The inaugural EPT Prague was special to me in a couple ways. First of all it was the first time I had been to the historic city. Secondly it was the first time I had covered a European Poker Tour event.
I've been covering poker tournaments for a while now and I have to say that right off the bat I was impressed with the organization of the tour. Unlike the WSOP and the WPT, the EPT has not signed any exclusive media agreements and therefore we pretty much have open access at their events - a welcome change of pace compared to what we are used to.
Another plus? The EPT throws a free party for media and players before the tournament begins. For this event the party in question was held at Celnice in downtown Prague. The party was complete with an open bar including as many Pilsner Urquell (Czech beer is amazing) as one could drink. There were also go-go dancers so suffice it to say it was a good time. During the party I spent a lot of time with Chris and Maria from Blondepoker who are a couple of good Brits and a lot of fun.
The poker itself was very good and I'd have to assume that the inaugural EPT Prague was an overwhelming success for PokerStars. There were a total of 555 runners which made for a very decent $3.7 million prize pool.
This was all despite the fact that two important poker events were going on elsewhere during EPT Prague (the Las Vegas WPT Five Diamond and the APPT Grand Final in Sydney). Still, Katja Thater, Dario Minieri and Bertrand Grospellier all made it out to play.
I talked briefly to Thater and she told me one of the reasons she made the decision to play EPT Prague was that she had always wanted to visit the city. I have a sneaking suspicion that more than a couple players felt the same way and why not? Prague is an intensely beautiful city.
There were of course the usual assortment of online qualifiers from all over the world and aggressive Scandinavians in droves.
One such Scandi was Annette Obrestad who I hadn't seen play since the WSOPE Main Event, which she won handily. Obrestad is always fun to watch play and it's getting to the point where I almost expect her to win every event she plays. I think I may have to start being more realistic as she busted out midway through Day 1 of EPT Prague.
One of my personal highlights was interviewing well-known Swedish player Mikeal Norinder. Although he is somewhat famous in Sweden I'd never seen him play before EPT Prague. Norinder has an extremely loose style that seems to rely primarily on his reads. Also, he's extremely talkative at the table and, some might say, obnoxious. Nevertheless he seemed like a friendly guy in the interview and he had some interesting things to say.
I saw Norinder bluff numerous players into folding the winning hand. He admitted to me during the interview that bluffing was probably his favorite way of winning a pot. I also witnessed Norinder make some amazing calls. One such call had Norinder calling a player down on the river with king-high for a $200,000 pot. Incredibly Norinder raked the pot with his weak hand. I saw similar hands so many times I was amazed players would try to bluff the Swede at all.
Norinder made it to the final table with the chip lead, which was an impressive $1 million, and seemed primed to wreck shop.
Unfortunately for Norinder all his calling finally got the best of him in a catastrophic way. He made a very questionable (terrible would be more accurate) call with A-Q pre-flop eight-handed. To make matters worse it was against the one player who had nearly as many chips as he did.
In the hand Norinder raised to $36,000 from the small blind and Arnaud Mattern re-raised to $136,000. Norinder re-raised the minimum and Mattern shoved all-in for $677,000. Norinder eventually made the call and Mattern flipped up K♥ K♦ to the Swede's A♥ Q♥. Nothing came for Norinder on the board and he was severely crippled.
Within the first hour of play the chip leader was no more.
In the end it was the very same Mattern who ended up winning the entire tournament. Skilled Norwegian Kristian Kjondal also made it to the final table and I really thought he might pull it off (how can a player with a popped collar and white aviators not win, really?) but Italian Gino Alacqua got the best of him and Mattern got the best of Alacqua.
Mattern played a strong, somewhat conservative game that proved to be aggressive enough to triumph over Alacqua in heads-up play. Mattern also had a pretty good sense of humor. In the exit interview he was asked what he was going to do with his winnings and he deadpanned, "I needed a new shoelace so I think I'll be able to pick one up now."
To learn more about EPT Prague check out PL.com's tournament updates section.
Overall it was a great week of poker in a fantastic city. I have a feeling EPT Prague will be one of the most coveted venues over the next few years and I know that if I was ever given the chance to go again I'd be there in a heartbeat.