EPT11 Prague: Grand day for Russia as Dmitry Ponomarev leads Main Event

The EPT Prague Poker Festival was always going to be big. We knew that around about this time last year, when we looked at record-breaking numbers, listened to people already anticipating a return visit, and then watched them flood to the online satellite tables over the next 12 months.

Then this week in the Congress Room at the Hilton Hotel, the Eureka Main Event surpassed previous records and the Eureka High Roller followed suit. When Day 1A of the €5,000 buy in Main Event was finally upon us today, more than 340 players showed up.

That puts us on track to match last year's field of 1,007 players, Day 1B fields always being far larger than the first flight. The survivors of today's eight levels (around 225 of them) have tomorrow in which to luxuriate as the second flood of masses hit the floor.

Dmitry Ponomarev, from Russia, is the man set to enjoy his day off more than most. He'll be able to look back on an extraordinary day's work today. Ponomarev bagged up 159,800 chips this evening, which is good for the narrow chip lead, although Oleksii Khoroshenin, the EPT Vienna champion, is close behind. He has 150,500.


Dmitry Ponomarev: Good day for Russia


Oleksii Khoroshenin: Two time? Too early!

It was also a good day for Brian Altman, an 26-year-old professional from Long Meadow, Massachusetts, who finished with 150,300, and said, "I focus on making as many correct decisions as I can." He clearly made more good decisions than bad ones today, including one that turned his tournament around. "I got as low as 12,000 before calling down with trips on a wet board," he said.


Brian Altman: Correct decision to come to Prague

Altman leads a huge crop of PokerStars qualifiers in the field, also including Morten Christensen, whose 143,800 is another big stack. Igor Pihela Junior, whose father won a super satellite to play the Super High Roller, also had a good day. He finished with 131,500.

As ever, there were some big names joining the fray in this monstrous event, including a good number wearing the Red Spade on their sleeve. The World Series Player of the Year, George Danzer, was here, and signed for 40,100 chips at the end. So was Mickey Petersen (29,100), Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier (38,100) and Isaac Haxton (60,000). Johnny Lodden finished the day on an uptick, with 117,700.


George Danzer: The smile of a POY


Johnny Lodden in conference with the tournament staff

Chris Moneymaker also traded the warmth of Tennessee for the chill of Prague, but may have wished he hadn't bothered. It was a short tournament for Moneymaker, who was back to his hotel room (or the cash tables) before they had even paused for dinner. Martin Hruby also busted before the end of the day.


Chris Moneymaker: A long way for a cold welcome

Tomorrow, of course, is another day -- and it'll likely be a monster. Play will commence at noon. That leaves you plenty of time to look back at coverage from the rest of the festival, which includes a big win for Leonid Markin in the Super High Roller event and a slightly small, but still bloody big, win for Balazs Botond in the Eureka Main Event.

Among our Main Event coverage, a chat with the fascinating Nicholas Galtos stands out. He played roller hockey in front of thousands and poker against Stu Ungar. He's also full of stories.

Enjoy your evening, and join us for more of the same tomorrow.


Who wants to be a star?

Howard Swains
@howardswains in Prague