Today, the Kyiv Sport Palace saw the second and final flight of Day 1 runners take to the felt in the inaugural PokerStars.net EPT Kyiv. By the time registration closed, 167 players had been given chip stacks for Day 1B to put the total number of entrants at a respectable 296. After seven one-hour levels, relative unknown Viktor Ivanov was the man looking down on the rest of the field, locking up the overnight chip lead heading into tomorrow's action.
The event was set to be capped at 600, but the staff appears quite content with the turnout considering the eleventh-hour move from Moscow to Kyiv. It would have been unrealistic to hope for much better, and those who did turn out are still part of the largest poker tournament ever assembled in the Commonwealth of Independent States, surpassing by a large margin, the RPT St. Petersburg earlier this year. In total, players came from 33 countries around the world, including 116 from Russia and 33 from Ukraine. The field as a whole generated a prize pool worth €1,391,200, also the largest tournament purse this region has ever awarded. Of that sum, a respectable €330,000 will go to our eventual champion.
The Team PokerStars Pros were out in full force today, coming from all over the world to ring in this sixth season of the EPT. Leonardo Fernandez (Argentina), Katja Thater (Germany), Dario Minieri, and Pier Paolo Fabretti (Italy) all made the trip here to play, as did Russia's Ivan Demidov and Ukraine's own Vlad Zhuba. The Italians and the lone Ukrainian have already been sent to the exit, but the others will join Alexander Kravchenko (Day 1A) to represent their sponsor when the players return for the combined Day 2.
Overall, the action today showed a bit more spark than yesterday, as chips were zooming across the felt in the early going. A few players seemed especially keen on splashing around, and for the most part, the more conservative tables were content to let them chip up with relative ease. The first beneficiary of this trend was Shaun Deeb who stormed out of the starting gate. He and Russian Dmitry Stelmak got tangled up in a huge pot before the tournament was barely a half hour old, and Deeb came out of the scrum with most of his opponent's chips as his own. Deeb had put in a re-raise before the flop and had found just one caller in Stelmak. The flop brought , and Deeb continued out with a bet of 2,125. Stelmak grabbed one of each color chip from his stack and elected to put in a rainbow check-raise to 6,625 with Deeb quickly matching the bet. Stelmak would fire 8,500 chips on the turn and another 13,000 when the hit on the river. The last bet was enough to cover Deeb, and he would call all in for his tournament life with . It was a fine call indeed as Stelmak sheepishly tabled , unable to move the American off of his better pocket pair.
Another of the noticeably active players at the outset was Dario Minieri, and that should come as a surprise to nobody. The diminutive Italian with the maniacal reputation took charge of his table right from the start, and he would be the beneficiary of some sizable pots in the early going as well. In the first few minutes of the third level, Minieri and a lone opponent saw a flop come down . Minieri made a bet and was called, and the two men saw the turn bring the . Keeping the heat on, Dario slid out 3,700 chips before seeing his opponent check-raise to 8,000. Without hesitation, Minieri grabbed a big technicolor stack of uncounted chips and slung them forward in a sloppy three-bet. The move drew a frustrated fold from his opponent, and Minieri flashed his meager as he pulled in a nice pot to chip his way up over 70,000. He would be unable to hang on to that chip stack, though, sliding down and eventually out in the following level.
And what a level it was.
It began with Gus Hansen making an unexpected and late appearance in the event, and it climaxed with a loud bang and a total power failure throughout the building. Rumor has it that a construction crew working nearby severed the main power lines leading here, and the resulting blackout provided the players with an impromptu break as the staff scrambled to rectify the situation. The last few hands in progress were finished up one-by-one as the floor supervisors stood above the players holding flashlights. Within about 25 minutes, the building crew had the emergency generators up and running, and the cards went back in the air without much drama.
When the lights came back on, Hansen's presence drew a throng of spectators to the perimeter of the rail, and the antics of he and table mate Christian Dragomir made for an entertaining few levels. Hansen would be up and down and eventually out before the end of the day, though, giving him plenty of time to rest up for Friday's High Roller Event.
As the day progressed, Alexander Rykov was the first man to really set himself apart from the field with a sizable chip lead. The pivotal hand came in the heart of that same level when he and Team PokerStars Pro Pier Paolo Fabretti butted heads in a big way. With about 20,000 chips already in the pot after the flop, Rykov bet 7,500 on a board showing . Fabretti made the call to see the hit the river, and he would raise all in after Rykov bet again. Rykov would make the call and show down two more kings, his set of cowboys good for a monstrous pot and a chip lead with 115,000. He would more or less sit on that stack to finish the day very near the top with 105,300.
Either he or the aforementioned Dragan Galic looked poised to take the overnight chip lead, but a late charge from Russian Viktor Ivanov gave him the title. His count of 153,825 is mighty enough to plant him atop the leader board, besting even the stack of Day 1A frontrunner Mihaylo Demidenko.
Play is set to begin at 12:00 noon local time tomorrow with the remaining 203 players all in the same room for Day 2. You can follow along with our updates on the Live Reporting page or via our special live updates Twitter account.