Friday, 1st March 2024 14:21
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Registration closed on the EPT Prague Main Event this afternoon and confirmed some very exciting news. On the 15th trip to the capital of the Czech Republic, the event topped 1,200 entries for the first time.

EPT Prague 2022 is a record breaker. Many times over.

Some dizzying numbers

The final, official number of entrants hit 1,267, including 349 re-entries. Of those, there were 402 entries on Day 1A, 825 on Day 1B and a further 40 either entering or re-entering today.

That means a prize pool of €6,114,950, the biggest this tournament has ever seen. The winner is set to get €1,054,500.

Remember, this event was seen as something of a try-it-and-see risk when it first launched in 2007, with 555 entries. But the upward trend has been pretty much consistent year-on-year since then, and there’s now regularly more than double that initial number.

“At the end of the day, we just want to say thank you to the players for your loyalty” — Cedric Billot, Head of Live Events

Prague is an absolute fixture on the EPT calendar, wildly popular across the board.

Players continue to show their trust

“I want to say, from everyone, ‘Thank you to all the players’,” says Cédric Billot, Head of Live Events at PokerStars. “Thank you for trusting our brand, for coming to play our events all year long.

“It was not an easy year, because of Covid at the beginning of the year, but we could see the trend, from Prague in March, which was already a success, and now in December. Even though we have some competition, to see the numbers increase, for us it’s just amazing to see that players love to come to our events.”

The success of the Main Event is no surprise, at least not to those people who had been looking at the numbers from the rest of the festival. The Eureka Main Event set a new record, with 4,017 entries to the €1,000 buy-in tournament, which crowned Pieter Theelen, of the Netherlands, as its winner.

And then the €2,000 Eureka High Roller was also the biggest there has ever been, with 1,534 entries and a champion, Sander Ostlyngen, winning €463,850. That represented a 34 percent increase on the previous high, recorded in March.

The €50,000 Super High Roller was only one entry short of its all time Prague record too, with 55 entries this time.

Cedric Billot, second left, presents the EPT trophy to Ian Hamilton, champion in London

Good news for the poker economy

High numbers across all buy-in levels hints at a very healthy poker economy. It means that the field comprises plenty of relatively new players, perhaps experiencing a major live poker festival for the first time, while also remaining attractive to the veterans and the high rollers, who have been coming here for years and liking what they see.

“The numbers mean that the poker economy is doing well for all kind of buy-ins,” a very happy Billot says. “I think the Eureka Cup, the €400 buy-in, was also an amazing turnout. Low buy-ins are working amazing, and also high buy-ins are getting better and better.”

It’s especially gratifying that players seem to be responding to the effort the PokerStars live events team puts in to providing a welcoming environment for everyone.

Billot says: “It’s all about the experience we provide. Of course, we try to provide a way for lower-stakes players to qualify. One thousand euro is still a lot of money, but everyone has a chance to qualify online in all possible formats. From €1 or €20.

“And then we want players to know what they can expect on site. There’s merchandise, parties, the chance to meet the pros. They can play in the most professional environment, with the most amazing TV set and the chance to be on the stream. All of this contributes.”

The efforts of the live events team, providing such bonuses as the exclusive World Cup Fanzone, has been rewarded

Uncertainty and competition

All of this is doubly impressive when placed against a backdrop of political uncertainty in Europe, and with other attractive poker events taking place elsewhere.

Prague has always drawn plenty of players from all of east, west and central Europe, but the war in Ukraine has made travel far less straightforward than it has been previously. Russian players used to make up a large portion of the EPT Prague field, but their number has obviously dwindled.

Meanwhile, the World Poker Tour is hosting its WPT World Championship at the Wynn, Las Vegas, at the same time as EPT Prague, offering a tempting alternative for North American players, in particular.

“It’s never great when players have to choose between two big events,” Billot concedes. “It’s never great for anyone. But it seems like both events are achieving great numbers, and that’s good. It means that poker is healthy, the poker ecosystem is healthy.

