EPT Tallinn, Day 1A: Level 1 & 2 updates (blinds 75-150)
2.10pm: Level over
Join us in the next level why don't you.
2pm: Heroes old and new
David Vamplew barged his way into the bastion of EPT heroes last year when he won EPT London, beating John Juanda heads up to win £900,000 and top a 848-strong field.Vamplew is playing the same game here that he did in London: calm, composed and relentlessly aggressive. Although he doesn't seem to be far from his starting stack it's hard to believe that will be the case for long.
So that also begs the question who will be the hero here in Tallinn? It's looking more likely to be Joe Ebanks than Mendor Berisha. On a flop of 5♦2♥K♦ Ebanks check-called 2,350 before tank shoving all-in for 16,700 on the 2♦ turn after Berisha had fired a further 5,175. Berisha inst-called with A♦K♥ only to be shown that he was drawing super thin against the K♣K♠ full house of Ebanks. Berisha down to 10,000, Ebanks up over 42,000. -- RD
1.55pm: Georgiou's travels
Based on the number of times we've seen Phidias Georgiou over the years, it's already evident that he has plenty of stamps on his Cypriot passport. He'll be adding a few more through EPT season eight too, as he now has a PokerStars passport, the surest way to enjoy a hasty spin across the poker-playing nations of the world.
Georgiou is here in Tallinn and, as ever, is active, receiving about as much respect for his pre-flop raises as most aggressive campaigners do. Georgiou opened from under-the-gun to 375, and was called in three spots, by his immediate neighbour, then by Guido Meacci on the button and by Konstantinov Valerevish in the big blind.
The four of them all checked a flop of 6♦8♣[10d] and then when the 5♦ turned, it went check, then bet of 825 from Georgiou, fold, fold, call from Valerevish.
The Q♣ rivered and Valerevish checked. Georgiou bet 2,625 and Valerevish called. Georgiou happily tabled A♦3♦ for the nut flush and stacked up all the shrapnel with a grin. -- HS
1.45pm: A Bansi bounce
Praz Bansi is now up to 34,000 chips after finding a value bet on a dangerous board to take chips from Jyrki Satukangas.
Satukangas limped in from mid-position before Bansi, a double bracelet winner, bumped it up to 450 from the cut-off. The call came before the flop was dealt, landing 9♠K♥J♠. Bansi then continued for 750 after Satukangas checked to him. Satukangas looked at his card for some time before calling to go to the T♦ turn. That's when the action went check-check.
The river came T♦ and Bansi bet 1,500 when Satukangas checked for a third time. Satukangas went back to staring at his cards before finally calling. Bansi tabled 9♥9♦ for a set and raked in the pot as Satukangas mucked. - MC
1.35pm: Structural integrity
EPT main events benefit from an incredible tournament structure. Each player starts with a deep 30,000 stack which measures up for 300 big blinds during the first one hour level. Those long levels then stretch to luxurious 75 minute levels once Day 1 has come to a close.
Somehow the back office boys have tweaked the structure to make it even more playable. The antes have been introduced earlier and now kick in at the start of level 4. The ante to blinds ratio has also changed making the antes more substantial, punishing those that try to scrimp and save their way into the later levels and rewarding the bold, brave and plain foolhardy. You can take a look at the new structure by clicking here. -- RD
1.30pm: Erm, nothing much at all on balance
With the big blind at 150, the vogueish min-raise is 300 - and Roberto Romanello just kicked things off from early position by tossing out three black chips worth precisely that amount. One seat to his left, Denis Michael called, as did Henri Kasper on the button, and the three of them went to a 2♠A♠8♠ flop. They all checked.
The turn was J♥ and Romanello checked again, but Michael bet 800. that prompted a quick peek at the cards from Kasper, who called, and Romanello came along too.
The river was 4♥ and Romanello checked for a final time. Michael bet 1,150, Kasper peeked at his cards again and folded. As did Romanello. -- HS
1.25pm: Disappearing into the crowd
It's not easy to spot Agris Klaise, particularly when he plays a hand. He wears a beige cardigan, beige linen trousers, beige socks and beige slip on shoes. That's the same beige as the wood flooring and the baize on the poker tables. From some angles, when Klaise tucks his head in to look at his cards he disappears for a moment.
When he flashed back into view he was opening a hand from la0te position, 250 total, which Yury Romanovich called from the blinds.
