bendik (Slovakia) for €961,800
2017: 727 players, €3,525,950 prize pool, Raffaele Sorrentino (Italy) for €466,714
2018: 777 entries, €3,768,450 prize pool, Nicolas Dumont (France) for €712,000
2019: 922 entries, €4,471,700 prize pool, Manig Loeser (Germany) for €603,777
2022: 1,073 entries, €5,204,050 prize pool, Marcelo Mesqueu (Brazil) for €929,840
2023: 1,098 entries, €5,235,300 prize pool, Mike Watson (Canada) for €749,425
2024: 1,208 entries, €5,858,800 prize pool, €1,000,000 for the winner

Notes:
Held as PokerStars Championship in 2017
€10K buy-in from 2005-2015 inclusive
Optional re-entry permitted from 2018 onwards

EPT MONTE CARLO MAIN EVENT 2024 NATIONALITIES

Players came from 71 different countries to compete in the EPT Monte Carlo Main Event. French players comprised 17.8 percent of the field, the largest single representation, followed by Italy, the UK, Spain and Germany.

EPT Monte Carlo 2024 nationalities

148 – France
74 – Italy
64 – United Kingdom
51 – Spain
39 – Germany
27 – Romania, Ukraine
23 – Bulgaria
22 – Russia, USA
20 – Canada
18 – Brazil
17 – Switzerland
14 – Austria, Greece, Israel
12 – Belgium, Ireland, Japan
11 – Argentina, Norway
10 – Armenia, Netherlands
8 – Belarus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Lebanon, Poland, Portugal, Turkey
6 – India, Lithuania
5 – Hungary, Latvia, Serbia, Sweden
4 – China, Mexico, Uruguay
3 – Australia, Azerbaijan, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Hong Kong, Iran, Kazakhstan, Slovakia
2 – Albania, Algeria, Colombia, Finland, Moldova, Senegal, Slovenia, South Korea, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates
1 – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cuba, Honduras, Iceland, Kyrgyzstan, Malta, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Singapore, South Africa, Venezuela.


Keep daydreaming. It brought this Power Path qualifier to the EPT.

Marcelo Sgari: Daydream complete

If you’re watching the live stream from EPT Monte Carlo right now and daydreaming about one day playing one yourself, you’re not alone. Far from it. 

You’re just one of us.

Some years ago, your humble scribe was secretly watching an EPT stream from his office while working – OK, trying to work – OK, pretending to work on content for clients. With one eye peeled in case anyone walked by, I drifted off into a poker daydream, thinking: “Wouldn’t it be cool to be there and write about poker?”

It’s a story that Brazil’s Marcelo Sgari can relate to – everything except for the ‘slacking off at work’ part, at least. The 34-year-old works as a business controller for a tech company and recently moved to Vancouver to handle North American operations. He loves his job.

But the second he started watching the live streams from EPT Paris in February (after his workday was over, of course) he began to daydream about playing one. 

And guess what he’s doing today.

The Gold Pass is Sgari’s biggest poker win

FROM FRUSTRATION TO JUBILATION

Sgari won a Power Path Gold Pass worth $10,300, the week after a devastating near miss. He played a direct satellite with two packages guaranteed but ended up busting in third. Brutal.

“I spent a few days frustrated thinking, ah, I could have been there,” he says. “But the next week I remembered I had a Step 4 ticket for the $109 Power Path so I thought let’s play, without too much expectation.”

Sgari was playing a lot of other tournaments as part of his regular Sunday session (“It’s the main day I can play and have fun,” he says) but by the time the Step 4 qualifier got down to 16 players remaining, he knew it was time to focus. 

“I already knew that if I won a Gold Pass, I’d use it for Monte Carlo,” he says. “I wanted this experience.”

You know what happened. He went all the way and then had the thrill of telling his wife. “I was so happy when I won the Gold Pass,” he says. “I sat with her and told her “We’re going to Monaco!” and she said, “What? But you lost last week?” and I said, “Yeah, but I won this week!”

The Gold Pass is Sgari’s greatest poker achievement, but he’s currently still in the EPT Monte Carlo Main Event on Day 2 with the bubble rapidly approaching. 

PLEASANT PROBLEMS

As Sgari’s Main Event has gone without a hitch so far, he hasn’t had much time to explore Monaco. It’s a nice problem to have. “Even if I don’t go to the end in the tournament, I’ll still be happy that I can go to places here that I know are beautiful,” Sgari says. 

He adds: “Having the experience of being here, playing against people I recognise from the broadcasts, seeing Patrik Antonius win the Super High Roller, it’s been amazing.”

So keep on daydreaming. EPT Barcelona is on the horizon.


10% DISCOUNT AND FREE SHIPPING ON BRILLIANT POKERSTARS MERCH

PokerStars Store has always been the best place to get your poker-related swag, and it gets even better during the European Poker Tour (EPT). Not only is there a pop-up store in the EPT venue, with generous discounts on all merchandise, but that discount extends to players ordering online as well — and there’s free shipping thrown in.

That works especially well for anyone considering this year’s must-have PokerStars Store item: an exclusive 300-piece chip set, specifically designed for home-game players. It’s a terrific set, in its own carry case, with four chip-colours, two decks of cards and a dealer button.

And, yes, that too qualifies for the 10 percent discount and free shipping, particularly useful given its necessarily bulky nature.

Anyone in Monte Carlo can find the merch store in the lobby of the Sporting Club and you can pay here with a bank card or via your PokerStars account. You can then either take your swag away or get it shipped to your home, free of charge.

For online customers, just order before the end of the EPT Monte Carlo festival (May 4, 2024, 23:59) and enter the promo code EPTMC24. That will secure the 10 percent discount plus the free shipping.

Fintan Hand checks out the PokerStars Store

There’s the usual full and dazzling array of clothing on offer, including the new range debuted at EPT Paris. Head to the store if you happen to be in Monte Carlo and see the quality with your own eyes.

Alternatively, https://www.pokerstars.store/ is your online destination. Get shopping — and enjoy the discount!


Patrik Antonius’ Monte Carlo triumph left us with one massive question

Behind the scenes at EPT Monte Carlo, PokerStars’ TV team have been busy shooting a documentary on the 20th Anniversary of the European Poker Tour (EPT). Legends from the early days – from staff members who got it running to players who helped make it popular – have offered their time to tell the tale of this iconic festival.

While that’s been going on, Patrik Antonius took down the Super High Roller for almost €2 million, Gus Hansen took swings in the Main Event, and the enigma that is Phil Ivey – who was/is in town making his EPT return by playing the two biggest buy-ins of the festival – well, Phil Ivey was off doing whatever the hell Phil Ivey wants to do in Monte Carlo.

