EPT London is typically the crown jewel of the fall poker schedule. The European Poker Tour event has outshined the World Series of Poker Europe in each of the past few years with 730 entries in 2009 and 848 entries in 2010, compared to 334 and 346 players at WSOPE, respectively. This year, it would be incredibly surprising if the WSOP Europe main event outperformed EPT London, but with 691 players in this year's main event, the gap will most definitely be reduced.
Any major tournament venue would be happy to see a 691-player turnout, but when expectations are so high for this specific event, the drop in participation definitely will concern tournament organizers. Of course, there are many reasons (or excuses) why the numbers are lower in 2011.
First: scheduling. EPT London typically occurred after WSOP Europe and many of the players who traveled overseas for the WSOPE stayed to play in the other event. Up until this year, WSOP Europe was also held in London, which meant that there was no additional travel needed to move to the second tournament. It just made sense that players would go from one to the other and in the past EPT London stood to benefit. Now, WSOP Europe is in Cannes, France and if players want to play in both, a second part of the trip will need to be planned.
Second: the Black Friday effect. The number of "PokerStars players" -- meaning satellite winners and other sponsored entries -- has been reduced all season on the EPT, potentially due to the lack of participation from the United States. Lots of 18-20-year-old Americans played in these satellites, as it was their way to get into a major tournament before they were in 21. More satellite players meant more seats awarded and if we look at a very small post-Black Friday sample size, EPT San Remo had 25 percent fewer "PokerStars players" in 2011 compared to 2010, EPT Tallinn had 211 in 2010 and 120 this year, and EPT Barcelona also dropped slightly from 272 to 263. The final numbers for EPT London have not yet been released. Continuing to get new players into the mix is one of the toughest current challenges in the poker world, and the reduction of the online player base has definitely played a role in hindering that growth.
Finally: the buy-in. It may be a stretch, but it's a trend in the industry that medium-stakes buy-in events are the way to go. Lower buy-ins across the world are attracting more players of all skill levels and with two smaller buy-in events scheduled around the same time as the 5,000 pound buy-in EPT London, some players may have opted to stay closer to home. The Heartland Poker Tour, a $1,650 buy-in, set a record with its latest stop, as did the $3,500 WPT Borgata. Add in a WSOP Circuit stop in Indiana, the Festa Al Lago series in Las Vegas and the TJ Cloutier Choctaw Poker Challenge in Oklahoma, and there really were many cheaper options for players around the U.S. to play. In Europe, smaller events in Spain, Italy and Ireland may have stolen a few players from the English destination.
Regardless of the drop, the tournament is still awarding a massive top prize of 750,000 pounds (or $1.1 million) and offers one of the highest prize pools in the world. After three days of play, only 62 players remain with 2010 Irish Open champion James Mitchell leading the way. Benny Spindler, who had been among the leaders for the first two days of play, is currently in 12th, and Marvin Rettenmaier, fresh off his 16th-place finish at WPT Malta, will begin Day 4 with an above-average stack.
Doyle Brunson made the money in his EPT debut, but was eliminated on Day 3 in 77th. Some players who joined him in the money but on the rail on Monday include Sebastian Ruthenberg, Toby Lewis, Bryn Kenney and Jeff Sarwer.
All Day 3 survivors have already secured an 11,000 pound payday. In addition to the cash, the winner will also take home a Shamballa Jewels bracelet, which has an estimated retail value of 10,200 euros.
Small blinds: Denmark's "Kallllle" took home the biggest share of the $8 million prize pool WCOOP main event ($1.2 million) after a four-way chop. Mike "goleafsgoeh" Leah finished in third to win $560,000. The 2011 WCOOP featured 119,832 buy-ins. Canada's "Big_Nemo" cashed 17 times while Daniel Negreanu settled for 15. "2FLY2TILT" claimed the top spot on the WCOOP leaderboard to win an EPT Season 8 Grand Final package, a 2012 SCOOP main event ticket and a 2012 PCA package. ... PokerStars announced that the 2012 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure will take place at the Atlantis in the Bahamas from Jan. 5-14 with the main event being held Jan. 7-13. There will be a total of 41 events, including a $25,000 "High Roller" and a $100,000 "Super High Roller" event. ... Phil Hellmuth and Bertrand Grospellier have finalized this year's Caesars Cup teams. Joining Hellmuth on Team Americas will be Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Daniel Negreanu and Huck Seed. Grospellier's team includes Gus Hansen, Max Lykov, Dario Mineiri and Jake Cody. The teams will play out their matches on Oct. 19. &133; There will be a total of 58 events on location at WSOP Europe, but only seven bracelet events. ... Chiligaming is entering the U.S. market -- OK, free-play social gaming market. The multi-device poker network will allow those on computers, iPhones, Android, tablets and social networks to participate. ... According to Forbes, two of those indicted on Black Friday, Chad Elie and John Campos, have filed motions to dismiss the charges against them. Their main argument is that poker is a game of skill, which would mean that they have not violated the UIGEA and other gambling-related laws. ... According to ABC in Colorado, Craig Casino, the champion of the Heartland Poker Tour this weekend, was down to two chips before he came back to win. ... A $30 million poker event to be held at Wembley Stadium in London on May 10-12, 2012? First I've heard of it and the International Stadiums Poker Tour, but here's their promo. ... David Sands and McLean Karr both enjoyed their Sunday of online poker with major victors on PokerStars for more than $35,000. ... On the WSOP Circuit, Mark "Pegasus" Smith became the tour's first five-time champion over the weekend, and on Monday, he was in contention for his sixth title.