As EPT Retro starts on PokerStars’ Twitch and YouTube channels, we are dipping back into our archive to find how we reported the earliest days of the European Poker Tour. Here’s everything you didn’t realise you needed to know about EPT Season 2.
John Duthie, the founder of the European Poker Tour (EPT), fielded a lot of journalists’ questions during the first year of the tour’s existence, and many of them were the same. Plenty of people wanted to know whether he could have predicted how successful the tour quickly became.
Duthie used to give what I always thought was a puzzling answer. He used to say that he hadn’t known what to expect and that he was always surprised by the immediate and overwhelming popularity of his baby.
Why puzzling? Well, for what it’s worth, I was not surprised at all. Not one bit. To be a Europe-based poker fan in 2004-05 meant continually feeding on scraps to abate a voracious appetite. It meant scouring whatever media resources existed to find out what was happening in major tournaments in the United States, while getting far more excited about a £500 buy-in event at the Vic in London than is probably healthy.
The EPT was always going to be a success. There was never any doubt. And during Season 2, that became quickly evident to everyone. Even PokerStars Blog had a facelift and sent a reporter to every stop. Although not everything we wrote has survived, see below for a few tidbits and photographs.
Did you hear about the time a 50-year-old former dentist from Paris handed out a poker lesson to a couple of Nordic upstarts named Patrik Antonius and Gus Hansen? Well, you haven’t read about EPT Barcelona then. The dentist was a man named Jan Boubli and he came out on top of a field of 327 players packed into the main casino floor at Casino Barcelona. (The tournament later outgrew the surroundings and moved to a neighbouring convention centre.)
Hansen was already developing a fierce reputation thanks to his exploits in the US, and he was a real box office draw in Barcelona. He frequently found himself on the feature table, including when they were at a final table. Hansen finished sixth, losing a race to Boubli’s jacks.
As for Antonius, he just looked to darned handsome to be a poker player. It was ridiculous. I was in Barcelona that year and immediately dismissed him as a flash-in-the-pan, a player who got lucky once to reach the final table, but would soon return to a catwalk or something, never to be seen again.) I didn’t have to wait too long to realise the error of my ways.) In this one, Antonius finished third, winning €117,000, and it seemed like a staggering amount of money at the time. No one in the room would have guessed it would represent about a buy-in at some of the games this Finnish fancy Dan would come to play.
A couple of other stray memories from Barcelona Season 2:
Sweden’s Patrick Mortensson finished fourth, but he absolutely won the battle of the mind games over the credulous media. Having made the final table, Mortensson was asked to provide a few biographical tidbits to give the media something to flesh out his character. We didn’t figure it out until much, much later (in fact, not until Mortensson confessed) but him and his friends had entirely fictionalised his life story. We, of course, printed it. And it’s still there today. To set the record straight 15 years later: Patrick Mortensson was not the reigning Swedish Monopoly champion. He did not sell luxury cars as a sideline. And maybe he didn’t even play golf off a handicap of three. He did, however, finish fourth in Barcelona. I saw that with my own eyes.
Another Nordic tyrant appeared for the first time at EPT Barcelona, and I watched this guy close up too. A young man with shaggy hair and a menacing snarl took a seat at a feature table that already included Hansen, Brandon Schaefer and Carlos Mortensen. I asked him his name. He wrote it on my notepad: Ilari Sahamies. The man who would go on to be known as “Ziigmund” was absolutely relentless in his aggression at the table, raising almost every hand. It took a cruel cooler — queens into kings, if I recall — to finish him off, with Christer Johansson taking his chips.
They handed over the money in a suitcase.
Barcelona: The Beginning
Brandon Schaefer sets the final table straight
Filling the dead men’s shoes
James Taggart: Lucky or unlucky?
Steve “stevestar” Day: Internet hero
Vive la France: Boubli reigns
Back in 2005, London claimed to be the capital of European poker, specifically the card-room of the Grosvenor Victoria Casino on Edgware Road. It was where most of the stars of Late Night Poker played, and where most of the biggest comps were held. It was only natural that the EPT would take up residence in its crowded poker room. The £3,000 buy-in was astronomical by the standards of the time.
PokerStars Blog was once again on hand to watch the 242-strong field go through its motions, with one or two hiccups, and many more highlights along the way. For instance, American internet sensation Jason Strasser was denied entry because he was wearing flip-flops. But English cricket star Michael Atherton played his first live poker tournament, confounding the Americans in the room.
There were a few bad beats along the way (“I want to kill you,” said Simon “Aces” Trumper). But there were plenty of PokerStars qualifiers running the gauntlet.
By the time everything was done, it was Mark Teltscher who survived a fierce final table and found himself with a huge novelty check and Greg Raymer as arm-candy. Read the final report.
All the contemporary PokerStars Blog coverage has found its way to this page.
The EPT’s previous trip to Dublin had ended up with an Englishman doing battle with a local Dublin hero, and the Irishman (Rory Liffey) prevailing in some style. But this year was something very different. This time, the Scandinavian invasion was in full flow and two Swedes, Henrik Olander and Mats Gavatin, went heads up for the top prize, leaving all the remaining final-table places to be occupied by Brits and Irish. (Read how the final table played out.)
Though Olander’s poise and style impressed plenty of onlookers, it was the former baker Gavatin who rose to the top. Gavatin won €317,000, and later went on to win on the short-lived Showdown Poker Tour too, but otherwise cut back on poker significantly. (Olander too is nowhere to be seen these days.)