Ivey is back on the EPT

It’s fitting to see those three on the EPT, especially in the tour’s 20th year. Antonius and Hansen were stalwarts throughout its formative years, while Ivey’s appearances – no matter how sporadic – were always a big deal. They still are.

A BRIEF HISTORY

Antonius made back-to-back final tables during Season 2 and won the Main Event in Baden in 2005. Hansen – who final-tabled EPT Barcelona in 2005 – once famously abandoned a huge stack in an EPT event to play an even richer backgammon game against Monte Carlo high rollers. And when Ivey debuted in 2006 he almost clinched a title immediately, finishing runner-up to Bjørn-Erik Glenne — a complete unknown who pulled off one of European poker’s biggest upsets.

Gus Hansen in Monte Carlo (April 2024)

Here we are, two decades later, and both Antonius and Ivey are not only two of the most iconic names in poker, but they’re still competing (and winning) at poker’s highest level. 

They’re not the only ones, of course. Barny Boatman enjoyed the biggest score of his thirty-plus-year career when he won EPT Paris in February, and now wears the PokerStars Team Pro patch. Early EPT champs Noah Boeken and Mark Teltscher are still ever-present in Main Events. And don’t get us started on Erik Seidel.

A TOUGH QUESTION

“I don’t know where I fall,” Antonius said, assessing his position in poker in 2024 having just beat one of the toughest poker fields you could assemble. “I was there before solvers came into play. I was there before anyone really knew how to play.”

Will any current players match the longevity (and coolness) of Antonius and Ivey in 20 years’ time?

It’s a tough question for the man himself to answer, but an easy one for any poker fan. As far as we’re concerned, there’s zero debate as to where Antonius stands in the poker ecosystem: At 43, he’s an icon, a veteran, a touchstone between poker eras. He is also among the game’s very best. 

So as the confetti from Antonius’ trophy presentation was swept up, a new question emerged – one that we invite all poker fans to ponder:

Who are the Antonius and Iveys of the future?

When a documentary is made on the 40th anniversary of the EPT, which players currently grinding at EPT Monte Carlo will still be making heads turn, and still be considered among the world’s best?

Reply to this tweet and let us know your thoughts.

KORSAKAS LEADS GOLDEN PATH CHARGE

Kevin Korsakas: Golden Path Warrior

Everyone who has qualified through the Power Path to play on the EPT has reported having the time of their lives on the tour. It’s fun being a poker VIP for a few days. But such is the nature of poker that we’re yet to celebrate our first Power Path EPT champion. It seems certain to happen, but our heroes haven’t come out on the right side of variance to date.

Might that change this week in Monaco? The stars may just be aligning enough to give us hope.

Kevinas Korsakas won his way to Monte Carlo via an $11 online ticket, progressing steadily through the Power Path until he struck gold. It was a targeted ploy, he explained yesterday, revealing that he had always had his eye on this part of Europe.

“I told my mum about it,” Korsakas said. “I said, ‘I really want to go to Monaco, but I don’t want to spend €10,000’. So I started playing the Power Path tournaments and that’s how it happened. That’s why I’m here.”

But despite playing in his first major live tournament, Korsakas has proved he is not merely making up the numbers. He went on a real tear towards the chip lead on Day 1 and is still battling strongly on Day 2. His stack of more than 250,000 is in the top 50 in the room.

Korsakas is from Lithuania, an under-the-radar hotbed of poker, particularly at the online tables. Korsakas is a big fan of the popular Lithuanian content creator Vladas Tamasauskas, and had a near meeting with his hero during his first day.

Tamasauskas came over to talk to the woman sitting next to Korsakas on Day 1, and after he had departed, Korsakas asked his neighbour if that was her boyfriend. “No,” said the woman. “He’s my husband.” Korsakas admitted: “I got roasted.”

The woman in question is herself something of a celebrity. Korsakas spent the early period of the tournament alongside Ukrainian sensation Olga Iermolcheva, whose star-turn on the recent Game of Gold series brought her wide attention in the poker world.

Olga Iermolcheva: Sent packing by Korsakas

Korsakas didn’t recognise her, but wouldn’t have been overawed by her presence anyway. He soon got aces when Iermolcheva had kings and Korsakas knocked her out.

“It’s really sad and brutal,” Korsakas said of that hand, although he seemed most crestfallen because the skirmish robbed him further opportunity to chat with his hero Tamasauskas.

All in all, though, Korsakas is still loving life.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” he said. “People are very fun. The place is very jaw-dropping, so many fancy cars. The high life. I love it here.”

Having fallen in love with poker while watching the EPT on television at a very young age, Korsakas says he is fulfilling a lifelong dream to even be in the field. And with the bubble approaching today, this story is just getting started.

ONLINE SENSATION WOLFGANG POKER HEADLINES IN MONACO

Wolfgang Poker, aka Alexander Seibt

Eagle-eyed viewers of the PokerStars live stream from EPT Monte Carlo today are going to notice a very familiar face. In fact, you hardly even need to be eagle-eyed.

Wolfgang Poker, for it is he, is probably the best-known player in poker at the moment. Millions of people have watched him play on all the biggest live streams, and a recent clip he posted across social channels became what’s believed to be the most viewed poker hand in recent history.

On YouTube alone, the hand has racked up more than 105 million views. And, by even the content creator himself’s admission, it’s not even a very exciting hand.

However Wolfgang Poker — whose real name, by the way, is Alexander Seibt — has mastered the invaluable art of online virality. The viewers love him; the poker fans love him; and, even better, the algorithm loves him.

It means he gets shared and liked more than anyone else in the game. And here in Monte Carlo, we’re getting our own chance to show the love.

PokerStars invited Wolfgang to Monaco to take part in the second season of the Mystery Cash Challenge, which filmed just before the EPT began. The shows won’t be aired for a long time, and you’ll find no spoilers about it here until it does. However, having taken the long trip across the Atlantic from his native Chicago, Wolfgang accepted a further invitation to play the EPT Main Event.

It’s his first time on the EPT but he is clearly having a blast already. “I’m feeling amazing,” Wolfgang said before play began on Day 2. “I made it off a table of all crushers on Day 1. Everyone had $4m-plus in earnings. Wolfgang here with $35K, US dollars, not even Euros. We made it into Day 2 with 45 bigs. I’m super stoked.”

As a near-permanent presence on the numerous US-based live streams, Wolfgang says he won’t be overawed by life on the feature table. He’s more than accustomed to the lights and the cameras. “But what might affect me is that if I make a bad play and people clip it, post it on the internet,” he said. That’s the drawback of a life lived online: the haters lurk among the supporters, waiting for a moment to pounce.

