Three seasons into a budding and successful tour with staple stops in places like London, Barcelona, and Dublin, the European Poker Tour decided to expand from eight events to 11 in 2007. Part of that expansion was a stop in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, which would ultimately stick and become a mainstay on the EPT.
As part two of our EPT Prague retrospective series, we'll look back on the Main Event, which has had a steady buy-in of around €5,000 throughout its history.
2007: Mike "Timex" McDonald's First EPT Cash
Just four events populated the EPT Prague schedule in 2007, and the Main Event drew 555 runners to create a €2,530,240 prize pool.
One player who made the money but fell just short of the final table in 14th was Mike "Timex" McDonald, the young Canadian online superstar who booked his very first EPT cash for €20,200. It would be the first of many for McDonald, who has since amassed one of the most impeccable tournament résumés out there with more than $12,000,000 in cashes.
The late Johannes Strassman advanced to the final table, but he was the first player eliminated when he ran his into the of Mikael Norinder. Perhaps the most well-known name making the final table was Austrian Markus Golser, but he went out fifth for €151,800.
In the end, it was France versus Italy for the crown, and Italy was left wanting when Gino Alacqua (€407,300) fell heads up to Arnaud Mattern when the failed to overcome the all in preflop.
2008: Salvatore Bonavena Scores the Win for Italy
Evidently, tour organizers felt the first iteration of EPT Prague had been enough of a success to fire a second time in 2008, and the event drew 570 players for a prize pool of €2,764,500 this time around.
Future World Series of Poker Main Event champ Jonathan Duhamel (10th) and Sebastian Ruthenberg (ninth) busted just shy of the final day, which saw eight players battle it out for a €774,000 first-place prize. The group had a strong Italian lean — three of the final eight hailed from there.
Canada's Andrew Chen did the best he could to deny Italy the title, but busted in third for the first EPT cash (€257,000) of a live tournament career that's seen him collect more than $4,500,000. He got his last 15 big blinds in with the but couldn't outdraw Salvatore Bonavena's .
Bonavena held in the battle of Italy against Massimo Di Cicco to take home his first and only EPT crown.
2009: Jan Skampa Returns the Title to Home Turf
Encouraged by another solid turnout, the EPT once again rolled through Prague in 2009, and numbers bumped slightly once more as 586 turned out, creating a prize pool of €2,842,100. Tournament organizers flattened payouts this time around and 80 got paid.
Team PokerStars Pro Luca Pagano was in the midst of making the EPT his personal stomping ground and advanced to his sixth final table, but he could do no better than his previous best result of sixth. He ran his into the queens of Stefan Mattson in a button-versus-blind battle and cashed for €100,000.
The title ended up staying on home turf, as Jan Skampa prevailed at his second EPT final table appearance, holding easily with jacks against the of Eyal Avitan, who jammed about 20 big blinds over a button raise.
2010: America Can't Break Through to the Final Table
Numbers held about steady in 2010 with just the slightest of dips to 563 runners, making for a prize pool of €2,730,550. The tournament just missed having its first American representative to make the final day when Melanie Weisner went out 12th and Kevin MacPhee busted in ninth, leaving another all-European final table.
Italy once again had a strong showing with three of the final eight, but this time the Italians would fall just short. Welsh grinder Roberto Romanello came in a bit short of chips with just over 20 big blinds, but he was long on experience with four EPT cashes and one final table already to his credit.
He drew on that experience and navigated to heads-up play, where he triumphed over Emiliano Bono when the held against the , giving the emotional Welshman the only EPT crown in a career spanning more than $3,000,000 in cashes.
2011: Martin Finger's Stardom Is Born
Sticking with Prague bore fruit for the EPT in 2011 when numbers jumped way up to 722, smashing the old high-water mark of 586 from 2009.
Ari Engel made the first American foray to the EPT Prague final table, and his only final table appearance on the tour to date in his lucrative tournament career ended in a sixth-place finish for €125,000 when the could not catch German qualifier Martin Finger's .
Finger has entered the final table with a massive chip stack of 116 big blinds, and that proved too much for his opponents to overcome. The age of the young German crusher had not yet arrived, but the 21-year-old portended its arrival by taking down his first EPT final table for €720,000. He bested David Boyaciyan heads up.
2012: Back-To-Back Final Table Finishes for David Boyaciyan
EPT Prague continued to gain momentum as numbers surged for the second straight year in 2012, getting up to 864.
The biggest story coming into the final day of the tournament was the return of Boyaciyan, who could only improve over the previous year's result if he took it all down. He navigated to three-handed play with 40 big blinds when the crucial pot arrived. He saw a flop for a four-bet in a blind battle with Ramzi Jelassi, and the two got it in for the remainder of Boyaciyan's stack. Jelassi had the and outdrew Boyaciyan's nines when runner diamonds hit.
Jelassi was an EPT veteran with 10 EPT cashes to his credit, and the Swede made the 11th one to remember as he beat Sotirios Koutoupas, Greece's all-time tournament money winner, heads up for €835,000.
2013: Julian Track Tops An Insanely Stacked Final Table
The trend of constant growth at EPT Prague continued as the Main Event hit four figures for the first time with 1,007 players in 2013.
The growing numbers lured in some of poker's finest and the final table proved to be arguably the strongest in the event's history. Max Silver, Ole Schemion, and Stephen Chidwick would be on anyone's short list of the finest tournament players in the world, but none ended up emerging at champion.
Silver took his leave in sixth (€160,200) after a lost flip to Chidwick, and Schemion (fifth - €218,300) got two-outed when his tens were cracked by the sevens of German chip leader Julian Track. That pot gave Track more than half of the chips in play, and Chidwick would fall in third for €378,000.
Track may have been more willing to gamble than usual as he was nursing the flu, and he accepted a chop with Greek player Georgios Sotiropoulos despite a slight chip lead. The two played for €25,700 and Track prevailed, netting a total of €725,700.
2014: Stephen Graner Tops Prague's All-Time Largest Field
The record turnouts continued in 2014 as the EPT Prague Main Event drew 1,107 runners for a €5,368,950 prize pool.
Unlike the previous year, a final table populated by superstars this was not. French player Remi Castaignon had proved his mettle on the EPT before when he took down EPT Deauville in 2013, but he and the rest of the players at the final table were looking way, way up at American Stephen Graner.
Graner had more than a third of the chips in play with seven left as the final day dawned, and there would simply be no stopping him. He crushed his opposition with blazing speed, dispatching his opponents in just 81 hands, starting with Castaignon (€129,390) and ending with Swede Anton Bertilsson (€582,720). Graner banked €969,000 for his victory, setting a new standard in Prague.
That's the end of the second part of Pokernews' EPT Prague retrospective, but there's still one to come as we'll look over the history of the €10,300 High Roller.