Exploring Cyprus as a Poker Destination: European Poker Tour and Beyond

Cyprus, the beautiful Mediterranean island known for its rich history and charming landscapes, offers more than just a sun-soaked holiday. For avid poker players and travellers alike, experiencing the European Poker Tour in Cyprus can be an exciting way to indulge in the game while immersing yourself in the country’s unique culture and scenery. In this article, we will delve into the event itself, the captivating locations, and the various ways to reach Cyprus from Toronto. We will also explore the island’s vibrant history and the division between its Greek and Turkish sides.

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Journey from Toronto to Cyprus

Reaching Cyprus from Toronto is both convenient and accessible. Most routes go through a hub in Europe such as London, Frankfurt or Athens. On this trip I went though Frankfurt on the way there with Lufthansa and Aegean airways and then on the way back I went through Athens with Aegean Airways and Air Canada. I would suggest a European airline for the longer portion of the flight such as Air France, Lufthansa, British Airways or KLM as they have much better food, staff and service than Air Canada.

Make sure you have both Euros and Turkish Lira if you plan on visiting both parts of the island. As a Canadian, you do not need a Visa for trips less than 90 days if you are flying into the Greek side of the island and can even cross from the Greek side to the Turkish side once there without a visa as well. Those flying into the Turkish side of Cyprus are only required to get a visa if they plan to work, study or stay longer than 90 days.

Cyprus: A Divided Island with Unique Identities

Cyprus has a complex history, marked by Greek and Turkish claims to the island. The origins of these claims can be traced back to various historical events and political developments.

The division of Cyprus can largely be attributed to a series of events that occurred in the mid-20th century. In 1960, Cyprus gained independence from British colonial rule. The newly established Republic of Cyprus was intended to be a bi-national partnership between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. However, tensions between the two communities quickly arose.

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In 1963, the partnership between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots collapsed, leading to inter-communal violence and the subsequent separation of the communities. These events laid the groundwork for the division of the island.

In 1974, a Greek military coup, aimed at unifying Cyprus with Greece, triggered a Turkish invasion in response. As a result, the island was divided into the Republic of Cyprus, controlled by the Greek Cypriots in the south, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey in the north. This division still persists today.

The Greek Cypriots assert their claim to the entire island, considering the Turkish presence in the north as an occupation. They argue that any resolution to the Cyprus issue should involve the withdrawal of Turkish troops and the restoration of a unified Cyprus.

On the other hand, the Turkish Cypriots argue for a separate political entity on the island, advocating for a two-state solution. They believe that a unified Cyprus would not adequately represent their interests and that a partitioned Cyprus is the most viable option for maintaining peace and stability.

It is important to note that the political situation and perspectives on the Cyprus issue continue to evolve, and efforts to find a resolution are ongoing.

European Poker Tour in Cyprus

With the rich history and culture of this beautiful Mediterranean island, the European Poker Tour (EPT) made its debut in Cyprus in October 2023. Hosted by PokerStars, this live poker event attracts hundreds of world-class poker players from across the globe.

EPT Cyprus offered an electrifying atmosphere, as players got the chance to compete in over 50 tournaments. With plenty of fun on and off the tables, the event promised an unforgettable experience. PokerStars, an online poker cardroom and largest real money online poker site in the world, chose one of Europe’s most beautiful locations to host EPT Cyprus for the first time. Participants can indulge in the Mediterranean culture, enjoy the blue seas, and immerse themselves in the island’s natural history.

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In 2023, PokerStars has curated a packed calendar of live events, bringing back prestigious locations beloved by players and introducing two brand-new stops. Cyprus is one of the exciting new additions to the tour, showcasing the country’s allure to the global poker community. The second new addition being Paris.

PokerStars is also committed to creating equal opportunities and creating a safe space for women to learn and grow in the world of poker. This is why at EPT Cyprus we got a first look at the Women’s Bootcamp Finals that saw 10 finalists from an initiative with Poker Power play for a chance to win a seat at the table for EPT Prague in December.

Whether you’re a seasoned poker player or just starting out, the European Poker Tour in Cyprus promises a thrilling gaming experience in a stunning setting, blending the excitement of poker with the rich history, culture, and natural beauty of the island.