Seibt enjoyed Day 1

Wolfgang doesn’t seem to really mind. He’s focusing far more on making the most of this rare opportunity to visit Europe and an attempt to blend in with the locals.

“I put the new ‘fit on!” he said, inviting the cameras to check out some linen trousers, which he is wearing somewhere below his trademark Wolfgang baseball cap and a T-shirt. “I put on the European white pants! I bought them in San Tropez yesterday, so we’re ready to go.”

He also spent some time gazing through the open roof of the Salle de Etoiles, a spectacle unlike anything else in poker. “This is amazing,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything as cool as this.”

And with that, he headed to take his seat at the feature table, promising to share the all important link with his fans. “Hopefully I’ll have all my subscribers rail me,” he said. It seems certain they will.

In the meantime, check out the first season of the PokerStars Mystery Cash Challenge on YouTube.


Fantasy Land: How to draft a SCOOP League squad

Poker and fantasy sports merged last night in Monaco, and trust us when we say that those who play both should be in hog heaven right now. 

The maiden draft of the inaugural SCOOP League saw PokerStars Team Pros Lex Veldhuis, Benjamin Spragg, Fintan Hand and Parker Talbot take to the feature table stage and one by one, snake-draft style, select the teams who will represent their stream communities throughout the Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP).

Each team will consist of two PokerStars Ambassadors, plus eight players of the team captain’s choosing. They’ll be joined by 20 prospects from the captain’s community.

Learn more about SCOOP League — and how you could take part.

The fantasy sports experts among you will want to pay attention to this part. When the full teams are announced later this week (we’ll bring you all the line-ups ASAP) you’ll be able to study them and decide which one you think has the best chance of collecting the most leaderboard points throughout SCOOP. 

Choose correctly and you’ll be playing in a freeroll with a full package to the UKIPT/Estrellas Malaga event going to the winner, plus Power Path tickets for the finalists.

Anyway, back to the draft itself. As you’d expect, some of the biggest names and most prolific winners in PokerStars history were selected… and some captains made out better than others. We’ll bring you full details of the teams later this week. 

The question is, what’s the strategy behind drafting a SCOOP League squad? What bases do you need to cover? What personalities are you looking for? And, in Lex, Spraggy, Fintan and Tonkaaaa’s case, do you pick yourself?

Moreover, would you have done it differently?

INSTANT PICKS AND GREAT VALUE PLAYERS

Lex Veldhuis has always enjoyed checking poker rankings and the SCOOP leaderboards, where his name is often among the top finishers. “You get a sense for it,” he tells us at EPT Monte Carlo.

“I was really surprised to get a lot of my picks.” – Lex Veldhuis

His strategy was to split candidates into two groups: ‘Instant Picks’ and ‘Great Value’. Instant Picks were names he simply had to pick if they were available on his turn, while Great Value players are those who fly under the radar but make everyone groan (and green) with envy when their name is called. 

“It’s a waste to pick them early because there’s less chance they’ll get picked,” Veldhuis explains. 

While Lex relied on his own research and experience, Spraggy had a team of hotshot data analysts working behind the scenes to Moneyball the hell out of this thing. “They accessed a lot of data and all the SCOOP leader boards of yesteryear thanks to the great people of PokerStars Blog,” he says, kindly.

Hand’s original plan was pure at heart but flawed. “I wanted to pick only Irish players but quickly realised that would be a problem,” he tells us. “So I added some Scandis due to the fact the Vikings ruled Ireland for hundreds of years.”

Alas, Hand would go on to pick a destroyer who unfortunately is legally unable to participate in this year’s SCOOP. Spraggy felt Fintan had “an absolute nightmare”. Fintan concurred.

COVERING THE BASES

There were certain boxes all team captains were trying to tick.

For starters, you need some players who are skilled at a wide variety of poker’s mixed games, rather than just no limit hold’em. One look at any SCOOP or WCOOP leaderboard will show you that the players who play all the games not only win a lot of titles but also rack up the points to finish high on leaderboards. That’s crucial for the SCOOP League.

“If it was just a hold’em leaderboard then I’d just pick ‘Pwndidi’ and ‘Sintoras’ and people like that,” says Veldhuis. “But if it’s about everything, you need people who play the $200 Stud, the $2K Stud, the $1K HI/LO, and all those other variants that are very important.”

The next box to tick is volume. “You need your players who are going to play everything,” Spraggy explains.

It’s all well and good being a mixed game master but if you’re only playing a handful of high-stakes mixed game events, you might not be the best pick. A better prospect is someone who can play all the games but also literally play all the games at every buy-in level: Low, Medium and High.

Then there’s a third box – a player trait we hadn’t considered.

“I feel quietly confident.” – Ben Spragg

“You need a couple of folks who are capable of winning the NLHE SCOOP Main Event because that’s worth a lot,” Spraggy tells us. And as soon as he said it, it made total sense.

All of the top poker pros could win an event like the SCOOP Main Event, but some players have proven track records in huge-field online events, as well as crushing the smaller-field, higher-stakes events. They’re the most capable, in that sense.

“Main Events are super important,” Veldhuis agrees, and he’s thrilled to have one such player on his team. “I picked him because I think he’s one of the best players on the planet. He’s great at small-field high rollers but he’s also great at big-field main events. He’s also my boy, so I’m glad to get him.”

We’ll update this post with who he is referring to as soon as the draft picks go public.

“My team is a disaster.” – Fintan Hand

“I WAS GOING TO PICK MYSELF”

When you’ve considered the “civilians” who could be drafted, it’s time to move on to the Team Pros. Each captain needed two and they picked one with their first pick and a second with their final pick.

Spraggy tells us he’s gutted that someone else picked Marle Spragg before he could, while Veldhuis was disappointed he couldn’t pick himself.

“It feels like such an ego thing but I grind really hard during SCOOP and I add a lot of tournaments that the other guys don’t,” he says. “Like, I’ll max-late-reg things and you’ll see me playing the $10 Stud and $5 5-Card Draw, stuff like that. Last WCOOP and SCOOP, I think I finished in the top 20. I was going to pick myself.”

Take a look through the SCOOP League teams here


LOCAL HERO PATRIK ANTONIUS LANDS $2M PAYDAY IN BIGGEST SUPER HIGH ROLLER

Patrik Antonius, Super High Roller champion

Not many people get to call Monte Carlo home. But not many people are as accomplished at anything as Patrik Antonius is at poker.

While the vast majority of people inside the Salle des Etoile this week arrive to the tournament room after fitful hotel-room sleep, Antonius takes the short stroll from his apartment to the heart of this millionaire’s playground.

