As the seconds ticked down this afternoon to the start of the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo, the vast roof atop the Sporting Club conference centre cracked in the middle and gradually slid open, bathing the tournament arena in glorious sunlight and revealing a place that most people had already forgotten: the outside world. This cruel exposure to the elements, so soon after we had filed into our bunker, was part of the welcome to the tournament room for the numerous members of Team PokerStars Pro playing on the opening day of this massive poker jamboree.
While most of the denizens of media row spent the next ten minutes blinking and squinting, their eyes perhaps permanently damaged by this rude awakening, such an entrance was only fitting at the beginning of the end of the most spectacular poker season ever hosted in Europe. Team PokerStars Pro led a total of 396 players into the room, each paying €10,000 for their seat on the first day of the grand finale of the tour. And after the roof slid shut again, and the curtains drew closed, they hunkered down for eight one-hour levels of typically cutthroat and breakneck play.
But wouldn’t you just know it: when the 223 remaining players filed out of the door at the end of the day, there were Team PokerStars Pros once more at the front. Lee Nelson bagged close to 300,000 chips and is a probable day 1a chip leader; Luca Pagano has more than 100,000 and is also well in the hunt, having put paid to Greg Raymer’s chances early in the day.
Pagano’s Italian teammate Dario Minieri has more than 100,000. Similarly Dennis Phillips, who accounted for his teammate Alexandre Gomes at the midpoint of today’s action, will find himself comfortably placed at around 90,000 in the overnight counts.
Add to that Johnny Lodden, Humberto Brenes, Marcin Horecki, Chad Brown, Daniel Negreanu and Raymond Rahme, all of whom survived, and there’s been an awful lot of taking for the team going on in Monte Carlo today.
That’s not to say that they’re the only sharks surviving through day 1a. Annette Obrestad has had a relatively fallow time of it on the EPT this season, but the Norwegian sensation has been on fire today and will be another player close to the summit. Arnaud Mattern, who won in Prague on season four, has also been troubling those counting the chip leaders today, as has the PokerStars qualifier Faraz Jaka, who passed 150,000 some time this afternoon.
All of the above outlasted the likes of Phil Ivey, Mike McDonald, Chris Moneymaker, Patrik Antonius and Stephen Chidwick, as well as Constant Rijkenberg, who tasted the bitterness of early elimination here, so soon after victory in San Remo last week.
These, though, are very early days in this tournament. Tomorrow, we expect at least another 400 players to enter the fray, bringing us close to 800 for the tournament, which is a whole lot of cash to refocus for on day two. They will start tomorrow at noon, with the likes of Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier, Ylon Schwartz, Joe Hachem, Isabelle Mercier, Noah Boeken, Hevad Khan, Ivan Demidov and Peter Eastgate taking their seats.
Video blogs, and an archive of all PokerStars televised action, are always available at PokerStars.tv. All static photography on PokerStars Blog comes (c) Neil Stoddart. In case you missed it, catch up with some of Neil’s work from yesterday’s PokerStars’ Ante Up for Africa event.
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That’s it for day 1a in Monte Carlo. More of the same tomorrow.