After what we understand were weeks of beautiful, baking sunshine in the historic and picturesque city of Barcelona, Day 1a of the PokerStars.com EPT Barcelona was an absolute washout as far as the weather went. Rain bucketed on the city and high winds battered the beach — so what better to do than head down to the warm dry confines of the newly renamed Casino Barcelona, formerly the Gran Casino de Barcelona, the traditional home of the EPT in Spain.
Two hundred and eight runners braved the weather and inevitable hangovers following the PokerStars party at hip beachfront club Shoko last night to begin play bright and early 12:30 p.m. Among them were a veritable excess of familiar faces including Roland de Wolfe, Arnaud Mattern, Jason Mercier, Katja Thater and no fewer than two Hougaards — brothers Jesper and Lars. Perhaps most interesting is that the field featured two former EPT Barcelona champions trying to defend or recapture their titles — last year's winner Sebastian Ruthenberg and 2007 champion Sander Lyloff.
Thirty thousand chips seems like an awful lot at the 50/100 blind level, but one hapless gentleman managed to get them all in with a set on the second hand of the event only to find his opponent holding a bigger set to earn himself the proverbial wooden spoon.
Jason Mercier was to meet a similar fate but not after fighting valiantly. He lost half his stack early on and had made an excellent recovery to put him back up to par until a little later when he flopped top two pair and was most unfortunate to run into his opponent's bottom set, sending him to the rail.
Other folks who couldn't last the distance on Day 1a included Jesper Hougaard, who never really got off the ground at all and apparently just watched his whole stack slip through his fingers in the early stages. Irish Open final-table member and jovial Bulgarian Atanas Gueorguiev also fell by the wayside as did Michael Keiner and, toward the end of the day, Sebastian Ruthenberg. Also down and out: Arnaud Mattern, who spent many hours nursing a short stack before asking his buddy Bertrand "ElkY: Grospellier to breathe on his chips for good luck before pushing them in from the big blind to a raise from the cutoff. Unfortunately he found his K-Q dominated by his opponent's A-K and made his exit.
Johnny Lodden had an up and down kind of day, at one point snatching the chip lead, only moments later losing three quarters of his stack when he managed to fold the third nut flush on the river to some very impressed hushed silences from the rail. He made it through the day in the end, but finished nowhere near the chip lead.
Jorn Walthaus was another player who made an early surge, but unlike Lodden he managed to hang on to his chips and stay up with the leaders all day to finish with 136,500, though a number of others were in contention including Carlos Lopez and online qualifier David Robinson. Top of the poker pops at the end of the day, though, seemed to be one Diego Arias Rodriguez , who came from nowhere to finish with 190,000.
We're expecting a sell-out field of 350 tomorrow for Day 1b so be sure to check back at PokerNews.com tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. GMT+2, where we'll be bringing you all the action live from the floor.