And tonight, he’s heading back there with a massive PokerStars Super High Roller trophy, nearly €2 million richer.

It’s a sweet moment for Antonius who is one of the longest-serving, brightest-shining stars on the tour that celebrates its 20th birthday this year. Antonius, who is now 43, first came to our attention with back-to-back final tables during the EPT’s second season, and his win in Baden kick-started one of the very finest careers.

Antonius was as gracious in victory now as he was back then and offered an assessment of where he felt he stood in an ecosystem that has grown around him.

“I don’t know where I fall,” Antonius told Joe Stapleton, shortly before picking up the EPT Super High Roller trophy. “I was there before any of the solvers came into play, and not even hand histories were available. So I was there before anyone really knew how to play and then it evolved and evolved. I think a lot of experience, a lot of natural abilities, and of course studying and evolving with the game. But I don’t know where I really fall.”

He added: “We’re living in an interesting era in poker. You can try to play like a computer, study as much as you can, but there’s still the human elements. We all play like humans. I think I have a pretty good balance, kind of mixing it up with those two.”

He acknowledged the role the EPT had played in all this, stating: “EPTs were exactly those years when I started to play tournament poker. I had that Baden win. Twenty years, I’m feeling good, young. Later I found these high rollers. They’ve been very nice and exciting tournaments to play.”

This one was particularly exciting, the biggest $100K tournament ever hosted at EPT Monte Carlo. Antonius beat a field of 72 entries in the toughest field of the week. His was the lion’s share of the €6,985,440 prize pool, and he earned it after downing fellow tournament crusher Christoph Vogelsang heads up.

Antonius and Christoph Vogelsang prepare for heads up play

Antonius was a massive chip leader coming into the third day, having only sat down for the first time at the start of Day 2. And though one late pot put Vogelsang into a temporary chip lead, Antonius was the dominant force pretty much throughout the final day as well.

The best in the world came and went, leaving just the local boy to close it out.

TOURNAMENT ACTION

The unprecedented turnout meant that the final day started with more players than usual. Nine of the best sat around the feature table, ready to be streamed all the way to the millions.

In truth, all of the final table players had been in similar situations many times before, so this was expected to be more of a solver-approved clinic than the sometimes unpredictable fare of the lower buy-in events.

They lined up like this:

Seat 1: Jean-Noel Thorel, France, 775,000
Seat 2: Patrik Antonius, Finland, 3,940,000
Seat 3: Byron Kaverman, USA, 2,085,000
Seat 4: Alex Kulev, Bulgaria, 425,000
Seat 5: Ben Heath, United Kingdom, 2,480,000
Seat 6: Christoph Vogelsang, Germany, 2,390,000
Seat 7: Stephen Chidwick, United Kingdom, 1,095,000
Seat 8: Juan Pardo, Spain, 3,400,000
Seat 9: David Yan, New Zealand, 1,425,000

Of course, for all the talk of clinics, the presence of Jean-Noel Thorel always allows for some surprise, and the veteran Frenchman outlasted all of Alex Kulev, Stephen Chidwick and David Yan at this final table.

Kulev, the defending champion, got his short stack in early and bust with pocket nines to Juan Pardo’s K10. Chidwick endured a turbulent opening level too, finding no action with pocket aces, but then losing the two pots that counted. Chidwick was out in eighth, with the last of his chips heading to Byron Kaverman.

Yan didn’t survive much longer, becoming the first of Antonius’ victims. Yan open pushed from the button with A9 and Antonius made a simple call with AQ and held.

Kulev won €218,300; Chidwick took €272,800; Yan picked up €341,2000. It wasn’t close to any of their biggest career wins, but it’s a few more buy-ins.

Stephen Chidwick faces the cameras

One foot off the stage for David Yan

No one had laid a glove on Antonius to this point, but others at the table were moving in the right direction. Juan Pardo was up to some of his old tricks with a couple of strong power-bluffs. And Pardo was then in the right place to pick off Thorel when the time come.

Thorel shoved his KQ and Pardo had A10 to bring the field down to five. Thorel’s sixth-place earned him €426,500.

Jean-Noel Thorel departs

Thorel was barely off the stage before Ben Heath’s tournament also drew to its conclusion. The second Brit at the final got involved in a pre-flop raising battle with Antonius, eventually calling all-in after Antonius had four-bet shoved with KJ.

Heath had black pocket tens but an all red flop also featured the K and that was the end of that. Heath banked €536,500 as the payouts were getting very serious indeed.

Ben Heath heads to the Main Event

Antonius’ chip lead had only extended after the Heath knockout, and although all of Kaverman, Christoph Vogelsang and Pardo continued to get involved, Antonius was the man lurking with the chips to do the most damage.

Vogelsang’s aggression with a pair of pocket sevens pushed Kaverman out of a four-bet pot, and the next time Kaverman was faced with a four-bet, it was from Antonius. Kaverman called this time with A8 and was in trouble against Antonius’ AJ.

Kaverman continued his very welcome habit of landing major scores at regular intervals on the EPT, this one worth €697,500.

Byron Kaverman perishes at the hands of Antonius

Until this point, there had been precious little intervention from the poker gods, at least not to upend the odds. But that would all change in a pot that ended Pardo’s tournament, with Vogelsang profiting healthily.

Pardo found pocket queens and opened. Vogelsang looked at Q6 in the big blind and made a standard call. That’s when it got gloomy for Pardo. The flop fell 665.

Vogelsang check-raised the flop, checked the K turn and check-jammed the 9 river, with Pardo facing a decision for his tournament life. Eventually Pardo did call, but learned the bad news. The trip sixes were enough to send a 7 million pot in Vogelsang’s direction. Pardo took €906,700 for third.

Juan Pardo heads home

Antonius had just short of 10 million to Vogelsang’s 7 million. And after one hand of heads-up play, Vogelsang had nudged into the lead. Vogelsang hit the board marginally harder with his K7 than Antonius did with his A6, with the dealer putting the 45976 on the table.

A 2.5 million swing meant Antonius surrendered the chip lead for the first time since yesterday.

It didn’t stay that way for long, however. Antonius found pocket queens and just called a raise from Vogelsang, who was sitting with A9. The flop was a dreamy QAK, which gave Vogelsang top pair against Antonius’ completely disguised set.

By the time the 8 turn and 2 river were on the table, all the money was in. Antonius doubled into a lead he never gave up again. Although Vogelsang managed one small double up, the final hand came a little before 7pm.

Vogelsang got his chips in with A5 but Antonius had A9. The better ace stayed good and that was the end of all that. Vogelsang banked €1,269,300, but had to settle for second.

