It has been a great summer for poker—2023 had a record-breaking WSOP, some of the most exciting cash games in years, and a massive EPT event in Barcelona.
While the European Poker Tour follows its Iberian success with the upcoming EPT Cyprus in October, we’re looking to the past at some of the biggest stories from the EPT Barcelona.
EPT Barcelona has been a fan favorite for years and always continues to provide memorable moments. From last year’s high-roller appearances from soccer players to interventions by the elements, and, of course, having back-to-back record turnout for the Main Events.
So, here’s our list of just the most epic of this moment drawn from two years of the EPT in Barcelona.
5. Invasion of the Footballers
Poker’s an indoor activity, but it attracts its fair share from the green fields and pitches of outdoor sports. Among them in Neymar. After jumping into numerous WSOP events, Neymar dribbled into town in time for the starting whistle of the 2022 EPT Barcelona.
Just a day after scoring for Paris Saint-Germain, Neymar entered the 2022 EPT €100,000 Super High Roller and battled against the likes of David Peters, Sergio Aido, and eventual winner Mikita Badziakouski.
The Brazilian soccer magician hasn’t appeared yet in 2023, but the Premier League was well-represented by retired Man City striker, Sergio Agüero, and ex-Manchester United and FC Barcelona defender, Gerard Piqué.
It’ll be interesting to see if the soccer contingent shows up in strength for the EPT Cyprus in October.
Moraes: “Neymar Doesn’t Play Poker for Money; He Just Wants to Win!”
4. Battling The Elements
The house always wins, but the Casino Barcelona—host to the EPT—had some unfortunate luck during the EPT Barcelona.
Last year, the atmosphere at the final table was electric… except in the literal sense. Thunderstorms over the city caused a brief power outage. During four-handed play, a lightning strike knocked the power out in the casino. The heroic PokerStars LIVE production team got the show back underway without missing any of the action. However, the incident certainly added to what was already a chaotic Main Event final table.
Lightning doesn’t strike twice, but this year rain storms did clear a section of the casino when a leak in the ceiling started letting the weather in. It never rains, but it pours.
3. Last Minute Bounty
Part of the thrill of the 2023 EPT €1,650 Mystery Bounty event, was waiting for the big €100,000 to be pulled. However, the €100,000 top bounty eluded all players until well into the final table.
Darren Rabinowitz held six bounty tickets with only 13 envelopes available – but even with a near 50% chance of catching the biggest prize, the largest bounty he bagged was €10,000. Play continued until the final three players, who attempted to hash out a deal for the remaining bounty with their four bounties, and STILL no one was able to get their hands on the top prize.
Eventually, after play continued, an ICM deal was agreed to split the remaining bounties and prize. Only then was the €100,000 bounty pulled after Mikolaj Zawadzki took down the event for his biggest-ever live score.
Mikolaj Zawadzki Wins EPT Barcelona €1,650 Mystery Bounty (€95,418)
2. Record Breaking Main Events
The 2023 EPT Barcelona attracted 2,120 entries from 1,593 unique players. This makes for a prize pool of €10,600,000 ($11,581,719) and a first prize of €1,488,000 ($1,625,811). It is also the second-biggest main event in EPT history, one of only two to break the 2,000 entry mark.
The biggest was last year’s Main Event.
Barcelona is always a popular stop on the European Poker Tour, and after a field of 749 players entered the EPT Barcelona Main Event on Day 1a, and with bumper fields expected in satellite tournaments for the event, it was already a matter of when and not if the record for the largest EPT Main Event would be broken.
That record was smashed, breaking the 2019 record by some 306 entrants. Plus that year’s Estrellas Poker Tour Main Event finished earlier the same week with 6,313 entries breaking the record for largest live poker tournament of any kind in EPT history.
When you go to the EPT Barcelona, you better go big, because Barcelona certainly does.
1. Chip and a Chair
The most epic story from two years of the new EPT Barcelona has to be Giuliano Bendinelli.
With six players remaining, Bendinelli’s chips stack fell to just one big blind. From there, the Italian pro embarked on one of the most exhilarating comebacks we’ve seen at the poker table.
Powered by his (mostly) electric rail, Bendinelli stormed back to take home the Main Event title, the title of champion, and €1,491,133 in cash.