WSOP 2011: Champions chasing dream of world title

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While the likes of Phil Hellmuth, Joe Cada, Johnny Chan and Doyle Brunson might already have departed, taking with them a big chunk of the player recognition factor for a lot of American railbirds, as well as those watching on ESPN.

Within the field of 350 players that remain lurk some of the most impressive talent from Europe, and in the most potent of form. They are players that have left impact marks along the PokerStars European Poker Tour, announcing their arrival in triumphant style and now taking to the Americans.

So here, for the benefit of those reading from this side of the Atlantic, is a short-hand rundown on several players to look out for.

If, as you read this, you're watching the coverage on ESPN it's not just Daniel Negreanu worth watching. Four seats along sits Rupert Elder, wearing what looks like a cricket sweater, who earned $1,335,488 by winning EPT San Remo in April.

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Rupert Elder (without the cricket sweater)

That day he defeated Maximillian Heinzelmann heads-up, leaving Heinzelmann in second place in an EPT main event for the second time in as many months. Heinzelmann, peroxide blond and unassuming, impressed everyone who played against him in Season 7, so much so that he was voted winner of EPT Achievement of the Year and won the EPT Players Choice Award. He started today with 1,672,000 chips.

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Max Heinzelmann

Before Elder came Vladimir Geshkenbein, who played with swagger and flair on his way to crushing EPT Snowfest back in March. That prize was worth $552,901 to the Russian, but you sensed it was the recognition he craved. Geshkenbein, who won his title while drinking a bottle of €600 champagne, started the day with 1,490,000 chips. He'll be drinking kryptonite if he makes it to November.

Two other EPT winners remain from seasons gone. Team PokerStars Pro Sebastian Ruthenberg was already considered to be the best in Germany before he won the EPT Barcelona main event in 2008. The win cemented that reputation and a career that so far has been followed by live tournament earnings in excess of $3.3 million.

Not long after Ruthenberg took his title, Jens Kyllonen was doing the same in Copenhagen in February 2009. The Finn was a new face on the European poker scene when he conquered Scandinavia, a feat worth $1,120,815. Now he is one of the most talented players in the region, pressed from the Scandinavian mould of poker pro. He brings 265,000 chips to the party today.

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HAND OF THE HOUR
Andrew Brokos, the Team PokerStars Online player, has enjoyed a good start to the day, up to 1.25 million, thanks mainly to busting a player in this hand...

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Andrew Brokos

The flop was Q♦4♥9♣ and David McCaig made it 36,000. Brokos called to see a 2♣ flop. Now McCaig made it 101,000. Brokos gave it a minute-long think before announcing quietly that he was all in, easily covering McCaig, who made something of a crying call.

Brokos: 9♠9♦ for the set
McCaig: K♦K♠ for the overpair

After a short delay for the TV crew to rush over and get themselves set, the river came an irrelevant J♥, and McCaig was relieved of his stack, his WSOP work done for another year.

CASH FACT OF THE HOUR
If the remaining 320 players agreed to an even chop, they would each be paid $201,659 (and 37 cents)

FAMILIAR FACE OF THE HOUR
After the Day 2s were over, the members Team PokerStars Blog tried their luck in a $50 tournament at Treasure Island. Not surprisingly, It didn't end well. Playing in the same tourney was Janet Callaway, who failed to cash as well. No problem for her, however: she's still in the WSOP Main Event today with 320,000 chips!

STATISTIC OF THE HOUR
Number of condiments in the condiment station of the WSOP Poker Kitchen: 0 (The Poker Kitchen is now closed)

QUOTE OF THE HOUR
"That's illegal! You can't bet in Las Vegas!" --Daniel Negreanu

TWEET OF THE HOUR
JP Kelly: "Having fun on today's table.. 3 bet 86s short stack loose 4 bet 77 behind, priced in. Still 1.33m, trying to land cards in box when folding."

ANTICIPATION OF THE HOUR
We're having curry for dinner.

Stephen Bartley
@StephenBartley in