EPT Season 1
Recap of the 1st EPT Season
The first official moments of the European Poker Tour took place in Casino Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain, which would become host to the opening events of the EPT until season 6, when Kiev would become the first event. Season 1 saw a lot of repeat action from many strong players to an extent that far exceeded later seasons; perhaps because it was the first time for the EPT, the initial season had final tables where the same players appeared over and over again. This would have made for some very unique game play, as players would have a greater opportunity to learn their opponents' habits very quickly, having spent many games playing with the same people in a relatively short period of time.
The premiere Barcelona Open, as it would come to be known, was in September of 2004 and had only 229 entrants. The buy-in was only €1,000, a trifling amount at the time when compared to the other big name poker competitions such as the World Poker Tour and the World Series of Poker. Alexander Stevic of Sweden walked away with the €80,000 prize for first place, but among his opponents was Luca Pagano, who came in third place and would eventually come to become the lead player in terms of overall performance in the European Poker Tour. Pagano would go on to have 16 money finishes in the EPT within the next six years, not a bad record given that he began his full-time professional poker career in 2004 with Season 1 of the EPT.
Noah Boeken & Marcel Lüske
The following month at the Grosvenor Victoria Casino in London, England, Dutchman Noah Boeken would face off against the man who he claims taught him everything he knew about poker, fellow countryman Marcel Lüske. Both Boeken and David Williams are former Magic: the Gathering card players who were mentored by Lüske, but in the second event of the EPT, Boeken surpassed his former teacher and finished in sixth place, two spots above Lüske. The ₤200,000 prize would ultimately go to John Shipley of Britian, who narrowly beat John Falconer for the top spot.
In the third event of the first season of the European Poker Tour, The Hendon Mob's own Ram Vaswani would soundly defeat the other Brits and the Irishmen at the final table at Merrion Casino Club in Dublin, making off with the €93,000 prize for first place. The Irish Winter Tournament 2004 final table was dominated by players from the British Isles, including Julian Thew, who made his first of two final table finishes in the EPT that season. The first season of the European Poker Tour saw many smaller games, and this tournament, with its only 163 buy-ins, was no exception.
After a three month hiatus, the EPT action picked up once again in January in Copenhagen, Denmark, at the Scandinavian Open 2005, held in Casino Copenhagen. Noah Boeken redeemed himself after his final table loss three months earlier by taking the kr1,098,340 first place prize (the equivalent of $191,355). Julian Thew likewise improved his previous standings, moving from his seventh place finish before the break for the holidays to a fourth place finish behind Ram Vaswani and Charalambos Xanthos. Vaswani, who had won the last event in the European Poker Tour, almost doubled his EPT earnings with his performance in Copenhagen.
Luca Pagano would make his second EPT Season 1 final table performance in February, 2005 during the 4-day event at the Casino Barriere de Deauville in Deauville, France. While Pagano would come in last place at the final table, this would be the beginning of an illustrious career with the European Poker Tour, during which he would spend a large amount of time dominating the top spot in the EPT All-Time Leaderboard. American Justin Bonomo set a new record in Deauville: at 19 years, 5 months and 20 days old, he became the youngest player to make a televised final table; Bonomo would come in fourth place.
Brandon Schaefer, an American who had started playing poker only two years before, won the €144,000 first place prize, which would pale in comparison only a month later when he would win over twice that (€350,000) for his second place finish in the final EPT event in Monaco. While Schaefer would have other wins over the next three years, none would come even close to his winnings in the inaugural season of the European Poker Tour. Schaefer dropped off the poker map in 2008 after his last big game, but he maintains a blog (brandonschaefer.blogspot.com), where he occasionally mentions poker games that he plays recreationally.
The sixth event in the first season of the EPT took place in Vienna, Austria, which wouldn't see action from the European Poker Tour again until Season 7. Pascal Perrault, who was already well-established in the poker world, having made his mark in 1998 and again in 1999 at the World Series of Poker, where he made final tables and outlasted big name poker players like Chris Ferguson and Scotty Nguyen. In 2001, Perrault was rated the best poker player in Europe, so it was no great surprise when he left the Concord Card Casino with the €184,500 prize for first place.
Four days after Perrault's triumph, the European Poker Tour Grand Final was underway in the Casino de Monte Carlo. The event lasted from March 16 through March 20, 2005, and despite the hefty €10,000 buy-in (other buy-ins during the inaugural season of the EPT had been on average €2000), 211 entrants battled it out for the top spot. As Marcel Lüske had predicted, Rob Hollink won the grand prize of €635,000, beginning a trend that would eventually make him the first Dutchman to win both a European Poker Tour title and a WSOP bracelet. The EPT grand final was one of four tournaments that Hollink won that year, and due to his successes, he was named European poker player of the year. Alexander Stevic, who had won first place in Barcelona, came in third, and Brandon Schaefer, the winner in Deauville, came in second.