The European Poker Tour organized by PokerStars was one of the first major live tournaments to return to the global scene after the hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As its return, PokerStars organized EPT in Sochi, Russia in 2020. Given that there were practically no restrictions in Russia at the time, it was a perfect location for the tournament. However, many other EPT partners were not ready for a live festival. Therefore, EPT was carried out in an online format with a $20M guarantee and collecting over 13,000 entries.
This year, PokerStars was once again determined to organize EPT in a live format and once again Sochi was chosen as a host city. The EPT Sochi concluded on October 11th, 2021, and was won by a Russian player for the first time in the tournament’s history. Evgeniy Starinkov won the Main Event and took home an impressive $224,410. PokerStars has also recently announced that EPT Prague will make a return this December. In this article, we will provide you with an overview of the EPT Sochi and give you all the known details about the upcoming EPT Prague.
EPT Open Sochi 2021
As mentioned previously, EPT Open Sochi 2021 concluded this week, on October 11th. Needless to say that organizing a live tournament event of this scale is a challenging task. However, despite multiple breaks and the remaining COVID-19 restriction, this year’s EPT Open Sochi was the largest and the most successful tournament held under this brand name. Moreover, for the first time in the history of EPT, the Main Event was won by a Russian poker player, Evgeniy Starinkov.
For his first-place finish in the EPT Open Sochi Main Event, Evgeniy was awarded $224,410. It became a record-breaking win for the Russian poker regular as his largest live tournament achievement before EPT Sochi was 4th place in the High Roller March series which awarded him $44,152. However, we need to mention that Evgeniy is more experienced in online poker as he managed to win several Main Event packages at PokerStars.
Starinkov told PokerStars reporters the following after his win:
“I would like to thank my mom, who supported me here during the final table. We first watched poker together on TV when I was 14 years old, but I only started playing four years ago.”
There were a total of 10 players remaining on the final day of the EPT Open Sochi Main Event. There was little chance for Starinkov to win the trophy as Germany’s Henri Toussaint had a confident chip lead. Not to mention that there was another German player with a large stack. Konstantin Faerber was third in terms of the chip count. With 5 participants remaining, poker players have decided to make a deal that the $92,870 left in the game will be shared among the top 3 finishers. Henri Toussaint would receive the largest part as he had a stack almost twice as larger as anyone else at the moment of the deal.
“After the deal, I took it very seriously because I dreamed about winning this trophy,” Starinkov said.
Against all odds, Starinkov was able to remain in-game and reach the heads-up play against Henri Toussaint. At the start of the heads-up, Toussaint had almost twice as many chips as the Russian. The German player even got so lucky to get a royal flush. However, Evgeniy was able to double his stack after he went all-in with K K against the Q 2 of Toussaint on the 4 4 Q flop.
Starinkov was able to maintain this momentum and seal the during an all-in standoff. Henri Toussaint shoved all of his chips with 10 2 and Starinkov called with A 3 that turned out to be a stronger combination. Henri Toussaint was awarded $230,300 for his second-place finisher and Evgeniy Starinkov went home with $224,410.
Here are the full 2021 EPT Open Sochi Main Event results:
EPT Returns to Prague
Prague has been a popular destination for the PokerStars European Poker Tour ever since the year 2007. But, as mentioned previously in the article, COVID-19 restrictions forced PokerStars to put this series on hold for over 18 months. However, this year the story is different. Easing of restriction in Czech Republic and mass vaccination have allowed EPT to make a return to Prague. Of course, it is hard to plan anything for sure during a global pandemic but at the moment EPT Prague is going to take place from December 8th to December 19th.
The tournament is going to take place at the Hilton Hotel Prague and will feature 12 days of tournaments and cash games. There will also be satellites for this festival starting at $1.25. PokerStars will also offer five prize packages with an estimated value of $8,300. Winners of these packages will be granted a seat in the EPT Prague Main Event, an eight-night stay at the hotel, and money to cover all the traveling expenses.
The schedule has not been announced yet by PokerStars, however, three tournaments have been already confirmed by the organizers, which are the following:
- December 9th to December 13th: €1,100 EPT National
- December 13th to December 19th: €5,300 EPT Main Event
- December 17th to December 19th: €10,300 EPT High Roller
When it comes to COVID-19 safety, PokerStars’ managing director, Severin Rasset has said the following:
“It’s been such a long time coming and we’ve been working tirelessly and monitoring the situation carefully so that no stone is unturned for a safe return to live events,”
As of right now, players can expect the following COVID-19 safety measures as announced by the EPT Prague:
- Players must wear masks inside the casino
- Players must present proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test
- Temperature is going to be checked at the entrance
- Players and staff are encouraged to sanitize their hands
- Social distancing is to be expected (2 meters apart) where possible
On top of that, there are also certain restrictions when entering the Czech Republic. For example, self-isolation is required for unvaccinated travelers and travelers who haven’t had a prior COVID-19 infection. It is also required to fill out a track and trace form when arriving to the country.