The last runners were cleared for takeoff on Friday afternoon as Day 1b of the PokerStars.it European Poker Tour San Remo arrived at the Casino Municipale. This crowned jewel of the European poker circuit always draws an impressive field, and this year it put the previous events to shame. Another 656 runners joined in the fun to create a total combined field that sets a record 1,240 players. That's an increase of more than 60 entries over last year's turnout, and it sets a new record for participants in an EPT event in Europe.
It shouldn't really come as any surprise to find Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier perched near the top of the leaderboard at day's end, should it? Grospellier had his game face on right from the "shuffle up and deal," and that's never a good thing for the rest of the field. In the second level of the day, this Team PokerStars Pro took down one of those pots that leaves tablemates and railbirds shaking their heads and muttering to one another. It was a raised pot before the flop, and Grospellier and Philipp Gruissem watched the dealer spread out . Gruissem check-called a bet of 1,600 there, and another 4,600 when the hit fourth street. The river double-paired the board, and Grospellier fired one last bet of 11,100. Gruissem tanked for a long while before plunking in the call, and Grospellier quickly flipped over . Just quads. Sometimes flopping the second nuts is second best, and Gruissem let the table see his coolored before mucking.
With that, Grospellier's tournament was off to a fine start and he hardly faltered for the remainder of the day. Just as the night came to a close, though, Dutchman Michael Eerhart managed to squeak in front, bagging up 247,800 chips to put himself at the head of the pack heading into Day 2. Also in the big-stack mix are Bernard Boutboul, Rasmus Nielsen, and EPT Berlin champion Kevin MacPhee.
Those few are near the top of the card, but a huge pack of dangerous players is lurking in the shadows. American Quinn Do had a fine day himself, and his finishing count of 187,500 puts him squarely on the rear radar of the chip leaders. Sami "LarsLuzak" Kelopuro survived with close to 100,000 chips, and familiar names like Jeff Sarwer, Matthias de Meulder, Jason Mercier, and Tobias Reikemeier are all on the first page of the chip counts, as well.
There's still plenty of excitement left on the fight card, but a number of notables were not fortunate enough to make it through their opening days. Mike Sowers barely had a chance to sit down before he ran a set of nines into an overset of jacks and headed right back out the door. Chino Rheem didn't fare much better, and "PokerStars Express" passenger Peter Eastgate showed up late and left early. Vanessa Rousso, Richard Toth, Noah Boeken, Barry Greenstein, Joe Cada, and about 300 others were also brushed aside within the first nine levels.
The festivities of Days 1a and 1b have left the field with just half of its starting gusto. Only 620 players survived the two starting flights, and they'll all be back together under one roof for Day 2 on Saturday. Our Live Reporting Team will be under that one roof too, and with a front-row seat for every busted flush and flopped full house.
Be sure to follow us on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news.