Margets targets EPT Barcelona

Leo Margets
Barcelona's Leo Margets is looking to be more than just the last woman standing at EPT Barcelona this week.

With her life turned upside down, Spain's first lady of poker and the last woman standing at the 2009 WSOP Main Event returned home this week for the PokerStars EPT event in Barcelona.

"I have to say that when I was in Vegas I thought it would be a nice prize and my life would be almost the same," Leo Margets told PokerListings during a break on Day 1a at the Casino Barcelona.

"It's not been like this at all. It has been good, but quite unexpected."

Bombarded with press requests, tournaments, cash game invites and more since her 27th-place finish this summer, Margets now finds herself living life in the spotlight.

"I was not so aware of it when I was in Vegas because I was so focused and not really influenced by what was happening in Spain," she said.

"When I came back here I realized it was huge. Not only the poker community, but most of the general media had an interest in what happened and that put poker closer to the general population.

"It's good for me, but also good for poker in Spain."

While Barcelona has always been one of the most popular stops on the PokerStars European Poker Tour, the interest in high-stakes tournaments amongst Spaniards has been traditionally low.

In fact, of the 207 players who jumped in the fray on Day 1a in Barcelona Friday, only 15 were Spanish.

Margets, who became the highest-grossing woman in WSOP Main Event history with her $352,832 cash this summer, attributes the low Spanish turnout to the €8,000 buy-in.

"It's expensive for a lot of Spanish players," she said. "Unless you qualify, it's not the kind of tournament a lot of Spanish players can play out of their bankroll."

Leo Margets
'I went to Vegas to get a Masters in poker and it paid off.'

But despite the lack of Spanish interest in the EPT, it appears the game is growing by leaps and bounds in the Western European country.

Casino Barcelona tournament coordinator Sylvie Belanger said its weekly €50 and €100 tournaments used to draw around 50 players. Now they consistently sell out, breaking a record for entrants just this past weekend at 190 players.

"Every year we see more and more Spanish players," Belanger said. "And it's still growing."

Casino Barcelona will continue to play host to large scale high-stakes tournaments to try and draw the International poker community to the banks of the Mediterranean Sea,  including the upcoming €1,500 Full Tilt Poker Series this October - the very same tournament series where Margets managed a sixth-place finish on the Malaga leg last month.

However, in Spain's current economic climate, Belanger said the casino has no plans to raise the buy-ins for its weekly tournaments, choosing instead to continue to grow the game organically using what amounts to introductory tournament pricing.

Margets agrees with the philosophy.

"It's important to give players tournaments that they can afford so that they can build confidence," she said. "No one is going to try an EPT for their first event."

Margets expects the interest in her historic Main Event run to continue to have a positive effect on poker in Spain, but here in Barcelona for her first-ever EPT, she is a little more focused on what the experience has done for her personally.

"Believing more in your reads is something that's very important and I needed to improve on that," she said. "The Vegas experience, not just the Main Event, but the whole month I spent there really helped.

"I think the Main Event was the culmination of a lot of training. As I always say, I went to Vegas to get a Masters in poker and it paid off."

To follow Margets' progress and PokerListings' comprehensive coverage of EPT Barcelona, check out our Live Tournaments page.

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