EPT Barcelona: Sun sets on day 1a

It was a fitting mark of respect that on the day the European Poker Tour celebrated its fourth birthday and the start of its fifth season, the Casino Barcelona would be wall-to-wall with expectant poker players and the scene didn't change even after eight levels of play.

Testament to the extraordinary and ever-increasing popularity of the EPT, this year's Barcelona event looks likely to beat all previous records with 292 players finding their seats, signing waivers and fondling the new-look chips at a little after 3pm this afternoon.

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The day began in buoyant mood, among the starting field nine members of Team PokerStars Pro ready to make an indelible mark on this most popular of EPT hotspots. With the beach and sunshine on the other side of the casino door the prospect of high stakes tournament poker was too much to ignore for the likes of Andre Akkari, new boy Alex Gomes, Greg Raymer, Chad Brown, Vanessa Rousso, Noah Boeken, Vicky Coren and Greg Raymer.

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Team PokerStars Pro Alexandre Gomes

Their fortunes varied. Whilst Brown, Rousso and Akkari set an early pace to settle among the leaders and leave themselves healthy and wealthy for a return on day two, the same could not be said for Boeken, Gomes, Coren, Rousso and Raymer, each of whom busted out at various stages.

One of the highlights of the day, though, was the welcomed table of death/doom/excitement that featured not only former EPT winners Mike McDonald and Jason Mercier but also a mix of some of the game's most exciting talents, including Johannes Strassmann, Erica Schoenberg, Illari Sahamies, Christian Grundtvig and Mika Paasonen. There were always going to be costly collisions between them; McDonald was soon seen off after a big hand against old rival Strassmann, and after switching tables eventually Sahamies would fade.

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EPT San Remo winner Jason Mercier

That fate would strike all but 102 players who navigated their way through to a day off tomorrow when another eager crowd will make their claim on EPT glory.

Although we lost the likes of Million Dollar Man David "Chino" Rheem, Annette Obrestad, Michael Mizrachi and David Williams, at the close of play it was Chad Brown among the leaders on more than 60,000. But according to our last sweep of the room, it was either the Swede Nichlas Mattsson, or Germany's Michael Murra at the very top. They both had something like 85,000.

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Million Dollar Man David "Chino" Rheem

That takes us to tomorrow. Among the big names expected for day 1B are Team PokerStars Pros Daniel Negreanu, Gavin Griffin, Isabelle Mercier, Dario Minieri, ElkY, Raymond Rahme, Katja Thater, William Thorson and recently crowned Player of the Year Luca Pagano.

That's all to come, the tide sweeping away the old and bringing in the new for a 3pm start on day 1b. After four years the EPT has grown bigger and more popular, remaining the richest and most prestigious poker tour anywhere.

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Team PokerStars Pro Chad Brown

You can get a recap of all the events of the day by clicking on the links below.

Surf, sand and awards for EPT birthday
In the crowd
The view from the rail
Tables of discomfort
Bracelet winners and online sensations
The adventures of Team PokerStars
Chip leaders and danger men
All eyes on Obrestad
Dinner tastes better for some
The fight back begins here
Post dinner action
Doom, climber, and more doom
The EPT player collider
Different faces but the same effect
Mutiny over bounties
Akkari on the attack
Approaching the end

Click HERE for today's EPTnews with a distinctly Swedish slant. Click HERE if you like thereading about poker in Spanish. And get yourself HERE if it's all about Deutsch. The approximate chip counts from today's play can be found HERE.The full list will be compiled overnight and put on that page as soon as we have it.

Also, take a look back at last night's party, courtesy of our video blog team.

Watch EPT Barcelona 2008 Welcome Party on PokerStars.tv

There are plenty more where that came from HERE.

Stephen Bartley
@StephenBartley in European Poker Tour