Christophe and Matthias De Meulder: How to qualify for the EPT Grand Final

Put aside some time and money to play some EPT satellites and you could win life-changing money and enter the EPT history books this May

Launched in 2004, the European Poker Tour has become an absolute behemoth in the poker world, second only to the WSOP in terms of prestige. Each year the €10k Grand Final is held in Monte Carlo where the biggest players in the game – and eager online qualifiers – gather to crown the season’s champion. Last year, 650 players created a monster prize pool of €6,500,000 and Antonio Buonanno beat UK pro Jack Salter in an epic heads-up encounter. Buonanno won €1,240,000 and Salter took home €765,000 after qualifying through a satellite online. We’re here to help you do the same.

Feeder satellites run on PokerStars from as little as 300 FPPs, and your first objective is to win – or buy – your way into one of the direct satellites, where seats or packages are up for grabs. From here, you’re only one step away from Monte Carlo.

Decide whether you want to play for a seat or a package. A package gives you everything you need for your trip, with your buy-in, accommodation and expenses for flights. A seat-only satellite gives you your buy-in, but you’ll have to factor in all your other costs. The Grand Final packages are €14k and seats cost €10,600, so it’s proportionally easier to win a seat.

To ensure you’ve got the best possible chance of winning yourself a seat on the biggest stage of them all, we’ve drafted in the De Meulder twins, Christophe and Matthias. Both members of Team PokerStars Pro, the De Meulders have a lot of experience of qualifying to the EPT through satellites. They’ve come up with ten top tips to help you qualify for the big one this May.

1. Play tight in the early levels

Your chips are very valuable in any tournament, but even more so in satellites. You don’t want to play too many hands early in a satellite and risk bleeding a lot of chips.

Play selectively and aggressively with the hands you do play. Then once the antes kick in you can start opening up your game and try and steal the blinds. It’s vital that you do this to avoid getting eaten alive and inevitably busting.

2. Tag the table

Many of you probably like to multitable when you’re playing tournaments on PokerStars. When doing so it’s a good idea to give all the different types of tournaments you’re playing (slow with big guarantee, normal, turbo, hyper, satellite, etc) a different colour.

When playing lots of tables, you’ll be able to make some decisions automatically. But, what can be an easy shove in a turbo tournament, can be a trivial fold in a satellite. Colour coding your tables helps you avoid making errors like this.

3. Pay attention to your stack

Paying attention to stack sizes is very important whatever tournament you’re playing. This can determine whether you’re calling, shoving or even folding.

First, always be aware of the amount of big blinds you have left. As long as you have a healthy stack you can try and apply pressure on your opponents.

Generally you want to start playing tighter when you’re holding 25 big blinds or less. Once you’re under 15 big blinds, you should shove or fold most of the hands you play.

4. Pay attention to the stacks of your opponents

Big stacks are usually going to play looser than shorter stacks. If a big stack is raising too frequently and you’re short-stacked, go ahead and re-shove with more marginal holdings. He’s going to have to fold a lot and you’ll pick up the blinds, antes and his raise, which is a lot of chips!

If it’s a shorter stack raising before the flop you have to be really careful. Shorter stacks don’t usually enter the pot without a strong hand. As the aggressor, if you want to make a more marginal raise before the flop, it’s always good to take note of the stack sizes in the blinds. If they have 20 big blinds or less your steal is often going to be more effective.

5. Do research on your opponents

In higher buy-in satellites you’re going to be playing against a lot of big-name pros. If a name doesn’t ring a bell, go ahead and take a look at what other games they’re playing. You can do this by right-clicking on their name and clicking ‘find player’.

If a player is only playing one tournament, he’s probably going to be a recreational player. On the other hand, if you look up a certain player and see that he’s playing a bunch of other tournaments simultaneously, you should be aware, as he’s most likely a pro! If you want to take it further you can look players up on and check their previous results.

6. Colour-code your opponents

Once you’ve researched your opponents, it is a great idea to give them a colour – a feature that is built into PokerStars. You can categorise them however you want, but by seeing the specific colours while playing, you will get an immediate visual aid on how your opponents play. This might be that little bit of extra info you need to make the right decision!

We colour code our opponents as big-name pros, spewy regulars, normal regulars, weaker regulars and recreational players.

7. Take note of the payouts

Once registration is finished the payouts appear in the tournament lobby. it’s important to take note of these, especially when you reach the bubble. Often there are ‘X’ amount of full packages, with one or more spots that pay the remaining amount in the prize pool. the closer you get to the bubble the more important your decisions are. You really want to avoid blowing up a healthy stack here.

8. Bubble play – big stack

If you’re nearing the money with a big stack, now is the time to apply the pressure. You can often put the shorter stacks in very tough situations as they will be facing decisions which can cost them their tournament life and their seat. it’s very important you identify who to put pressure on though. try to find a way to put maximum pressure on your opponents with minimal risk to your stack.

9. Bubble play – average stack

If you’re on the bubble with an average stack, there’s not much you can do but sit and wait. this depends on the table as well – you have to try and feel out how far it lets you go and how the bigger stacks respond to you entering pots. this is a game of switching gears – just make sure you hit the brakes in time.

10. Bubble play – short stack

As a short stack it’s key that you know about all the other short stacks. Open up the remaining tables so you know whether or not you have to make a risky all-in. if you have to make a move, try to shove on the other short stacks as they can’t risk losing chips either. But definitely don’t overdo it.

Ideally you want to fold into the money. Remember, you don’t have to win all the chips in a satellite. One ante gives you the same as 100 big blinds if you survive past the seat bubble. Good luck!

How to win it all!

So you’ve qualified for the EPT Grand Final in May – congratulations! Now you just need to make sure you know what to do when you get to the final table, with life-changing money up for grabs?

The climax to last year’s EPT Grand Final was fascinating – study it and be prepared. In the end it came down to two players, UK pro Jack Salter and Italian Antonio Buonanno, for the title, with the extra needle of a complicated and ultimately doomed attempt at a deal. It left the two playing heads-up for the head-spinning sum of €500k, with €1.24m for the winner! Could you take the pressure?

Let commentators James Hartigan and Joe Stapleton guide you through the key hands and see if you can make it all the way to the trophy in May. Good luck and one word of advice. If you can’t do a deal, make sure you win it all!

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