Where Are They Now: Past EPT Prague Champions
In December, the PokerStars European Poker Tour will continue with the third stop of Season 10. For the seventh season straight, the most prestigious tournament series in Europe will return to the city of Prague, Czech Republic to crown the next champion on the tour.
Just one year ago that distinction went to Sweden’s Ramzi Jelassi, who overcame and 864-player field to win €835,000 in first-place prize money. Jelassi joined a club of past champions of the felt in Prague that includes the likes of Italy’s Salvatore Bonavena, the UK’s Roberto Romanello, and Germany’s Martin Finger.
As Season 10 continues, PokerNews will once again be on hand to provide live updates from the tournament floor in Prague for both the €5,300 Main Event and the €10,300 High Roller. But before this exciting stop on the EPT kicks off, we invite you to join us on a look back at the past Main Event champions of EPT Prague and what they have accomplished since their life-changing victories.
Season 4 (2007) — Arnaud Mattern
Back in 2007, Arnaud Mattern was working to establish himself as a force in the poker tournament world. Since his first recorded cash in 2005, Mattern was able to score seven total cashes on his résumé before heading into EPT Prague. Mattern’s eighth cash ended up being the largest and most prominent cash of his career, as he conquered the 555-player field and pocketed €708,400 for his victory.
Since then, Mattern has amassed over $2.1 million in career live tournament winnings. Mattern came close to making history in 2008 when he sat at the final table of Season 5’s EPT Warsaw Main Event with a guaranteed one in eight shot to become the EPT’s first repeat winner. Mattern was eliminated in fifth place, and his shot at being crowned a repeat champion was seemingly gone. Just two years later, however, Mattern found himself at another EPT final table, this time at Season 8’s EPT Tallinn. As the final table wore on, the drama mounted with Mattern climbing the pay ladder, inching closer and closer to history. In the end, Mattern fell in third place, which was enough to net him €160,000 but deny him this historic feat that has yet to be achieved.
Mattern has also found success outside of the EPT. Some of his most notable cashes on other poker tours include a seventh-place finish at the 2010 World Poker Tour Grand Prix de Paris for €82,175 and a 10th-place finish at the 2011 World Series of Poker Europe Main Event for €90,000.
Mattern currently sits in the No. 12 spot on France’s all-time money list for tournament cashes.
Season 5 (2008) — Salvatore Bonavena
When Salvatore Bonavena won the Season 5 EPT Prague Main Event, he earned the distinction of being the first Italian EPT champion. Fast-forward five seasons later and this is a record that Bonavena still holds. When Bonavena won his championship, attendance for EPT Prague had gone up to 570 total entries, which meant for a prize pool of €2,764,000. Bonavena took home a €774,000 slice of that pool, which remains his most notable cash to this date.
Despite that fact, Bonavena has still managed to amass dozens of live tournament cashes since his 2008 victory. In 2010, Bonavena made a deep run in a $2,500 no-limit hold’em event at the WSOP and ultimately finished in fourth place for $254,777. He followed that up two years later at the 2012 WSOP Europe where he finished third in the €1,000 No-Limit Hold’em event that was won by that year’s Big One for One Drop champion Antonio Esfandiari.
Bonavena has also found much success on the Italian Poker Tour. In January of 2010, Bonavena rose to the top of the IPT Venice II Main Event to earn himself a title and €155,000 in first-place winnings. Since then, Bonavena has scored both a second- and third-place finish in IPT events in Nova Gorica.
Bonavena sits in the fifth position for Italy’s all-time money list for tournament cashes and has over $2.6 million in earnings.
Season 6 (2009) — Jan Skampa
The number of entries for Season 6’s EPT Prague Main Event was at an all-time high of 586 when Jan Skampa tore through the field to claim victory. Besting a final table that included the likes of Team PokerStars Pro Luca Pagano, Skampa eventually found himself heads up with Israel’s Eyal Avitan. Skampa came out on top and pocketed €682,000 and the title of champion.
This win, of course, was redemption for Skampa, who less than a month earlier made his first EPT Main Event final table at EPT Vilamoura. Skampa was forced to settle for a fourth-place finish in this event and used this to fuel the fire to his eventual win.