Exploring the Turkish Side of Cyprus

Apart from the EPT Cyprus tournaments, Cyprus has so much to offer. The Turkish side of the country, with its distinct charm and captivating destinations, is worth exploring. The events for EPT Cyprus were held at the Merit Diamond Resort on the Turkish side and other Merit resort nearby hosted many of the players, organizers and members of the press. Here are some of the places to visit as well as some extra spots to check out while you are there.

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Geçitköy Dam and Dağdere Reservoir

The Geçitköy Dam, originally known as the Dağdere Dam, is a rock-fill dam located on the Mandara River in Northern Cyprus[1]. It is situated approximately 8 km west of the town of Lapithos. The dam has a total capacity of 35,000,000 m3 (28,000 acre⋅ft) and serves as an important water resource for the region[1].

Completed in 1989 as the Dağdere Dam, it underwent expansion and heightening between 2012 and 2014, resulting in its current form as the Geçitköy Dam[2]. The dam plays a vital role in water supply for drinking and irrigation purposes in the area.

One of the notable features of the Geçitköy Dam is the accompanying Dağdere Reservoir. The reservoir provides additional water storage capacity and contributes to the management of water resources in Northern Cyprus[2]. It adds to the ecological balance and serves as a recreational area for visitors.

Surrounded by the natural beauty of the region, the Geçitköy Dam and Dağdere Reservoir offer a picturesque setting for those who appreciate nature and outdoor activities. Visitors can enjoy walking trails and take in the scenic views of the reservoir and its surroundings

Güzelyalı Sahili (Beach)

Güzelyalı Sahili is a beach located in the Panagra settlement in Northern Cyprus. It is situated approximately 20.8 kilometers away from the center of Kyrenia, the city it belongs to. The beach is nestled in an urban area, surrounded by mountains, offering a scenic view as visitors enjoy the seaside atmosphere.

Güzelyalı Sahili is known for its natural beauty and sandy shoreline. It provides a peaceful and relaxing environment for visitors to unwind and enjoy the coastal surroundings. The beach is easily accessible, and there are nearby facilities, such as restaurants and resorts, that cater to the needs of beachgoers. One notable restaurant in the vicinity is Ocean Breeze, located near a curve leading to the beach.

The beach of Güzelyalı Sahili is popular among both locals and tourists, who appreciate its serene atmosphere and the opportunity to enjoy the coastal scenery. It offers a pleasant respite from the busier areas in Northern Cyprus and is a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and enjoying various water activities

Mavi Köşk (The Blue House)

Mavi Köşk, also known as The Blue House, is a unique and historic villa located in Northern Cyprus. Built in 1957 in the secluded area of Myrtou, near the coast of Northern Cyprus, Mavi Köşk stands as a retro-chic architectural gem, reminiscent of a bygone era. It has a fascinating history and a distinctive appearance that attracts visitors from around the world.

The house was originally constructed as the residence of Byron Pavlides, an Italian-born Greek lawyer who worked for Archbishop Makarios III. However, Pavlides is infamous for being accused of being one of the major arms smugglers in the Middle East during his time. Over the years, Mavi Köşk became associated with his name and intriguing stories, adding to its allure.

Today, Mavi Köşk is maintained by the military as it is located within an army camp. Its vibrant and eccentric interior design, featuring a variety of colours and kitschy tiles, reflects the retro-tastic style of the time it was built. The house stands as a testament to a unique period and architectural style that captivates visitors with its charm and historical significance.

Visiting Mavi Köşk is like stepping back in time, with its well-preserved retro aesthetics and ambiance. It offers a fascinating glimpse into the past and provides a distinctive experience for those interested in history and architecture.

Other destinations to check out include:

• St Hilarion Castle

• Bellapais Monastery

• Kyrenia Castle

• Agios Mamas Church, Güzelyurt

Combining the thrill of the European Poker Tour with Cyprus’s enchanting landscapes and diverse culture makes for an unforgettable travel experience. Whether you explore the luxurious Merit hotels, venture into the Turkish side, or delve into the island’s intriguing history, Cyprus promises a delightful journey for poker enthusiasts and avid travellers alike.




About Joel Levy 2599 Articles
Editor-In-Chief at Toronto Guardian. Photographer and Writer for Toronto Guardian and Joel Levy Photography