EPT San Remo: Leonid Bilokur leads but Italians out in force on Day 1A

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Three years ago the European Poker Tour was welcomed into San Remo for its inaugural tournament. The first day presented an entirely new experience for visiting players and press alike. In scenes straight out of St Trinians, local players adopted dazzling new strategies, busting out or doubling up within minutes of the start with reckless abandon and melodrama, high fives and back slapping the order of the day, as players gleefully let the cards do the leg work.

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The tournament room at Casino San Remo

It marked the opening of a new chapter in European poker, a fantastic celebration of the game by a nation that had only just begun to embrace Texas hold'em. Foreign players heard about such scenes and began flocking to Italy to press home their advantage.

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Downtown San Remo

They still do, only now EPT San Remo no longer looks or sounds like the madcap free-for-all that we so loved. Something has happened to Italian players. Blooded by events on the Italian Poker Tour, not to mention the smaller events that feed into the IPT, they now no longer play with such divine wind. They're beginning to catch on.

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Team PokerStars Pro Luca Pagano hosting the Italian Poker Awards last night

Leonid Bilokur, from Russia, may lead tonight (repeating the same lead he held on Day 1B at EPT Vilamoura earlier this season), having snatched the lead at the end to bag up 187,900, but he's pursued by a number of blossoming Italians, the likes of Arnaldo Petino and Alessio Pianta, players stepping up the big game from the Italian circuit events of Venice, Campione and of course San Remo.

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Chip leader Leonid Bilokur

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Arnaldo Petino

It may not have been accompanied by the same fireworks (although there were chairs turned over and pandemonium in a melee during the last few hands) but there was still a significant number of eliminations today to keep the tournament clock ticking down, reducing the starting field of 438 by half.

Viktor "Isildur1" Blom departed, as did fellow Team PokerStars Pros Arnaud Mattern, JP Kelly and Henrique Pinho, part of what was a more low-key field than that expected tomorrow.

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Viktor Blom

The flip side to that are those who we'll be welcoming back on Day 2, including Team PokerStars Pro Martin Hruby and Team Online's Alfio Battisti. A full list of who else will be returning on Friday can be found on the official chip count page, while the updates from all of today's play can be found at the links below.

Level 1, 2 and 3
Level 4, 5 and 6
Level 7, 8 and 9

That's all from this opening day in San Remo. Thanks for following all 12 hours of today's coverage, our thanks also to our foreign bloggers, working in German, Dutch and Italian. One last hat-tip to photographer Neil Stoddart for all of today's images which remain copyright him.

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Casino San Remo

Join us tomorrow when the balance of Day 1 will first take their turn queuing to get into the casino, queuing to get into the tournament room, before taking their seats to play nine levels of poker. Who knows, after all that hassle they may just throw caution to the wind and play in the old style? Either way we'll be there for the start which we're told will not be before 1.30pm.

Until then, whenever "then" is, it's goodnight from San Remo.