“With the World Poker Tour and the World Series, we try to communicate, and to agree not to clash when we can. But the calendar has been incredibly busy and much as we try, we cannot always find a solution to not clash. We have hotel commitments and it’s the same for them.

Some exclusive EPT Prague merchandise

“Of course, it’s a pity. We would have had even bigger numbers without the competition, and they would have had bigger numbers without the competition. But we deal with it, and we make sure that our experience is amazing, to make sure that players will still remember that EPT Prague is the place to go in December.”

The most diverse field of all

We first looked at the remarkable success of EPT Prague back in 2013, when Main Event entries broke through 1,000 for the first time.

We hit on some obvious reasons for Prague’s attraction, including its affordability and its obvious chocolate-box charms, but its location is by far the most convincing explanation. It always has one of the most diverse fields.

The nationalities piechart, described back then as a “kaleidoscope wheel”, remains similar this time around.

There were representatives of 62 countries in the Main Event here, with no country accounting for more than 11 percent of the field. France sent the most players, which bodes very well for a return to the country next year, when EPT Paris lands on the EPT schedule for the first time.

Looking forward to a trip to Paris

As a proud Frenchman, Billot is looking forward to welcoming the EPT back to France.

“I’m expecting EPT Paris to be incredibly busy,” he says. “French players are now the first nationality almost everyone we go, so this is going to be an amazing event. I’m sure everyone is going to enjoy coming to Paris, spend Valentine’s Day in Paris.

“I know foreign players enjoy playing with the French players, too so that’s a lot of reasons that make me optimistic it’s going to be an amazing event. It’s a city I love, and we’re going to make sure players are going to enjoy this city.

“It’s a massive venue, in the Hyatt Regency hotel. We need to make sure we can accommodate everyone there. There are lots of restaurants around, it’s not far from the Champs Elysee. Players are going to have fun!”

Billot remains proud of the EPT’s continued success, and insisted again that it’s the players themselves who should take most of the credit.

“At the end of the day, we just want to say thank you to the players for your loyalty. That’s what means the most to us. The numbers are amazing, but it’s not only about the numbers. When we have players coming to speak with us and telling us how much they love the EPT, how much they love Prague EPT, we just love it. So thank you players.”

Some raw stats

EPT Prague Main Event 2022

  • Entries: 1,267
  • Unique players: 918
  • Countries represented: 62
  • Top five nations: France (95 players or 10.4%), Italy (90 or 9.8%), Germany (75 or 8.2%), the United Kingdom (46 or 5.0%), Spain (40 or 4.4%)

EPT Prague Main Event through the ages

2007: 555 entries, €2,530,240 prize pool, Arnaud Mattern (France) for €708,400
2008: 570 entries, €2,764,500 prize pool, Salvatore Bonavena (Italy) for €774,000
2009: 586 entries, €2,930,000 prize pool, Jan Skampa (Czech Republic) for €682,000
2010: 563 entries, €2,730,550 prize pool, Roberto Romanello (UK) for €640,000
2011: 772 entries, €3,501,700 prize pool, Martin Finger (Germany) for €720,000
2012: 864 entries, €4,190,400 prize pool, Ramzi Jelassi (Sweden) for €835,000
2013: 1,007 entries, €4,883,950 prize pool, Julian Track (Germany) for €725,700
2014: 1,107 entries, €5,535,000 prize pool, Stephen Graner (USA) for €969,000
2015: 1,044 entries, €5,063,400 prize pool, Hossein Ensan (Germany) for €754,510
2016: 1,192 entries, €5,781,200 prize pool, Jasper Meijer van Putten (Netherlands) for €699,300
2017: 855 entries, €4,146,750 prize pool, Kalidou Sow (France) for €675,000
2018: 1,174 entries, €5,693,900 prize pool, Paul Michaelis (Germany) for €840,000
2019: 1,154 entries, €5,596,900 prize pool, Mikalai Pobal (Belarus) for €1,005,600
2022 (March): 1,190 entries, €5,771,500 prize pool, Grzegorz Glowny (Poland) for €692,252
* held as PokerStars Championship in 2017

With thanks to Jan Kores, EPT Media Co-ordinator, for the stats

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