Antonius, meanwhile, becomes one of only a handful of players to add EPT Super High Roller glory to a Main Event success, but this €1,967,440 is by some measure the bigger prize.

“Any seven figures is always extra good,” Antonius said. It still means a lot, even to a Monaco resident.

It’s Patrik Antonius’ world, we just live in it

EPT Monte Carlo €100K Super High Roller
Dates: April 27-29, 2024
Entries: 72 (inc. 24 re-entries)
Prize pool: €6,985,440

1 – Patrik Antonius, Finland – €1,967,440
2 – Christoph Vogelsang, Germany – €1,269,300
3 – Juan Pardo, Spain – €906,700
4 – Byron Kaverman, USA – €697,500
5 – Ben Heath, United Kingdom – €536,500
6 – Jean-Noel Thorel, France – €426,500
7 – David Yan, New Zealand – €341,200
8 – Stephen Chidwick, United Kingdom – €272,800
9 – Alex Kulev, Bulgaria – €218,300
10 – Nick Petrangelo, USA – €174,600
11 – Justin Bonomo, USA – €174,600

See results from across the EPT Monte Carlo festival

PADEL POWER

It’s become a tradition on the European Poker Tour: the pre-Main Event trip to an off-the-beaten-track sporting location for poker pros to try their hand at something a little different.

In Prague there was ice stock. In Barcelona there was a full-on activity bonanza. And here in Monte Carlo, it was padel.

Players assemble for the padel tournament

Although there’s technically nothing but bragging rights on the line, these mini-tournaments nonetheless become quite the battlefield as players try out a new game. French commentary duo Benjamin “Benny” Bruneteaux and Julien “Ju” Brecard certainly looked the part, while PokerStars Ambassador Guillermo “Willo” Inclán walked the walk as well.

Willo was among the three top-finishing players, who earned a mini Spadie trophy for their efforts. He was joined on the podium by Umberto Ruggeri, fresh from a final table appearance at EPT Prague last December, and Sachin Joshi, who ran deep in the WSOP Main Event last year.

They finally got their hands on some silverware on the padel courts.

Here’s a selection of photos from another fun event.

The winners (l-r): Umberto Ruggeri, Guillermo “Willo” Inclán and Sachin Joshi

FPS Paris champ Mateusz Moolhuizen takes to the court

Benny & Ju take their inimitable style to the courts


WHY YOU SHOULD ALWAYS USE YOUR FREE POWER PATH TICKETS

Let Oscar Charles be your Power Path inspiration

If you’ve been playing Power Path every day using your free $0.50 Step 1 tickets but haven’t had any luck yet, don’t give up. Here’s a story that will ensure you won’t. 

Oscar Charles was getting ready to move out of the London flat he shared with an old college friend. The two met at Exeter University through the poker society and now and then they would spend their Sunday evenings playing the Sunday Million (separately, of course). 

The following week was the 18th Anniversary of the Milly and there was a whopping $8 million guaranteed, so the two planned for one last Sunday grind together. Throughout the week Charles played some qualifiers, and while doing so he decided to use some of the free Power Path Step 1 tickets he’d accumulated.

BOOM. The $0.50 Step 1 Spin & Go spun a $109 Power Path Step 4 ticket as the prize and the 31-year-old went on to win it.

“I was actually surprised to see a $109 ticket come up,” he says. “I just hoped to play solid.”

Moreover, he won the Sunday Million qualifier too, so when Sunday night rolled around he settled in for an exciting session. His Milly run got off to a bad start, though, and with his stack decimated he decided to play the Power Path Step 4 event using the ticket he’d won.

“Things went my way pretty quickly,” he remembers. “The first hand I was dealt pocket aces, and in the next couple of hands I flopped a set and got paid off.”

It was a quick tournament and Charles managed to keep his stack above average for most of it. There were a few close spots where he made tough folds to not bust, and eventually, he’d locked up a Silver Pass worth $2,500.

“At that stage, I was really happy and accepted whatever was about to happen,” he says. And as the average stack in big blinds crept down to single figures, what was about to happen would require a fair of good fortune. 

Charles won a flip with pocket fives against ace-queen with five players left and held the chip lead until three-handed when they were on the bubble for the two Gold Passes worth $10,300 each.

“I really felt the pressure as it was suddenly very real,” Charles recalls. “People were shoving a lot and then the other two were all in, ace-king versus king-eight…”

Big slick held and Charles had turned his free $0.50 ticket into a Gold adventure.

Charles playing Day 1B of the EPT Monte Carlo Main Event

THE WHOLE PACKAGE

At the European Poker Tour (EPT) Monte Carlo stop, a $10,300 Gold Pass gave Charles his Main Event entry, as well as entry into the France Poker Series (FPS) Main Event and the FPS Cup, as well as expenses. 

“In the [FPS Main Event] I was a bit nervous,” he says. “But in the Cup, I was a little calmer. I’m treating it like… I don’t want to say a warm-up as it’s important as well, but it’s a little bit of practice, getting the feel of it, making sure I three-bet enough etcetera. But I’m really looking forward to the EPT Main.”

And that’s where this story ends (for now, at least): with Oscar Charles battling in the €5,300 EPT Monte Carlo Main Event while on a poker trip of a lifetime, all thanks to Power Path and the free daily ticket that every PokerStars player receives.

The guy even got interviewed by Spraggy, for crying out loud. Next time, that could be you.

So don’t give up.

You could be Spraggy’s next interviewee

SCOOP LEAGUE DRAFT TAKES CENTRE STAGE

Although we are still a long way from naming our EPT Monte Carlo champion, thoughts in the Salle des Etoile, Monaco, are already occasionally drifting to what’s next on the PokerStars agenda. The Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) gets started the day after we leave the principality, and planning for the inaugural SCOOP League is well under way.

Indeed, at the end of the France Poker Series (FPS) Main Event yesterday, the television stage suddenly switched up its branding. The distinctive orange and yellow SCOOP livery wrapped the feature table, as the online poker superstars Lex Veldhuis, Parker Talbot, Ben Spragg and Fintan Hand took to the stage.

In the words of PokerStars Ambassador and commentator James Hartigan, it was a “lovely spectacle”.

The SCOOP livery in Monte Carlo

The purpose of this special meeting was the draft for the aforementioned SCOOP League. All of Veldhuis, Talbot, Spragg and Hand — or Lex, Tonkaaaa, Spraggy and Fintan, as we really know them — were due to pick the spine of their teams to contest this brilliant new competition.

In short, the teams, comprising PokerStars Ambassadors, SCOOP legends and some of the streamers’ community members, are going head to head in a special league that runs throughout SCOOP. The team whose members accumulate the most points through SCOOP will be named champions, and that will trigger a freeroll tournament for players and supporters of that team.

