An overflow crowd of nearly 300 players descended upon the Grosvenor Victoria Casino for Day 1a of the PokerStars.net European Poker Tour London Main Event. The field was originally capped at 500, but the turnout far exceeded initial expectations, and tournament officials decided to add alternates to the field. Among the late registrants who took to the felt as alternates on Day 1a were Beth Shak and John Phan, joining top stars such as Gus Hansen, Annette Obrestad, Patrik Antonius and Kathy Liebert already in the event.
After a relatively calm beginning, the bustouts really kicked off, with top players John Phan, Shane Schleger, Joe Beevers, Ross Boatman, Chris Ferguson and Shaun Deeb all falling in the early afternoon. Gavin Griffin kicked off a massive hand that saw four-way action, with three of the players all in and eliminated by the end of the hand. Griffin raised preflop with , and found a caller in Freddy Deeb. A short-stacked player called all in with , and Jeff Lisandro moved all in over the top from the big blind, holding . Griffin quickly called, and Deeb thought for a moment before moving all in himself with . Griffin called again, and the flop came down . Griffin flopped middle set, while Lisandro made top pair. The on the turn gave Lisandro two pair and additional outs to survive, while Deeb needed a queen or a club, but the on the river sent all three opponents to the rail as Griffin stacked all the chips.
Three of Finland's top pros busted in Day 1a in London as heavy-metal rocker and poker player Voitto Rintala busted courtesy of Jason Mercier. Jani Sointula, one of Finland's all-time top money winners, also busted, as did Patrik Antonius. Other notable eliminations on Day 1a included Erica Schoenberg, Henning Granstad and 2007 WSOP Europe Main Event champion Annette Obrestad.
To say that Max Pescatori had an active day would be a vast understatement. After arriving late to start the tournament, the Italian Pirate lost a big pot early before he busted a player and gathered a big stack. He bled chips through much of the afternoon before finally stanching the flow at about half his starting stack. A late surge in the afternoon gave him momentum for the evening's play, and he eliminated several players on the way to the top of the leader board as play drew to a close. Preliminary end-of-day chip counts showed these players among the leaders:
Max Pescatori - 93,000
Sorel Mizzi - 92,500
Scott Montgomery - 86,000
Carter Gill - 78,000
Gus Hansen - 74,000
Soren Blanner - 71,000
Walid Riskallah - 65,000
Michael Martin - 63,000
Erik Friberg - 62,000
Joe Alpayaa - 60,000
Join PokerNews as play resumes at 1:30 PM local time on Thursday for Day 1b play.