The flop came 6♠4♦9♣ which was checked. The turn came 7♣ which was also checked, as was the T♦ river. Klaise turned over A♠3♥ but Romanovich took the meagre pot showing Q♦T♠.
Praz Bansi, at the same table, looked back and forth at the two of them, using the new information to fill in the blanks. Artem Litvinov had his eyes closed, still getting his massage. - SB
1.15pm: Early snippets
The early stages of a tournament are always a tease, all promise and little action. Moving from table to table flops are dealt and interesting players get involved. Then they fold in tiny little pots. It's just not fair. Where are the five-bet bluffs?
- Roberto Romanello checks down a 8♣8♠A♣J♥2♦ board from the small blind and mucks when shown king-high.
- Pierre Neuville check folds on the turn of a 6♠5♣J♥7♥ board. Joseph Cahill doesn't and pays off Lasse Sørensen 9♣8♣ straight after a 4♥ hits the river. It's a small 1,200 value bet.
There have been changes to the EPT main event structure this year with antes kicking in a level earlier, I believe, so expect the early dancing to make way a little sooner. -- RD
LEVEL UP. PLAYING 75-150 IN LEVEL TWO
1.05pm: Biggest field in EPT history!
No, it's not actually. So far this is an intimate field with 15 tables in play. There were all manner of problems at Gatwick airport in the UK yesterday, with plenty of folk missing planes. And the indications are that day 1B is going to be packed with all the latecomers.
The main casualty of the smaller-than-expected day 1A turnout is the catering department. It looks like the dinner break will be cancelled and we await confirmation of how many levels we'll play today. -- HS
1pm: Banking on Ebanks
Joe Ebanks returns to the European Poker Tour after an impressive summer in Las Vegas where he cashed in three events and won a bracelet in the $10,000 No-Limit Hold'em six-handed championship, earning $1,158,481.
That doesn't mean much to Uwe Mauerhoff though who just took some chips from him in a four-way pot.
Kayvan Payman opened with raise to 250 from early position and was called by Mauerhoff in the next seat before Ebanks raised to 900 from the hijack. Mart Tammoja called from the small blind and so did Mauerhoff. Payman folded.
The flop came K♣K♠8♠ and the action was checked to Ebanks who c-bet for 1,500. Tammoja folded but Mauerhoff check-raised to 4,000. Call. The 4♣A♣ turn and river were checked through before Mauerhoff revealed A♠T♠ and took the pot as Ebanks folded. - MC
12.55pm: First shots in anger
The first hand of the new season watched in anger, although that would suggest reluctance on my part. Everything's fresh and new and anything can happen.
Martin Jacobson was the orchestrator of this one, with Christian Arndt in the small blind trying to convince the former EPT champion that he was in for a beating. He wasn't of course, but on a board of Q♥2♠6♠J♥ and about 8,000 in the pot, he didn't know it yet, so he bet 2,200.
Jacobson was in middle position breathing through his mouth. With the patience of a man selecting a dental instrument with which to extract information from a hostage, Jacobson tossed in re-raise of 6,800 which seemed to puncture any confidence Arndt had left. Deflated, he folded. Jacobson gets off to an early advantage. - SB
12.50pm: Frankland looking for a final table
Young Brit Matthew Frankland comes here to Tallinn off an agonisingly deep run at the WSOP Main Event. A 121st place finish for $54,851 is one of those cashes that may well pad out your bankroll but also leaves a bitter taste of what could have been. It's a flavour to which he'd unfortunately become accustomed to during Season 7 of the PokerStars European Poker Tour with a 20th place finish at EPT Deauville and an 81st burnout at EPT Berlin.
Frankland, a player certainly with tournament talent, is sat across the table from the mirrored shades of Fernando Brito, last year's Player of the Year. Brito also managed a deep WSOP run, finishing 181st for $47,107. The players are yet to tangle. -- RD
12.45pm: Sepman surging
Yulius Sepman has now seen pocket tens at least twice in this tournament so far, and he's just taken a huge-for-this-stage pot from Rupert Elder with them. Arnaud Mattern, who is Sepman's neighbour, filled in the action from the start.
Sepman opened from early position, which Elder three-bet to 700. Sepman four bet to 1,975 and Elder called. (It was just the two of them throughout.) The flop came 2♦6♥J♥ and Sepman led for 2,575, which Elder called.
