EPT London: Porbandarwala best on opening day
London has for years been a hub for world travellers. No trip to Europe is complete without a walk along Piccadilly, a photograph outside Buckingham Palace, or coming to realise that one end of Oxford Street is much better than the other. They're the kind of memories you keep with you forever.
The poker equivalent is to play EPT London, where you walk the long halls of the Hilton Metropole, get your photograph taken alongside the very best players in the game, and realise that being here at the end of the day is much better than not being here.
A total of 339 players tried that out for themselves today, coming in from London's gloom - the overcast skies rather than anything the cosmopolitan Edgware Road had to offer - stumping up £5,000 for a shot at one of the European Poker Tour's premier events.
By the close one player stood proud ahead of the rest, chest out, chin up, chips to the rafters. That man was PokerStars qualifier Soheb Porbandarwala from the United States, who bags up 218,600 tonight, leading after nine levels on the opening day.
Day 1a chip leader Soheb Porbandawala
Porbandarwala spent the day on Pim De Goede's table, the Dutchman sucking up chips from all corners right from the start before reversing that habit, spraying chips left, right and centre. One of the main beneficiaries of that downfall was Porbandarwala.
Behind him the pack are led by the likes of Konstantin Bucherl on 187,900, Team PokerStars Pro Thomas Bichon on 185,000 and Irishman John O'Shea on 184,400.
Dutch Team Pro Joep van den Bijgaart was almost closer to the leaders than his 167,600 suggests. Van Den Bijgaart made the most of the last level. Conferring with our Dutch correspondent for a concise summary of his countryman's day, Steve Smith condensed it to this: "Down, lost half his stack, double-up, double-up, double-up. 175k."
Joep Van Den Bijgaart
Porbandawala's lead may only be temporary, as the balance of day one arrives tomorrow for Day 1B. If tradition is upheld, that the second flight is much stronger, it should make for one of the toughest fields the tour has ever seen.
For now the day belongs to those who right now couldn't give the contents of an Edgware Road hookah about tomorrow, basking instead in their temporary hard-earned glory. The likes of Team PokerStars Pro Alex Kravchenko, fresh off his WCOOP bracelet win earlier this week, who bags up 111,000.
Despite appearing to sleep through the first seven levels today Ivan Demidov closed on 65,000 while Arnaud Mattern bagged up 89,400, a figure that would have been much higher had the Frenchman not run into Greg Raymer in level eight. For his part Raymer bagged up 105,200.
Others, among the 146 survivors, returning for Day 2 on Friday include Jan Heitmann (86,800), Raymond Wu (41,900), Vanessa Rousso (14,300) and Barry Greenstein (15,800). Celina Lin, however, won't be returning. After a day spent alongside Vicky Coren in relative peace and tranquillity, the two Team Pros collided with just 20 minutes left on the day, Coren's ace-king pairing on the board to beat Lin's pocket queens. Coren closed on 79,700.
Team PokerStars Pro Celina Lin
They'll also be places for the likes of John Juanda, Jake Cody, Jim Collopy, Barry Shulman, Jeff Sarwer and Allen Cunningham, Frank Kassela and Allan Baekke, whose official chip counts will be made available on the chip count page, once made fresh by tournament staff.
In the meantime you can read through the action from Day 1A using the links below:
Just like the vendors on Edgware Road the PokerStars Blog comes in many varieties, giving equal weight to the German, Dutch, Italian and Swedish incarnations. At least that's what we tell them with hand gestures while speaking loudly. Follow the links to see what they're saying about us.
Thanks for following today's marathon coverage. We can promise another 12 hour day tomorrow, or at least the tournament directors can. Our thanks to Mickey May and Neil Stoddart for today's photography, and to the video blog team for things like this:
Join us for Day 1B on Thursday. Play is set to begin at 12 noon. Until then. TTFN.