There are a host of great prizes for winners in this freeroll, including a package to the UKIPT/ESPT Malaga Main Event in June for the champion. Read more details.

SCOOP League team captains (l-r): Spraggy, Tonkaaa, Fintan and Lex

The purpose of the live draft was for the captains to pick the two PokerStars Ambassadors and eight pros who would feature in their teams. With Joe Stapleton on hosting duty, the draft snaked up and down the table, with each captain selecting a player until their allocation was complete.

These four are good friends, but they are also keen rivals in something like this. So there was a lot of genial mocking and fury at one another’s skill levels and picks. Spraggy and Tonkaaa seemed to have taken it most seriously, with unseen selection committees having provided them shortlists of potential candidates.

Fintan was somewhat less prepared — and resultantly managed to name at least a couple of players who wouldn’t even be taking to the SCOOP felt. He was, however, central to proceedings as the lone SCOOP draft secretary, noting down the names of the selected players.

The draft will be broadcast on the EPT live stream this week, so we’ll keep details of the picks hidden until then. We don’t want to spoil the show. Suffice to say, not all of the ambassadors themselves even managed to find their way on to a team (cue mockery), while there was a predictable battle for top SCOOP bosses such as Benny Glaser, Patrick Leonard and Lena900. But there were a good number of surprises too.

A Spraggy selfie

Be sure to keep your eyes on the stream to find out more about the draft, then come back here for more details of how you can get involved in the SCOOP League.


DWAN’S JOURNEY FROM POLITICS TO POKER

If we told you that Dwan was currently ranked 54th in the world in online tournaments (according to Poker Stake), you might be surprised. 

“I didn’t know he played online tournaments. I thought he was a cash game guy.”

And if we told you that Dwan was currently ranked 5th in the UK and just hit a million dollars in online earnings, you might be confused.

“I thought he was American… and wasn’t he playing million-dollar pots back in 2009?”

And if we told you that before his career as a poker pro began, Dwan was – and to this day remains – the youngest-ever parliamentary candidate in UK history, you might be angry with us.

“You’re talking about a different Dwan, aren’t you? FFS.”

Yep, sorry about that. 

His name’s Dwan. Jamie Dwan.

When we were browsing through the chip counts of the France Poker Series (FPS) High Roller in Monte Carlo, the name Dwan – Jamie Dwan – leapt off the page. He’s a 24-year-old Brit who in just three and a half years of playing has climbed up the stakes and played his maiden €10K event on this trip.

“It’s kind of of nominative determinism, isn’t it? That you end up playing poker when your last name’s Dwan,” he says, chuckling. “There aren’t many Dwans around so we are, like, distantly related.”

“YOUR LAST NAME’S DWAN?!”

While Tom Dwan became a poker superstar in his late teens, it was politics that Jamie Dwan was drawn to. He went to Manchester University to study Politics and International Relations at Manchester University when he was 18 and soon found himself running as a Liberal Democrat candidate in the Stalybridge and Hyde constituency.

In doing so, he became the UK’s youngest parliamentary candidate and although his campaign wasn’t successful, it did lead to jobs within the party as a Political Assistant, Field Organiser, and ultimately a role as a Local Assistant for European Parliament.

“Then Brexit happened and we all lost our jobs,” he says. To make matters worse, the COVID pandemic began around the same time and Dwan suddenly found himself with a lot of free time on his hands. 

His famous surname helped him find a new passion. “Everyone I spoke to who knew about Tom Dwan would say: ‘Oh your last name’s Dwan?’” he says. “That’s honestly how I found out about poker and why I started playing.”

THE BEST DECISION HE MADE

One crossover between politics and poker (in an ideal world, at least) is effective spending – bankroll management, if you will. Dwan was only playing poker now and then and hadn’t considered it a potential career path until he enjoyed his first big online score. Newly flush, Dwan reinvested “a load of it” into coaching. He hasn’t looked back since.

“[Getting coaching right away] was one of the best decisions I made,” he says. “The best way to get better at poker now is to speak to people who are better than you and surround yourself with a network of players who are better than you and have the experience. Absorb stuff from them.”

Dwan enjoyed a deep run in the FPS High Roller

Dwan grinded his way through the Covid pandemic and the results kept coming. Throughout 2023 he enjoyed some impressive live results on the Grosvenor UK Poker Tour (GUKPT) – a tour known for nurturing UK talent – but 2024 has been something else.

“This year has been insane,” Dwan says. “I’ve been doing really well, kind of from nowhere. Last year I did OK, but this year… I actually just hit a million in online cashes and now I’m ranked around 50th in the world.”

Dwan’s run in the FPS High Roller fizzled out in 19th for €13,740 but it’s yet another impressive result for an up-and-comer playing only his second EPT festival (his first was Paris in February).

“I love PokerStars events, they’re great,” he says. “This is a great event, it’s put on so well, the dealers are great, the tournaments are great. It’s a really good stop, well worth the incredible expenses.”

That quote might sound like it came from a PokerStars spin doctor, but it’s the truth.


THIS SATELLITE EXPERT HAS LOST COUNT OF HER POWER PATH TRIUMPHS

Daria Krashennikova is running out of fingers to count her Power Path triumphs

Imagine having won so many Silver Passes through the PokerStars Power Path that you’ve lost count. 

That’s the reality for Daria Krashennikova, a satellite extraordinaire enjoying her first trip to Monte Carlo. She’s won “seven or eight” Silver Passes throughout her prolific Power Path career – each worth $2,500 – but it was a Gold Pass worth $10,300 that secured her entry to the EPT Monte Carlo Main Event.

“I’ve played Power Path regularly since it started,” she confirms on a tournament break. “It’s a great opportunity for players like me who don’t play very high limits to qualify for bigger events.”

While it’s true that Power Path is designed to help casual and low-stakes players win dream poker trips to play huge events, Krashennikova is no recreational player. The Russian – who spent many years living in Brazil before moving to Portugal with her husband this month – has been posting big online results for years.

Known as “Darya_Kurt” on PokerStars, Krashennikova has a string of impressive cashes on her resume. But it was a breakout result at the Brazil Series of Poker (BSOP) in 2022 that she feels cemented her chosen career path.

“My proudest achievement was first place in a BSOP High Roller for $66,000 – my biggest result by far,” she says. “Winning a trophy was a big thing for me because I could call myself a professional poker player. I felt I could be proud of myself and that my friends and family could be proud of me too.”

