While the 2009 World Series of Poker Europe presented by Betfair has already awarded three bracelets at the Empire Casino in London, today marked the start of the main attraction, the £10,000 buy-in Main Event. With past champions including John Juanda and Betfair's own Annette Obrestad, the event has quickly become one of the most prestigious and sought-after titles of the year.
Expected to be the smaller of two day ones, today's field drew 155 entrants including Doyle Brunson, Erik Seidel, David Pham, James Akenhead, Mike Matusow, Phil Ivey, Vanessa Rousso and the always dramatic Phil Hellmuth. Hellmuth's main event entrance, as it did in Las Vegas earlier this year, stole the spotlight in the early goings.
Dressed from head to toe as the Roman Emperor Caesar, Hellmuth was led into Leicester Square by a horse-drawn chariot, a set of Roman guards, and a slew of scantily clad women. Once the pomp and circumstance was completed outside, Hellmuth made his way into the casino and found his seat at the feature table where he joined Brunson, Bruno Fitussi and six other hopefuls all with the dream of winning the World Series of Poker Europe Main Event bracelet.
Brian Powell and Team PokerStars Pro Jason Mercier look to be at the top of the leaderboard to close out the night. Mercier, who was at the feature table most of the evening, won an all-in pot with against Ben "Milkybar Kid" Grundy's pocket jacks with about 20 minutes left in the day. The hit the flop and Mercier added about 30,000 to his stack, ending with 189,725.
Martin Hansen shot toward the top of leaderboard during the first level after dinner, winning a behemoth three-way all-in pot. Hansen's bested Roland De Wolfe's and an unknown opponent's on a board. The railbirds were quick to shout about the "sickness" of the hand that eliminated two players and catapulted Hansen's stack into six figures.
Others who ended the day over the six-figure mark were Jonathan Aguiar, Viktor Blom, Sami Kelopuro and Tommy Pavlicek. Brunson came close to the 100k mark with a last-level surge to 92,900. As for Caesar? Hellmuth ended the day with what looked like about 20,000.
While many players accumulated chips today, a number of pros called it an early night with Vanessa Rousso joining Huck Seed, Robert Mizrachi, Patrik Antonius, Hoyt Corkins and November Niner Phil Ivey on the rail.
Tom "durrrr" Dwan was eliminated shortly after dinner when he got involved in a large pot with PokerStars European Poker Tour Barcelona runner-up Marc Goodwin. Both players checked the flop and on the turn, Goodwin check-raised Dwan, bumping the action from 2,000 to 5,000. The ten on the river was the action card as both players were thrilled to get their chips in the middle. Dwan flipped over a full house with ten-five only to see himself beaten by Goodwin's pocket jacks for a bigger full house.
The World Series of Poker Europe Main Event continues tomorrow at noon local time. Check out our Live Reporting page for continuing coverage and up-to-the minute reports live from the floor of the Empire Casino, and be sure to follow us on twitter.