EPT Season 7

Recap of the 7th EPT Season

While the previous seasons of the European Poker Tour more or less followed a set order for the locales, Season 7 turned everything on its head and revolutionized the tournament. This was the first season that the EPT charged expenses in addition to the regular buy-in, tacking on an added cost of between €250 and €600 per event. Buy-in costs for events were regulated, as were prizes, which were greater in number but lesser in amount. Several new events were added, and one was resurrected for the first time since Season 1. A great deal of the final table action was dominated by relative unknowns, making Season 7 one of the most interesting seasons in EPT history.

Season 7 kicked off in a new location: Swissôtel Tallinn, in Tallinn, Estonia. This six day event cost €4,000 to enter (with an additional €250 in expenses) and started in the middle of August, 2010. There were a total of 420 entrants competing for a total of 56 payouts, and the final table was made up of a diverse group of poker players who were, for the most part, unknowns. First place winner Kevin Stani of Norway walked away with the €400,000 first place prize, a great improvement over his past performances in the World Series of Poker, where he finished behind 127th, and his performance at Sanremo in the EPT the year before, where he came in after 155 other players. EPT Leaderboard-friendly Arnaud Mattern of France came in third, taking €160,000 and adding to his considerable money finishes and record with the European Poker Tour.

The second event of Season 7 saw the return to Vilamoura Casino in Vilamoura, Portugal. The Brits dominated the final table at the close of this six day event, taking three of the eight slots at the table. EPT Vilamoura had a slightly more expensive buy-in than the new event that preceded it: entry was €5,000 plus an extra €300 in expenses. Englishman Toby Lewis bested the competition and took home the €467,835 first place prize, while Season 1 Grand Final winner (and 2008 World Series of Poker winner) had to settle for seventh place and a €55,872 purse. The two other Brits at the table were two footballers-turned-poker players: Sam Trickett, who turned to poker after an injury ended his football career, and Teddy Sheringham, who retired from football and began playing poker. Sheringham nobly offered to donate all of his earnings at the EPT to charity, but spent them on a new Astin Martin instead, demonstrating that charity is much easier to offer before one has earned a €93,120 purse.

The European Poker Tour turned then to London, England, foregoing the popular Grosvenor locale for the Hilton London Metropole instead. Relative unknown David Vamplew not only outlasted the other 847 entrants in EPT London, but he managed to defeat John Juanda at the final table where Americans had the majority. Juanda had captured four WSOP bracelets but was knocked to second place, losing the ₤900,000 first place prize to England’s Vamplew.

Season 7 of the European Poker tour returned the action to Vienna, Austria, where 578 players came to Kursalon and paid the €5,000 buy-in and €300 expenses for a shot at one of the 80 payouts in this event. The Germans held three seats at the final table, giving them a strong majority. Canadian Daniel Negreanu was a safe bet against a table of new names in the poker world, given his extensive experience not only playing but coaching poker (and hosting television’s Million Dollar Challenge), but a surprise upset left him in fourth place, leaving the victory any man’s game. Michael Eiler of German snagged the top prize, worth €700,000.

Barcelona, Spain, which had been the first event of the EPT until bumped by Kiev’s one shot in Season 6, was placed mid-tour in Season 7. The event saw more entrants than ever before (758), and complete unknown Kent Lundmark of Sweden ended the six day event by winning first place and the €825,000 prize. Lundmark wasn’t the only unknown at the final table– all of the contenders for Season 7’s title in Barcelona were Europeans who were relatively unheard of in the poker world.

The mid-winter spot previously held by the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) was relinquished to Prague, Czech Republic (hosted at the Golden Prague Poker Hilton Prague Hotel) when the PCA became the inaugural event of the North American Poker Tour. Of the 563 entrants into this event, Roberto Romanello was the clear winner: this player, well-established in his native Wales, bested the other Europeans at the final table and claimed the €640,000 prize.

Deauville, France was the next stop for the Season 7 EPT, where the event was moved to the larger Deauville International Centre, which could easily accommodate the 891 entrants and countless spectators and officials. This seven day event (one of only three during the season) saw Kaspars Renga once more representing his native Latvia, while local and unknown Lucien Cohen would win the top spot and the accompanying €880,000 prize. Cohen, who was an amateur player, knocked the two strongest players at the table (who also happened to have the chip lead) into the two places below him: Martin Jacobson of Sweden took second place, and Canadian Alex Wice came in third.

EPT Copenhagen has traditionally, throughout the European Poker Tour, been dominated by Scandinavians; Season 7 was no exception, as the final table consisted of three Swedes, a Finn and a Dane. One of these Swedes, Michael Tureniec, finally made his previous experience in the EPT count for him and won the dk3.7 million prize. Tureniec had come in second at the London event and 39th in San Remo in Season 5. Also at the table was Juha Helppi, a Finnish World Poker Tour title holder and professional player known for playing the first underwater poker game, who ultimately finished 8th.

As the Alpine Palace Card Casino in Salzburg, Austria lit up once more for EPT Snowfest, a six day event with a lower buy-in than most of the others in Season 7 (only €3,500 + €250), the Germans quickly began to make a strong showing that would end with a German-heavy final table once more (a common theme in this season). Unknown player Russian Vladimir Geshkenbein would oust the other Europeans at the table, including Kevin Vandersmissen and Koen de Visscher, who came in second and third, respectively, and take home the conservative €390,000 prize for first place.

Berlin, Germany was granted a respite from the excitement of the previous year, where the casino was held up in the middle of the action of the final table. 2011 brought a much calmer event to Season 7, and employees and players alike in Spielbank Berlin were certainly grateful. This season’s six day event had the standard €5,000 + €300 buy-in and expenses, and while the Germans dominated the final table by holding three seats, it was ultimately Canadian Ben Wilinofsky who captured the €825,000 first place prize. German Maximiliam Heinzelmann came in a close second, winning €500,000 and making him the man that everyone would fear just a few weeks later.

Season 7 returned to Casino San Remo in Sanremo, Italy, for a week long event that brought in almost a thousand buy-ins. While the locals made a spectacular showing in Sanremo, as half the players in the final table were Italians (most of whom accounted for the most inexperienced players at the table), none of them made it to the final three. Roberto Spada and Costantino Russo were eliminated first, while Massimiliano Manigrasso and Francesco De Vivo held on a little longer but were ultimately eliminated next, along with Max Lykov (the three of them had three of the four lowest chip counts at the beginning of the game). This was, however, the first time that a final table was made up of four Italian players. Brit Rupert Elder took the €930,000 first place prize away from Max Heinzelmann after a long bout at the final table that lasted for hours, and Elder, commenting on Heinzelmann’s second place finish in Berlin, stated that he was relieved, as Heinzelmann was clearly the biggest competition in the game.

The European Poker Tour made history in Season 7 as a whole lot of firsts emerged during the Grand Final. For the first time in European Poker Tour history, the final event was held not in Monte Carlo, but in Madrid, Spain, and the Season 7 Grand Final lasted a week, where in previous years, it was never more than a few days long. 686 entrants coughed up the €10,000 entry fee (or qualified via other tournaments), but at the end of the week, Venezuelan Ivan Freitez went home with the title and €1.5 million. In the process, he became the first Latin American to win an EPT title. Season 7 was a good year for Freitez, who also cashed out in San Remo, Snowfest, and Copenhagen (with 20th, 55th, and 16th place finishes, respectively).