En route, we met David “dpommo” Pomroy, who had seemed to be sailing to the title before he ran into the Swedes. And there was also a spectacular performance from Michael Greco, who, at the time, was only recently departed from the cast of Eastenders, one of the UK’s most popular TV soaps. On the subject of TV stars, Norman Pace, one of British comedy duo Hale & Pace was also in attendance. He was knocked out with “a pocket pair” — ie., pocket deuces.For all of the first day, and much of the second, action came from five floors of the Fitzwilliam Club in beautiful Georgian Dublin. But when there were only eight players left, we headed to the Royal Dublin Society to play out the final table — possibly the only time an EPT Main Event has upped and changed locations in the middle of a day.
After that, it was all about those Swedes.
Greetings from the Emerald Isle
Gallery of well-known faces
Joanne Haslam’s “Girly Stuff” report
Day 1 chip counts
It’s a shame about Ray (Coburn), PokerStars qualifier
Off to the Royal Dublin Society
Final table live updates
EPT Dublin: Final report
Copenhagen in January is as cold as space but as delightful as a never-ending chocolate bar. And for a good four years during the 2000s, it was also the focus of some of the best tournament poker in the world. At that time, Scandinavian players were at the very peak of their powers, bringing all manner of new aggressive strategies to bear on the game, transforming it forever.The EPT Main Events in Copenhagen were brutal, and they went on for ages. In Season 2, Denmark’s Mads Anderson and Norway’s Edgar Skjervold played heads up for what seemed like eternity, with TV producers fearing that they might run out of tape. (That’s to say nothing of the casino’s 4am hard curfew. We butted right up against it.)
We did get it done just in time, with Anderson eventually ending the marathon.
By that point, Anina Gundesen had become the highest-placing female player in the EPT’s short history, stating in her pre final-table interview that “I won’t be scared of any of my opponents because I have no idea who any of them are.” He eventually finished in sixth. And we got an early sighting of Philip Hilm, the man who would eventually enter the history books for one of the biggest blow-ups in the history of the World Series of Poker. On the subject of the WSOP, the then-reigning champion, Joe Hachem, flew in from Melbourne to play.Additional star quality came from former soccer heroes Jan Molby, Stig Tofting and Tomas Brolin. However, the old Suffolk Punch, Simon Young, found his great start came to nothing when he couldn’t get past Noah Boeken.
Other key links:
Mats, Mads, and Mats again. The middle events of Season 2 of the EPT was notable for two things above all: fields growing ever bigger and tougher, and Scandinavian players with first names all the same winning everything. Hot on the heels of Mats Gavatin and Mads Anderson, a 23-year-old Swede named Mats Iremark upset the odds — and many hotly tipped other contenders — to beat a 435-player field and win €480,000 in Deauville, France. Click for the blow-by-blow account.This was the final table at which we also found Isabelle Mercier, then one of Team PokerStars Pro’s most prominent personalities, who had battled her own personal demons to make it to the final table.
Ever since picking up a sponsorship deal, Mercier had been attacked from some ever-familiar quarters who claimed she had lucked into her position of prominence thanks to her looks and her gender. But she could play too, and this final table appearance proved that. She was extremely disappointed to fall in seventh.Ram Vaswani was again back at a final table too, having already won once and finished runner up on another occasion during Season 1. Could he become the first double champion? I think we know the answer to that. This final in Deauville also introduced us to the stylings of Theo Jorgensen, who was cultivating his much respected (and much feared) game at the time. He finished fourth. And Patrick Martensson, the non-Monopoly champion (see explanation in Barcelona above) who was back at a second final of the season.
But ultimately Iremark was stronger than them all and claimed the first title of his career from the first tournament he had ever even cashed in. Iremark played regularly for another few years, but he is now a freelance cloud and devops architect for Iremark Consulting AB. Poker set him in good standing.
Greg Raymer lasts less than an orbit
Bruel, Mercier, Gundesen and Raymer walk into a room
Jen Mason bursts the bubble (Tony Kendall and James Dempsey watch on)
PokerStars heroes: Jerome “Chemovs” Douieb and Ken Johnson
Friends and colleagues: Simon Young, Roland De Wolfe and John Caldwell
All Deauville coverage
But this tournament, more than any other so far, reminded us of one thing: you actually didn’t need the full buy-in to join the game and profit. The top four finishers, from the United States, United Kingdom, Norway and Canada, had won their seats online at PokerStars. They took a combined €1.85 million. (Ash Hussain, who finished second, qualified in a frequent player point (FPP) satellite.)
The very top dog, however, was American Jeff “yellowsub86” Williams, whose parents jetted to Monaco from Atlanta, Georgia, to watch their 19-year-old son lay waste to this field. He was stronger than the British pros Ben Grundy and Ross Boatman, who fell in ninth and sixth, as well as Dutch legend Marcel Luske (seventh). Williams’s tender years were no obstacle: he was leading the charge for the internet generation whose skills were awesomely sophisticated.
Opening Monte Carlo photo gallery
French camera-bait Patrick Bruel
Jeff Williams first comes to our attention
Theo Jorgensen plays in plaster (and a first glimpse of Vicky Coren)
Day 2 play-by-play: Afternoon | Evening
Day 3 play-by-play: Afternoon | Evening
Final table play-by-play
Jeff Williams on top, wins €900,000