Martin Schleich takes early lead as EPT returns to Spain
If EPT Tallinn was the start of the season three weeks ago it served only as a warm-up to the good stuff taking place in Barcelona this week.
Tallinn was a great event, a premier tournament not only for the location but for the talent of its champion. But frankly this is more like it - a hot tournament room, unwashed players in close proximity, expensive sandwiches washed down with machine coffee, and the knowledge that outside the weather is beautiful and there are things to see. But more important than atmosphere are the hundreds of players combining to promise a weighty prize pool and a sizable share for the winner.
The 346 players of Day 1A played nine levels today, with a split dinner break to save the catering staff from repetitive strain injury, just like the old days. Small fields can be lighter on the workload, bijou events that bring novelty to the tour, but the EPT suits mammoth fields, enormous demands on the bar and players lost in the crowds until they reappear later in the week chipped to the eyeballs.
Barcelona is a perfect place for that story to unfold, having made an appearance in every season of the EPT since hosting the first ever main event. In those black and white days Alexander Stevic (graceful) took the title and what now looks to be a stingy first prize of €80,000, money which was no doubt spent on a brand new colour TV and the new Duran Duran album.
The Torre Agbar in Barcelona
Testimony to its popularity and longevity was the all-star cast that arrived to play today. They may not be poised to win it exactly, but at least a few of them will return for Day 2.
Vanessa Selbst (resolute) seized an early lead, amassing the type of stack you'd be happy with at the end of the day well in advance of the dinner break. Then she lost a big chunk within sight of the finish. She returns on Monday with a still dangerous 81,500.
Ville Wahlbeck (glowing) started much slower than his team mate but ended well, bagging up 84,300 having spent the day illuminated by the light of his iPad while reading Isaac Asimov (wordy) novels.
Vanessa Selbst before the late crash
Ville Wahlbeck all aglow
The same goes for Luca Pagano (chipper), albeit for the massive lead and the iPad. He has a 19th EPT cash to aim for and will be assisted in that task on Day 2 with a stack of 36,700. Also returning is Nacho Barbero.
Barbero (crunchy) was sat at what was something of a feature table today, joined by the likes of Benny Spindler (convincing), Bryn Kenney (laid back), Christian Grundtvig (patient) and Jake Cody (edgy), the latter two unable to get going before eventual elimination.
Jose "Nacho" Barbero
None of those names can boast the chip lead tonight though, for what it's worth at such an early stage. That mantle goes to Martin Schleich (delighted), from Germany, the type of player who is overlooked until ironically his face becomes obscured by the size of his chip stack, figuratively at least. He looks to be the leader tonight, a great advantage or poisoned chalice? He'll discover which soon enough.
He is tonight one of only four players with more than 150,000, the others being Sam El Sayed (dogged) on 163,200, Marigliano Marcello (scrappy) on 160,700 and Michele D'Aniello (Italian) on 150,900. For anyone eager to see a back to back EPT Barcelona winner (you're out there somewhere), Kent Lundmark (reigning) bags up 50,000 tonight.
While there are no winners among the 179 survivors of Day 1A there are plenty of losers, with a roll call of big names departing today.
Ana Marquez (content) made her debut as a Team PokerStars Pro today but she'll have to wait at least until EPT London for her first cash. Amateur boxer Theo Jorgensen (lean) also spent most of the day on the ropes - the rest of the day being spent behind the ropes, busted minutes before the bell.
New girl Ana Marquez
EPT Berlin winner Ben Wilinofsky (meditative) joined them, as did Annette Obrestad (sparkly). Johnny Lodden (offline) and Lex Veldhuis (disciplined) were among other eliminations, departing in the first levels of play.
EPT Berlin champion Ben Wilinofsky
There were other departures, just as there are plenty set to return, the names of whom will be available on the chip count page once they're made official by night owl tournament staff. In the meantime catch up on the events of the day at the links below.
Play continues tomorrow when Day 1B gets under way at noon, featuring an even bigger field and some significant draws, including Jason Mercier, Eugene Katchalov and Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier. Boris Becker will also make his season debut.
That's all from Barcelona today. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Good night from Barcelona.
Photography (c) Neil Stoddart.