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10 Highly Memorable EPT Champions from the Past Decade
The 100th European Poker Tour Main Event is coming up soon in Barcelona -- the very same city where the first EPT event took place back in 2004.
Over the past 10 years there have been any number of memorable winners, from the braces-wearing debut of Mike "Timex" McDonald to the career-launching San Remo wins of Jason Mercier and Liv Boeree.
Ten of the past winners, though, struck PokerListings Germany's Christian Henkel as even more notable for the extraordinary circunstances surrounding their titles.
1. Noah Boeken (Netherlands)
EPT Copenhagen 2005, Scandinavian Open, 1st prize: €170,000
Dutch player Boeken was one of the first true European stars of modern poker.
He made his first final table at EPT London in 2004, which was only the second EPT tournament ever. He ended up in 6th place while his fellow countryman Marcel Luske came 7th.
Only three months later Boeken went all the way. Heads-up he beat Hendon Mobster Ram Vaswani, who had just won the preceding EPT in Dublin.
With this victory Boeken and Luske became the flagship of Dutch poker. Boeken was made a Team PokerStars Pro and he was a member of the team until 2012. Back-to-back Dutch members of the WSOP November Nine also speak to Boeken's legacy.
Almost 10 years after his EPT win Boeken himself is still very much alive and kicking in poker. Last year he won his home tournament, the Master Classics in Amsterdam, and took home the €300,000 prize.
2. Patrik Antonius (Finland)
EPT Baden 2005, Baden Classic, 1st prize: €288,000
It's hard to believe but even poker god Patrik Antonius was once unknown.
Early in 2005 he appeared on the international tournament scene and went on a heater rarely seen in poker.
In January and March 2005 he played WPT tournaments in the Bahamas and just missed the final table each time. During the summer he cashed three times at the WSOP before he returned to Europe and final-tabled EPT Barcelona. He received €120,000 for third place.
Only one month later the then 24-year-old Antonius was crowned king of Baden. It was one of only two EPT titles for Finnish players.
Note: Of the 16 players who sat at the final tables in Barcelona and Baden, 12 were Scandinavian/Finnish. Just shows you which part of Europe dominated the poker scene during these years.
3. Vicky Coren Mitchell (England)
EPT London 2006, 1st prize: €750,000
When Vicky Coren won the 2006 EPT London Main Event in her hometown she was 34 years old and had already acquired a name as a journalist, writer, TV host and radio presenter.
She was not only the first female player to win an EPT title, she was also the first media celebrity to appear in the final of a major poker tournament – in Europe, that is.
Eight years later, at EPT San Remo in 2014, she also became the first player to win a second EPT Main Event title.
A feat that is all the more impressive as Coren is, more or less, a recreational poker player with a half-dozen or so full-time careers.
4. Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier (France)
EPT PokerStars Caribbean Adventure 2008, 1st prize: €1,650,000
It was the perfect time for Bertrand Grospellier to win the most important poker tournament of his life.
One year before, in January 2007, he lost heads-up at EPT Copenhagen against Magnus Peterson from Sweden and he’d gotten very unlucky.
The runner-up finish had drawn the attention of PokerStars to him, though, and now it was time for a big title.
With his past as a professional Starcraft player in Korea and his outer space outfits the 27 year old was the epitome of the new generation of online poker players.
At the inaugural EPT PCA Grospellier entered the final table with the second biggest stack and rode it all the way to victory. The title was worth $2m USD but a whole lot more in his PokerStars sponsorship.
5. Sandra Naujoks (Germany)
EPT Dortmund 2009, German Open, 1st prize: €917,000
Berlin's Naujoks made her way into the limelight in 2008.
First she reached the final table at the CAPT in Graz, Austria, in August. Then, only a few weeks later - she was already wearing a Full Tilt patch – she won the title of the Poker European Championship in Baden, Austria, for €174,000.
By January Naujoks had joined PokerStars and went on to win the EPT main event in Dortmund.
At the final table she went all-in nine times over only 13 hands and didn’t get a single call. And she got lucky, too.
Heads-up, when the chips went into the middle, she was far behind with A-9 versus A-Q, but hit a nine on the turn.
6. Constant Rijkenberg (Netherlands)
EPT San Remo 2009, Italian Open, 1st prize: €1,500,000
Constant Rijkenberg's victory in Italy was probably the most bizarre win in the history of the European Poker Tour.
Rijkenberg had sold 137% of the buy-in, meaning he had made €1,500 profit just by playing – if he busted, that is.
He played correspondingly. Dragan Galic, who sat next to him at the final table, later jokingly said: “I’ve never seen anything like this. I wonder what drugs he was on.”
The 21-year-old Dutch player didn’t manage to bust before the money. On the contrary, he won the event and cashed for 1.5 million Euro.
Tough luck, because his investors ended up asking for an additional €560,000.
7. Pieter de Korver (Netherlands)
EPT Grand Final 2010, Monte Carlo, 1st prize: €2,300,000
Only a couple of days after the Rijkenberg affair Pieter de Korver secured another win for the Dutch poker community.
It was the highest prize money ever paid out in the history of the EPT.
It was also the story of one of the best comebacks in poker.
After losing a big hand at the final table his stack had shrunk to three big blinds but that was still enough for de Korver to come back and triumph.
8. Kevin MacPhee (US)
EPT Berlin 2010, German Open, 1st prize: €1,000,000
MacPhee’s win will always be associated with the Berlin raid at the Hyatt Hotel.
Several players were in a state of shock after the armed robber, and MacPhee was one of them. The current chipleader even demanded that the tournament should be aborted.
After a break of four-and-a-half hours the main event continued and MacPhee prevailed.
The heads-up against Finnish player Ilari Tahkokallio lasted three hours.
After his victory MacPhee became a regular on the European Poker Tour, partly due to his relationship with Liv Boeree.
9. Ivan Freitez (Venezuela)
EPT Grand Final, Madrid 2011, 1st prize: €1,500,000
The most unpopular EPT champion was Ivan Freitez from Venezuela.
David Williams commended his performance at the final table, but the majority of spectators cursed him and wished him all the bad luck in the world.
Why? Because Freitez wasn’t only playing well, he was also angle-shooting. Pretending to not speak English was one of the more harmless examples.
Even tournament director Thomas Kremser, normally a very restrained character, couldn’t help himself and commented live at the table with the words “This is so ugly."
Freitez is a one-hit-wonder. His second biggest cash was €8,000 for a 39th place in a WSOP event.
10. Daniel Gai-Pidun (Germany)
EPT Berlin 2013, German Open, 1st prize: €880,000
Daniel Gai-Pidun is not a professional poker player. He’s not even a regular poker player.
In fact, he only goes to one poker event a year: the German Open.
Considering that, his results are staggering. At EPT Berlin 2011 he was the final-table bubble boy in 9th place.
In 2012 he finished in 17th place and in 2013 he won the whole thing and almost 900,000 Euro.
If you relate prize money and cashes to the number of tournaments played, Daniel Gai-Pidun would be one of the world’s top players.