European Poker Tour

The European Poker Tour (EPT) Grand Final in Monaco always provides a spectacular end to the series, but this year entries are down 20%.

Just 531 players registered compared to last year’s 665. The event’s popularity hit a peak in 2009 with 935 players and slumped, not unexpectedly, post Black Friday.

But even against the background of a European debt crisis, the fall in numbers this year is harder to explain.

The event has been heavily promoted on PokerStars, which owns the EPT through its parent The Rational Group, and the usual celebrity players are there, including Phil Ivey, Phil Helmuth, Daniel Negreanu, Gus Hansen as well as current Global Poker Index (GPI) leader, Marvin “MadMarvin” Guido Rettenmaier.

Internet phenoms are also well represented, with Randy “Nanonoko” Lew, Sorel ”Imperium1” Mizzi, Bertrand “Elky” Grosspellier and many other big names present.

Freddy Deeb is currently leading the event and Daniel Negreanu is in 9th place with 198 players remaining. Even on the reduced turnout, first place in the €10,600 Main Event pays over €1.2m.

High state taxes for online poker in France, Italy and Spain appear to be responsible for a shift away from cash games and towards tournaments in the state regulated markets. Online tournament entries have been growing in these countries, and this enthusiasm might have provided grounds for an optimistic estimate of live entries for signature events like the EPT Monte Carlo.

If this event is part of a trend, it does not bode well for other major live extravaganzas such as the International Stadiums Poker Tour (ISPT) Wembley event which kicks off at the end of this month. The ISPT has been revived after UK casino Dusk Till Dawn took over the management, but even their superb marketing skills and trusted reputation may not be sufficient to beat a market trend.