Since his victory, Skampa has only collected 10 live tournament cashes and his last cash was back in December of 2011. He did, however, taste victory one more time since his EPT win. In February of 2011, Skampa conquered a the field in the €3,000 German Championship of Poker High Roller event where he pocketed €33,810 in first-place prize money.
Season 7 (2010) — Roberto Romanello
Roberto Romanello began playing poker in 2005 after seeing the popularity of the game on television. Just five years later, he was crowned a champion of the EPT. Romanello’s victory in Season 7 was not an easy one, as the late tournament field was littered with notable names. Players like Season 5 champion Bonavena (17th - €15,000), Richard Toth (15th - €20,000), Melanie Weisner (12th - €30,000), and Kevin MacPhee (9th - €40,000) were all present on Romanello’s path to victory. Eventually, Romanello grabbed hold of the trophy and pocketed a cool €640,000.
Romanello rode his EPT success to another victory just a few months later at the €2,500 WPT Bratislava Main Event. Here, Romanello earned another €140,685 in tournament winnings to his already impressive résumé.
With a victory at both the EPT and the WPT, Romanello’s sights were set on winning poker’s Triple Crown with the victory of a WSOP gold bracelet. This is a feat that Romanello has yet to accomplish, however. Despite that fact, Romanello has still managed to amass over $373,000 in earnings at the WSOP over 18 total cashes.
Romanello continues to play and play hard to this day with nine live cashes in 2013. He currently sits in the No. 1 spot on the Wales all-time money list for tournament poker.
Season 8 (2011) — Martin Finger
Martin Finger helped to cement the German domination in Season 8 of the EPT as he was the third native of Germany to win a Main Event that season. Finger outlasted a 722-player field to win the event and earn a payday of €720,000.
After his win in late 2011, Finger went on to score several cashes around the world in 2012. It wasn’t until recently, however, that Finger burst back onto the scene and claimed victory in larger buy-in events.
At the 2013 WSOP, Finger laid claim to his first WSOP bracelet win. Finger found himself at the final table of Event #21: $3,000 No-Limit Hold’em Six-Handed with the likes of David “The Dragon” Pham, Matt Berkey, and Matt Stout. Finger outlasted all of these runners and defeated Stout in a long and wearing heads-up match to win the $506,764 first-place prize. Finger then parlayed that into a cash in the $111,111 One Drop High Roller where his 14th-place finish earned him $251,549.
Just a few months after a successful WSOP, Finger returned to the EPT where he found his next title. Finger ponied up the big buy-in to participate in the £50,000 Super High Roller event at EPT London to once again play against the best in the world. A final table that included Patrik Antonius, David Benefield, Timothy Adams, and fellow countrymen Johannes Strassmann, Christoph Vogelsang, and Tobias Reinkemeier was of no match for Finger, as he continued to ride his hot streak to win the £821,000 first-place prize.
Will Finger continue to run hot heading into the Season 10 EPT Prague stop? Only time will tell, but if Prague is like the rest of Finger’s 2013, a repeat victory could certainly be in the cards.
Season 9 (2012) — Ramzi Jelassi
Ramzi Jelassi is the newest champion to come from the Prague stop on the EPT, but don’t let that fool you, as Jelassi is certainly an established tournament professional. Prior to his victory in 2012, Jelassi has live tournament cashes dating back as far as 2005. When his turn at victory finally rolled around, Jelassi was faced with an 864-player field that included the best in the world. After several days of play, though, Jelassi persevered and won €835,000 and the title.
Since his victory, Jelassi has added a few more cashes to his résumé, most notably of which was an impressive run in the 2013 WSOP Main Event. Jelassi finished in 133rd place, which netted him $50,752 in winnings.
Here’s a look at Jelassi’s post-win interview:
Who will be the next champion to emerge from Prague? Be sure to stay tuned as we help to answer that question live from the tournament floor with coverage starting Thursday, December 12. We’ll also be on hand to cover the €10,300 High Roller event beginning December 16, which you won't want to miss.