The turn was 3♠ and Sepman led again, this time for 3,700. Elder called again. When the river came [10d], Sepman tossed out two gold chips worth 5,000 apiece, announcing a bet of 9,900. Elder tanked for a good long while, before calling.
But the EPT San Remo champion's hand was quickly in the muck when Sepman showed those pocket tens, for a rivered set. -- HS
12.40pm: Aches and pains
Player Artem Litvinov becomes the first player of the new season to order a massage, with 31 minutes played. - SB
12.27pm: Unfavourable balance for some
The ratio of EPT champions to wanabees is a pretty tough one at the moment. There are around 14 tables in play at the moment and more than a smattering of previous trophy winners: Rupert Elder, David Vamplew, Arnaud Mattern, Kent Lundmark and Roberto Romanello are all in attendance, as is last year's nearly-man Martin Jacobson. -- RD
12.20pm: Mattern involved early
Be it in the opening or the final round of the tournament, Arnaud Mattern likes to play. He just got involved in a battle of the blinds with Yulius Sepman, with the Russian besting the Frenchman on this occasion.
Mattern raised, Sepman called and the two of the took a flop of 6♣3♥4♦. Mattern bet 700, Sepman called, and then they both checked the 3♣ turn. The river was Q♥ and Mattern bet 1,800.
Sepman dwell-called, and was shown Mattern's A♥J♠. Sepman tabled [10c][10d] for the win. -- HS
12.20pm: Familiar faces
There's a 'first day back at school' feel to the start of Day 1A. It's quiet, the field is a little on the light side and there are a few new faces to add to the regular cast of foreign raiders. Among the former champions is Rupert Elder (San Remo 7) whose table is playing five-handed. David Vamplew (London 7) is playing three-handed while the Season 7 Player of the Year Fernando Brito is playing four-handed.
One player who is about as familiar as they come is Friend of PokerStars Pierre Neuville (currently ranked 50th on the Global Poker Index if you're interested) who is taking a seat at his table which is currently one of the busier ones, being six-handed.
"We are all back at school," said the Belgian, still in the state of permanent giggle that he entered at EPT Vilamoura two years ago. "A new teacher too," he added, referring to tournament director Teresa Nousiainen, from Finland.
Arnaud Mattern (Prague 5) has just arrived. He takes his seat on Elder's table. It was in Tallinn in Season 7 that Mattern finished third. -- SB
12.10pm: From the tournament floor
Laura Cornelius introduces the action from Day 1A...
12.10pm: Tournament started
Here we go. Cards are in the air. Expected in today's field are, among others, EPT champions Rupert Elder, Arnaud Mattern and David Vamplew, bracelet winners Joe Ebanks and Praz Bansi and EPT player of the year Fernando Brito. Pierre Neuville has also just showed up and, true to form as a Friend of PokerStars, has just shaken everyone's hand in a very friendly fashion. -- HS
11.50am: Back to school
Morning folks. It's not even three months since the end of EPT season seven, and season eight is upon us. I actually can't think of anywhere better to begin again than Tallinn, Estonia, where everyone is so friendly it initially feels as though the visitor is the protagonist in some Truman Show-type joke. But it turns out it's for real: these folks are beautiful and lovely, rather than just
beaut-, rather than just members of PokerStars Blog.
No doubt there'll be a good load more local flavour over the coming six days, but at the moment the focus on on counting chips, shuffling cards, filling out release forms and setting the clock. The plan at the moment is to play nine one-hour levels, with a dinner break at some point. But these things can change.
Play is due to begin at noon local time, which is GMT+3, or ET+7. Or something. The only sure fire way to know it's started is when we start writing about poker hands right here, so check back throughout the day.
Good-o. Speak to you later. In the meantime, have a quick introduction to Tallinn courtesy of Marcin Horecki. He's a former professional skier, turned poker player and Team PokerStars Pro. Turns out, he's also a travel writer.
PokerStars Blog reporting team in Tallinn (in order of Day 1A cantankerousness): Stephen Bartley (looking happy with a freshly pressed shirt, saying thank you to everyone in earshot), Rick Dacey (surprisingly content, grumbling likley to commence around level 3), Marc Convey (has already had a run in with tournament staff about the dinner break) and Howard Swains (refused to write the 'in order of'). Photos by Neil Stoddart.