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Prague Booms, Berlin Idles, Amsterdam Eyed as EPT Checks Options
While the EPT Prague stop seems to be more popular than ever this year, there will be no trip to nearby Germany or Austria for EPT Season 11.
The EPT's future in London may also up in the air.
Still, with numbers rising in several locations and a promising new destination in Malta already in the cards for next year the outlook for the European Poker Tour in 2015 is good for players and organizers alike.
Prague Continues to Boom
Although the 2014 EPT Prague Main Event is still to get underway (it starts on Thursday) it's safe to say expectations are for another record event in the Czech Republic.
A total of 1,738 players registered for the ongoing Eureka Main Event this past week, which is 300 more than the previous biggest Eureka event held in Vienna almost nine months ago.
The increase will carry over to the EPT Main Event and the 1,007 players of 2013 should be easily surpassed.
No surprise, then, that PokerStars Head of Live Poker Operations Neil Johnson is having a good time in Prague so far.
“Prague and Barcelona are my favorite stops of the EPT on European soil," Johnson said during the $50k Super High Roller today at the Hilton.
"Barcelona is just a great warm, sunny place to start the season and Prague is beautiful even if it's so cold here now.”
Numbers Up, Numbers Down
Always evolving, the EPT schedule was downscaled to just seven events in 2014 and the results have been an interesting foreshadowing of the shape of events to come.
“We had three that were great in Vienna, Barcelona and Prague," Johnson says, "one that was decent in Monte Carlo if you consider that it's a 10k event, and three where the numbers were down – San Remo, London, Deauville."
If changes are to come for 2015, one city pops up particularly often in talks among the players: Dublin, where the EPT stopped in the first four seasons but hasn't been since.
Asked if there's something to the rumor of Dublin replacing London next season Johnson says, “I don’t know. I’d love to go to Dublin. I’ve never been.”
“It is difficult to find something like this in London," he adds as he points to the main tournament area in the Hilton in Prague.
There are 86 tables in this area plus over 30 in the lobby. Another 30+ tables are set up upstairs to accommodate for cash games.
With 240 staff working this Eureka/EPT stop, of which 192 are dealers, it's not difficult to see why the same expenditure might be a struggle in London with its premium prices and limited space.
“We have raised the expectations very high," EPT president Edgar Stuchly chimes in, “so now we have to meet them, too.”
Amsterdam, Stockholm Snap "Yes," Malta Promising
There are two more cities which, if legislation would allow it, could make it on the EPT schedule in the near future: Amsterdam and Stockholm.
Both of them “would be on the schedule immediately if we could go," Johnson says.
Unfortunately for poker players authorities are working fairly slowly in both cities so it doesn’t look like either will be on the calendar next season. Another thing that is for sure: there won’t be a Germanic stop in Season 11. Both Berlin and Vienna are off.
“This doesn’t mean that there won’t be anything in Season 12," Johnson says. "The issues in Germany and Austria are mostly about licensing.”
Stuchly has also gone on record as saying that he doesn’t want more than three EPTs per half-year.
One of the most promising turns for 2015 is the addition of Malta, this season’s new stop in March. It has the venue, it has the legislation, and it also the has parties, beaches and holiday vibe that appeals to poker players young and old.
The 2014 PokerListings Battle of Malta in early November, with its 1,450 players, also showed that even a big EPT tournament can fit into the confines of the Grandmaster Suite at the Portomaso Casino.
“We expect over 1,000 players for the IPT and over 600 for the EPT main," says Johnson.
Smiles Stuchly: “We expect far more than that.”