Krashennikova had two options for her Gold Pass here in Monte Carlo. “The first one was a hotel, main event ticket, and some expenses,” she says. “But I chose the second one — main event ticket, side event ticket, and entry to another event.”

If anything, that shows how determined she is to repeat her BSOP success here in the EPT and take another trophy home. 

And if doesn’t work out, there’s always EPT Barcelona. “I actually won a second Gold Pass recently,” she says.


MEET & GREET A FAMILIAR GOLD PASS WINNER

Recreational players are the very lifeblood of PokerStars operations, but it’s only at live events that we really get the chance to meet many of them. In normal circumstances, they’re behind screen-names and avatars, around the online tables or in comments boxes. It makes a very nice change to be able to put a real face to a real name.

The best place to do so is at the regular EPT Meet & Greet, which serves both as a social mixer and a sincere thank-you offering from PokerStars to its players. It also presents a unique chance to turn a trip-of-a-lifetime into something even better.

There’s a Gold Pass on offer too, worth €9,300.

A TRIP DOWN THE POWER PATH

As you’re no doubt aware, Power Path offers the best qualification route to PokerStars’ esteemed live events these days, particularly for players of smaller budgets. The beginning of the Power Path is usually free to enter with a daily ticket, and the most anyone can pay to get involved is $11.

Gold Passes are agreeably scarce, but offer a full package to an EPT Main Event. Silver Passes are more common but are very valuable too. They usually offer a package, including buy-in and expenses to a regional tour event, including the France Poker Series (FPS).

Silver Pass winners are also invited to the Meet & Greet, which takes place a couple of days before the start of the EPT Main Event. There’s free food and drink, and a full roster of PokerStars Ambassadors in attendance, plus the PokerStars player liaison team. This is the chance for new players to ask whatever questions they may have about playing a major live tournament, or just to pose for photos with their heroes.

And then there’s the big prize draw.

All 39 Silver Pass winners at this year’s Meet & Greet picked up a ticket on their way in, showing a number from 1-39. The numbers featured on a big wheel, which was spun by French commentary duo Benny and Ju in the search for three prize winners.

First up, Maurizio Longobardi won third prize, which was for five Bronze Passes of €100 each. Longobardi can cash those in to play online tournaments on PokerStars.

A SILVER PASS MAGNET

Second place, of a Silver Pass, went to Anthony Apicella, a Corsica-based player with a fine showing already on the FPS. He has won in both Aix-en-Provence and Deauville, but his story here in Monaco is already even better than that.

Apicella won his trip to Monaco in a €100 online satellite on PokerStars. That gave him entry to the FPS Main Event. He upgraded his experience here by winning a Silver Pass in the first All In Shootout, after linking his PokerStars online account to his PS Live card.

That Silver Pass gave him an invitation to the Meet & Greet.

 

 

Then the wheel spin landed him another Silver Pass, which he can put in his pocket and prepare to take to another regional event. He can maybe try the Belgian Poker Challenge in Namur next month, or FPS at Aix-les-Bains at the end of September. And if he likes the EPT, the Estrellas Poker Tour event alongside EPT Barcelona will be enormous.

Whatever he chooses, this Silver Path magnet will be a success.

THE RETURN OF CARLINO THE CROONER

The wheel span once more and it landed on the number belonging to someone very well known on the European Poker Tour: Joseph Carlino.

Carlino made a final table in Deauville in 2015, though he was far better remembered for his sideline singing and karate kicking than he was for his sixth-placed finish. The fact that Carlino landed a Gold Pass for his lucky wheel spin here — worth €9,300 — was obviously reason enough for Carlino to go looking for the microphone once more.

The Meet & Greet therefore ended on a high note, both literally and metaphorically, with Carlino preparing to play the EPT Main Event once more.


EPT MONTE CARLO RESULTS SO FAR

Catch up on what’s happened so far with every result from the France Poker Series (FPS) and European Poker Tour (EPT) in Monte Carlo.

EPT MONTE CARLO RESULTS

SWISS PRODIGY LUCA MARKI WINS HIGH ROLLER FOR €1,085,970

Luca Marki is really making his mark on the high-roller scene in 2024. The young Swiss poker prodigy finished runner-up in the EPT Paris €10k for €606,750 and went one better in Monte Carlo, topping the 247-entry €25k for €1,085,970.

To get the job done Marki defeated Colombia’s Mauricio Sanchez heads-up after the two made a heads-up deal. For his efforts, Sanchez collected €950,000 for second place.

This was the largest-field high roller in EPT Monte Carlo history.

Read a full recap from the event — plus all live updates — on PokerNews.

See results from across the EPT Monte Carlo festival

ATANAS MALINOV WINS FPS MAIN EVENT FOR €303,190

It’s not enough to say that Bulgaria’s Atanas Malinov rode his start-of-day chip lead to victory in the France Poker Series (FPS) Main. The man steamrolled his way through the field, eliminating all of his five final table opponents:

Malinov — a 30-year-old poker pro and regular on the EPT circuit — now has a new career-best score, earning €303,190 for topping the 2,096 entries.

€1,100 FPS Main Event
Dates: April 24 – 28
Entries: 2,096
Prize pool: €2,012,160

Read a full recap from the event — plus all live updates — on PokerNews.

See results from across the EPT Monte Carlo festival

Ioannis Poullos clinches FPS High Roller title after chop

It was a long old slog on Day 2 of the France Poker Series (FPS) €2,200 High Roller, an event that often requires a third day to find a winner. But not this time.

After a 16-hour marathon session, it was Ioannis Poullos from Greece who captured the title and trophy following a three-way chop with Frenchman Mathieu Di Meglio and Spain’s Javier Gomez.

Like Malinov in the FPS Main (see above), Poullos dominated the final table from start to finish, never relinquishing his chip lead. For his efforts, he’ll take home €288,635 — by far the biggest cash of his career.

€2,200 FPS High Roller
Dates: April 26 – 28
Entries: 1,217
Prize pool: €2,336,640

Read a full recap from the event — plus all live updates — on PokerNews.

See results from across the EPT Monte Carlo festival


ADRIAN STATE REJECTS DEAL THEN WINS MYSTERY BOUNTY

You’ve got to admire the tenacity of Romania’s Adrian State. Despite having half the chips of his heads-up opponent, Jamie Flynn, State turned down an ICM deal and wanted to play for the win.

That’s exactly what he got, topping the 743-entry field to win €232,898 plus €45,000 drawn from mystery bounty envelopes. State battled through a final that included Romain Lewis and Sergi Reixach to secure the biggest cash of his career.

And speaking of big cash, Yiannis Liperis and Ghassan Bitar were the lucky recipients of the largest bounty prizes, each winning €75,000 from a single envelope.

