Over 200 assorted pros, qualifiers and other punters made it to the Hilton Hotel on the banks of the Vltava for Day 1a of the PokerStars.com European Poker Tour Prague. Among their number were more than a few familiar faces including Katja Thater, Marcel Luske, Arnaud Mattern, and Shaun Deeb . The upper echelons of the chip counts were, hwoever, dominated by less-familiar faces throughout the day.
Deeb, playing out the end of his PokerStars Passport deal before beginning his self-imposed retirement from tournament poker, was one of the earliest players to bust out when he went all-in on the turn with an open-ended straight draw that failed to hit against his opponent's flopped trips.
Deeb will be playing the PokerStars Caribbean, too, but then intends to withdraw from the circuit for good. Let's hope his PCA run is more of a fitting swan song than his run here.
Andrew Teng escaped a three-way set-over-set-over-set disaster when the floor ruled he had called too late when the clock was put on him — the middle set in his hand was declared dead and he stayed in.
Despite Teng's fortunate survival, he failed to last the day and joined the growing ranks at the rail. By the end of the day, Teng had been joined by Ruben Visser, Almira Skripchenko, Ben Kang, WSOPE PLO finalist Ville Haavisto and EPT Baden winner Julian Thew.
Ukrainian Oleh Okhotskyi took an early lead when he found aces to knock out another player within minutes of "shuffle up and deal." He never looked back. Orkhotski steamrolled his way through the day and ended up with a top-five stack.
Also enjoying an excellent day was one Rui Cao. He had already maneuvred his way to near the top of the chip count pile when he found aces. He turned a full house and was further fortunate enough to have his opponent move in with a flush draw, drawing dead. This bit of good luck propelled Cao into pole position where he stayed for the rest of the day — until he was pipped to the top spot by a mere 100 chips.
The official overnight chip leader, on 169,200, is a flamboyant German, Marc Gork. Dressed in an eye-catching orange and pink ensemble topped with a furry Russian hat, Gork found his turning point by winning a huge coin flip - tens against A-Q. The tens held and Gork continued to climb for the rest of the day.
Also going into Day 2 on excellent stacks are Czech native Martin Hruby, Team PokerStars Pro Florian Langmann, and Daniel Drescher. Before that happens, though, we've got a whole Day 1b to deal with.
Join us here at PokerNews.com from noon C.E.T. when we'll be bringing you all the action as it happens.