When the European Poker Tour began in September 2004, the first season had seven events. The second season remained with seven, and then the third season increased to eight. The fourth and fifth seasons hosted 11 events each, and then the jump was made to 13 events for the sixth, seventh, and eighth seasons of the tour. For the ninth season, the EPT scaled back to just eight events, but expanded the events into "festivals" with more poker at each stop. This was the same for the 10th season as it proved to be a very positive maneuver.
It's now the 11th season of the tour, but just six stops are on the schedule — Barcelona, London, Prague, Bahamas, Deauville, and Monaco.
On a recent broadcast of EPT Live while at the first event of Season 11 in Barcelona, host Joe Stapleton hinted that there could be a news announcement made soon about something to take place on the tour in the gap between Deauville and Monaco. Deauville is scheduled to take place January 28 through February 7 and Monaco will close out the season April 29 through May 8, leaving for an uncharacteristically large gap in the schedule of nearly three months. Since moving to the festivals format in recent seasons, this gap has often been filled by one or two events.
One of the events that often filled this role was EPT Sanremo, a stop that has been a mainstay on the EPT schedule since it first played host back in the fourth season and attracted 701 players. The Sanremo event saw a rise in entrants for the two following seasons (consecutively 1,178 and 1,240), but dropped to 987 for the seventh season. Since that drop, the field size has declined each year, with an all-time low of 556 entrants last season. Sanremo is currently not on the schedule for Season 11, according to the EPT's website, which leaves question as to whether or not it will be back on the EPT.
Speaking with some of those in Barcelona, thoughts are that Sanremo will not be returning. That was the feeling of many following its lackluster performance last season and remains as such, with two people stating that the reason for Sanremo being left off the schedule was the decline in numbers over the recent seasons. It was also mentioned that the decline was due large in part to PokerStars.it not doing so well.
PokerStars.it operates within a segregated Italian market and has a six-month trend of under 2,000 daily ring-game players, according to statistics from PokerScout.com. For comparison, the main PokerStars client boasts a six-month trend of between 20,000 and 25,000 daily ring-game players.
With Stapleton hinting at an announcement about an event to take place between Deauville and Monaco, speculation as to where this event would be held has been spreading. Vienna could see a return for Season 11 after coming back to the EPT schedule in Season 10 following a two-season hiatus, and it would seem the Austrian capital would be the favorite to host a stop between Deauville and Monaco due to the overwhelming success it had in Season 10.
First, the Eureka Poker Tour Vienna Main Event proved overly impressive. The second starting flight attracted 975 players and became the largest single starting flight in the tour's history, dating back to March of 2011. That number also pushed the total number of entries in the event up to 1,432 and broke the record for largest Eureka Poker Tour Main Event by 117 players. Second, the EPT Main Event attracted a whopping 910 players, which was nearly double the amount from EPT Sanremo in the same season.
One could place Berlin as the second favorite behind Vienna as a host city for the EPT this season. In the seventh, eighth, and ninth season of the tour, Berlin drew field sizes of 773, 745, and 912 entrants, respectively. Many in the industry saw it as a surprise that Vienna replaced Berlin in the first place given its success, but Berlin and Vienna are seemingly interchangeable given their location within Europe.
There is also the possibility of the EPT adding a stop that it has been to previously, which includes Copenhagen, Tallinn, Dublin, Baden, Warsaw, Dortmund, Budapest, Hinterglemm (Snowfest), Vilamoura, Kyiv, Campione, Madrid, and Loutraki. From those, Copenhagen hosted the most EPT stops after being featured in eight seasons, but it was never able to eclipse the 500-player mark — its best performance was 462 players in Season 5. Dortmund attracted the largest field of that bunch, drawing 667 players in Season 5. While all of these stops would be a great re-addition to the schedule in Season 11, my guess is that they aren't in the cards.
The main reason I don't feel going back to one of the older stops just mentioned is that some have hinted at talks of a new addition to the tour, which could come as a very welcome surprise. New places are always exciting for a couple of reasons. First, they open up an avenue to a new live market for PokerStars and the EPT to tap into. Second, regular players on the tour get a taste of something new instead of the same old.
Some of the locations that could be great for the EPT to venture into are Cyprus, Amsterdam, Valencia, Zurich, and Cannes. Cyprus is a great location that already has a healthy poker scene for live events, and Cannes is absolutely stunning, plus it's within the same relative area as Sanremo. Cannes has also previously played host to the World Series of Poker Europe, and there won't be a WSOP Europe this year.
While it may be sad to see Sanremo go, online poker shared liquidity involving Italy within Europe could see things begin to boom again if it ever does happen. Right now, a segregated market is holding back countries like Italy, Spain, and France just as it is holding back individual states within the US.
To learn more about the European Poker Tour, click here.