€3,000 EPT Mystery Bounty
Dates: April 30 – May 2
Entries: 743
Prize pool: €1,274,988

Read a full recap from the event — plus all live updates — on PokerNews.

See results from across the EPT Monte Carlo festival


ABOUT EPT MONTE CARLO

The European Poker Tour (EPT) will soon make its annual springtime pitstop in Europe’s historical gambling capital: Monte Carlo, home to one of the most prestigious Formula 1 races in the world, as well as the most spectacular poker room on the planet.

Yep, we’ll soon be back at the stunning Sporting Monte Carlo, standing in the iconic Salle des Etoiles, watching thousands of poker players take their seats as they hope to etch their names into the EPT history books.

The formidable Mike Watson was crowned champion in 2023, landing himself an elusive EPT double. Last year’s event also saw the then-up-and-comer Alex Kulev announce himself onto the live super high roller stage with a million-euro victory. Plus the great Magnus Carlsen stopped by and gave us his first interview as a former chess world champion.

But what lies ahead between April 24 and May 4, 2024?

You’ve come to the right place to find out. Bookmark our coverage hub and you’ll always be up to date with the goings-on both on and off the tables.

Here’s all you need to know about EPT Monte Carlo 2024.


Key festival dates

FPS:

  • FPS Main Event: April 24-28 – €1,100
  • FPS Cup: April 26-27 – €550
  • FPS High Roller: April 26-28 – €2,200

EPT:

  • EPT Super High Roller: April 27-29 – €100,000
  • EPT Main Event: April 28-May 4 – €5,300
  • EPT Mystery Bounty: April 30-May 2 – €3,000
  • EPT High Roller: May 2-4 – €25,000

LIVE STREAM SCHEDULE

English-language coverage on our central/global channels will be hosted by James Hartigan, Joe Stapleton, Maria Ho, Nick Walsh and Griffin Benger. 

There will also be streams on our French, Spanish and Brazilian channels. Plus, there will be broadcasts in German and Italian.

Sunday April 28

13:00 CEST
EPT MONTE CARLO: €1K FPS MAIN EVENT – FINAL TABLE

Monday April 29

13:00 CEST
EPT MONTE CARLO: €100K SUPER HIGH RILLER – FINAL TABLE

Tuesday April 30

12:30 CEST
EPT MONTE CARLO: €5K MAIN EVENT – DAY 2

Wednesday May 1

12:30 CEST
EPT MONTE CARLO: €5K MAIN EVENT – DAY 3

Thursday May 2

12:30 CEST
EPT MONTE CARLO: €5K MAIN EVENT – DAY 4

Friday May 3

12:30 CEST
EPT MONTE CARLO: €5K MAIN EVENT – DAY 5

Saturday May 4

13:00 CEST
EPT MONTE CARLO: €5K MAIN EVENT – FINAL TABLE

5 THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR AT EPT MONTE CARLO

The European Poker Tour (EPT) is on its way to Monaco once again and there are countless reasons to be very excited. Here are just a handful of things to look out for as the tour descends again on Monaco. We call it Five Things to Look Out for at EPT Monte Carlo

PREVIOUS WINNERS

For many years Monte Carlo was the home of the EPT Grand Final, before simply becoming one of the most glamorous stops on the poker calendar. 

Previous winners include poker superstars Steve O’Dwyer in 2013 – who overcame arguably the toughest final table in poker history – and Adrian Mateos in 2015.

2005 – Rob Hollink (Netherlands) – €635,000

2006 – Jeff Williams (United States) – €900,000 (RECAP)

2007 – Gavin Griffin (United States) – €1,825,010 (RECAP)

2008 – Glen Chorny (Canada) – €2,020,000 (RECAP)

2009 – Pieter de Korver (Netherlands) – €2,300,000 (RECAP)

2010 – Nicolas Chouity (Lebanon) – €1,700,000 (RECAP)

2012 – Mohsin Charania (United States) – €1,350,000 (RECAP)

2013 – Steve O’Dwyer (United States) – €1,224,000 (RECAP)

2015 – Adrián Mateos (Spain) – €1,082,000 (RECAP)

2016 – Jan Bendik (Slovakia) – €961,800 (RECAP)

2017 – Raffaele Sorrentino (Itay) – €466,714 (RECAP)

2018 – Nicolas Dumont (France) – €712,000 (RECAP)

2019 – Manig Löser (Germany) – €603,777 (RECAP)

2022 –  Marcelo Simões (Brazil) – €939,840 (RECAP)

2023 – Mike Watson (Canada) – €749,425 (RECAP)

A GUIDE TO MONTE CARLO

Everything you have heard about the tiny principality of Monaco is true: it is lavish, ostentatious and eye-wateringly expensive. But it is also exceptionally beautiful with a fine beach and stunning views across the Mediterranean.

More to see in Monaco than just the inside of a tournament room

From how to get there to what to do when you arrive, check out this guide:

THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO EPT MONTE CARLO

MONACO ON A BUDGET

No one who works for PokerStars Blog is a millionaire, yet we have been coming to Monaco as long as the European Poker Tour (EPT) and we’re still alive.

That’s because over the years we’ve found out how to survive in Monte Carlo on a relatively meagre budget. Whatever you may think, our per diem doesn’t stretch to anything lavish, but we no longer approach Monte Carlo with a terror of bankruptcy.

We’re happy to share some of our tips for how to survive in Monte Carlo on a budget. Of course, you can break the bank if you want to, but you absolutely don’t have to.

Check out:

SURVIVING EPT MONTE CARLO ON A BUDGET

Activities calendar

It’s been a fixture on the European Poker Tour (EPT) calendar since the earliest days, and this year’s trip to Monte Carlo has the potential to be the best yet. With huge numbers expected, the exclusive principality on the Mediterranean Sea will once again be the place to be for poker players this spring.

But, as usual, it’s not only about what you can expect at the tables. The EPT will once again lay on a full schedule of activities for players and their guests. There’s always something to do whether you’re playing poker or not.

EPT MONTE CARLO ACTIVITIES: MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TRIP TO MONACO

Monte Carlo is the best place in the world to drive a fast car…

EVERYTHING ELSE…

POKER NEWS LIVE UPDATES
Our live reporting partner will offer hand-by-hand updates from a number of tournaments across the series.

EPT MONTE CARLO OFFICIAL SITE
The PokerStars Live official page, with everything you need to know about the tournament series in Monaco.

FULL TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
There are 53 events set to play out across the tournament series. Here’s the day-by-day schedule.

DOWNLOAD THE POKERSTARS LIVE APP
All the info you need on your mobile device from the Apple iStore or Google Play for Android.

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