The tournament floor at the Grosvenor Victoria Casino was set up for 250 players at the start of day 1A at the PokerStars European Poker Tour London. The fifth edition of this major stop on the EPT schedule was initially capped at 500 entries, but that didn’t stop 47 alternates from signing up before the end of level 2 today. Four additional tables had to be brought onto the floor, and a small part of the casino bar was overtaken by this overflow area. Even then, alternates waited in the wings among the group of railbirds. Card Player Player of the Year leader John Phan decided to grab a cup of coffee during his time as an alternate, but things didn’t get much better for him when he took his seat. He fell early amid the day 1A chaos that saw more than half of the field fall on the way to the dinner break at the end of level 6.
Other early eliminations who joined Phan on the streets of London were Matt Kay, newly minted double gold-bracelet winner Jesper Hougaard, Team PokerStars pros William Thorsson and Alexandre Gomes, and fellow professionals Chris Ferguson, Shane Schleger, Ross Boatman, Amit Makhija, Joe Beevers, Shaun Deeb, Freddy Deeb, Patrik Antonius, and Dave Colclough.
A decision was made by the tournament staff as the day progressed to play nine levels tonight instead of the scheduled eight because the tournament was on pace to top its registration cap by 100 players. The action was slow for a brief period after the dinner break, as players were sluggish with meals fresh in their bellies, but the last level brought on another flurry of exits to take the final player count down to 80. Players took divergent paths during this period, and while some hit the rail, many positioned themselves for a deep run in this tournament.
Late eliminations during the evening included: Voitto Rintala, Tom Dwan, Team PokerStars pros Luca Pagano and Chad Brown, Dan Shak, Henning Granstad, Barny Boatman, Ben Roberts, Jon Kalmar, Annette Obrestad, Farzad Bonyadi, Michael Greco, Jason Mercier, Brandon Cantu, Jeff Lisandro, and Erica Schoenberg.
The most surprising elimination of the evening came when Team PokerStars pro Gavin Griffin, who held the chip lead for most of the day, fell during the final level of play after holding as much as 65,000.
Many players made their case for the chip lead late in the day, including Soren Blanner, an online player from Denmark who surged into the lead but then regressed a little to end the night with 53,500. Sorel Mizzi saw his chip stack fall down to 6,500 at one point of the tournament, but entering the final level of the night he had increased that amount ten-fold to join the chip leaders, and by the end of the night, he stood alone with the chip lead at 100,000.
The most famous European player in the tournament, Gus Hansen, danced with the devil in the pale moonlight and survived multiple times during the late levels of the day to finish strong. He faced elimination on multiple occasions and always pulled through. He started his survival run by doubling up through Kathy Liebert. He got it all in with jacks preflop, and they held up to bring him up to 15,000. A short time later, he faced elimination again, but received a lot of help when he made a flush that bailed out his dominated hand. Hansen held A-Q against the A-K of Chad Brown and pocket kings of Sorel Mizzi. This big triple up took Hansen above 40,000 and ensured his survival. Hansen wasn't done there, though, as one of the final hands of the night took his stack up to 85,000, which is good for second chip position.
At the end of the night, the 80 players remaining bagged up their chips, and they will take tomorrow off as day 1B arrives for their first day of play at the Vic Casino. The tournament has already broken the record for the largest prize pool ever in this event with the players who have pre-registered tomorrow. The record for largest field (398) is sure to fall, as well, only 101 players are needed to break the season-3 mark.
Surviving players from both fields will combine on Friday, Oct. 3, when the field will be whittled down to 32 players. Stay tuned to CardPlayer.com for all of the action in live updates, chip count, and photos from London.