One hundred and ninety-one players took part in Day 1a of Event #1 of the World Series of Poker Europe, £1,500 No-Limit Hold'em, at the Empire in Leicester Square. Among the big names in the field for Event #1 were European superstars Nicolas Levi, Thor Hansen, Ben Grundy and Willie Tann. Making the long flight over from the US were top pros such as Layne Flack, Barry Greenstein, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey and former World Champion Chris "Jesus" Ferguson. Many famous names settled in atop the leader board before the day was through, as Brandon Cantu, Yevgeniy Timoshenko and Daniel Negreanu all ended Day 1a among the chip leaders.
Max Pescatori was one of the earliest eliminations, heading to the rail in a three-way pot with Andrew Teng and William Martin. Teng opened for a raise preflop and Pescatori called. Martin then re-raised, and both opponents called to see a flop of . All three players checked the flop, and Teng fired again when the turn came down the . Pescatori raised, Martin moved all in over the top, and Teng and Pescatori both called. Martin's pocket aces were in good shape against Teng's pocket kings, but Pescatori had a flush draw and inside straight draw with . No help came for Pescatori on the river, however, and the Italian Pirate walked the plank early.
Other early eliminations included Phil Ivey, Mike "timex" McDonald, Thor Hansen, Layne Flack, Roland De Wolfe and Chris Ferguson. Ferguson got his money in behind with to Karsten Johansen's , but caught up on the turn as the board read . Karsten regained the lead when the came on the river to give him a set and send the multiple WSOP bracelet winner home early.
The bustouts came with such speed on Day 1a that tournament organizers made the move to halt play early, ending after only eight levels of play instead of the ten originally planned. Brandon Cantu picked up chips early in the day and put them to good use, finishing with one of the biggest stacks after sending several opponents to the rail over the course of the day.
Daniel Negreanu had an even better Day 1a, as he finished with the chip lead. He eliminated Frenchman Michel "The Abacus" Abecassis late in the day to pad his lead. The two players tangled throughout the day, as Negreanu took a significant chunk of Abecassis' chips early on Day 1a, then came back to send him home later. Abecassis raised preflop from early position, and Negreanu called from the small blind. Simon Le Thangue called from the big blind, and the three players saw a flop of . All three players checked the flop, and La Thangue fired at the turn. Abecassis called, Negreanu raised, and La Thangue folded. Abecassis called to see the on the river. Abecassis checked, then thought for a long moment before calling Negreanu's bet. Negreanu showed pocket jacks for the turned full house, and Abecassis mucked. Later in the night, Abecassis got all his chips in the middle preflop with , dominated by Negreanu's . No help arrived for Abecassis on the king-high board, and he was eliminated as Kid Poker climbed the leader board.
Negreanu was joined atop the chip counts by Jason Gray, Brandon Cantu and Yevgeniy Timoshenko. The top ten chip stacks looked like this at the end of Day 1a play:
Daniel Negreanu 74,900
Jason Gray 72,800
David La Ronde 57,000
Brandon Cantu 54,200
Willie Tann 52,500
Yevgeniy Timoshenko 50,800
Michael Bepper 49,500
Tim Pennington 43,300
Carl Hostrup 38,700
Rumit Somaiya 36,700
Join PokerNews at 1PM London time on Saturday for all the live updates, star sightings and bustouts from the World Series of Poker Europe Event #1, Day 1b.