When players streamed into the tournament area at Le Sporting Club in Monte Carlo, it was to a sun-drenched vision of high-end luxury; this poker room is so fly that the roof comes off - literally. Being poker players, however, many of the 351 runners cowered in the shade, and 15 minutes later the roof and indeed the curtains had been closed and it was down to business. By the time play finished nine levels later, only 173 players remained with Simon Munz of Germany in pole position on 175,200.
As one could have probably predicted for an EPT Grand Final, the field was stellar. Phil Ivey turned up and found himself sharing a table with Roland de Wolfe and Men Nguyen. Elsewhere Phil Laak, Jennifer Tilly, Greg Raymer, Chad Brown and Alex Kravchenko made appearances, as did Patrik Antonius, Arnaud Mattern and Luke "_FullFlush1_" Schwartz. As always, their fates would be mixed.
Phil Laak was among the early exits when he fell foul of Andrew Chen. Gavin Griffin soon followed when he got his already depleted stack in with against Allen Bari's pocket queens. Failing to spike, Griffin kissed his chance of a second Grand Final win goodbye — for this year at least. Following him out the door as the day turned into night were fellow luminaries Barry Greenstein, Kravchenko, Barny Boatman, Nacho Barbero, Erik Seidel, Ivey, Antonius and Mattern.
Antonio Buonanno was among the early chip leaders, having knocked out two players and then pushing Boatman off a chunky pot to put him over the 100,000 mark within just a few levels. Buonanno finished in the top ten but acquired some serious competition as a clutch of new big stacks emerged including Neil Channing, David Paredes, Chris Bjorin, Sergiy Baranov, Anton Wigg and Antonio Palma. Johannes Steindl, the sole member of Team PokerStars Pro: Austria, also found himself in possession of a huge stack after getting his pocket aces paid off in full by Alexander Roumeliotis holding .
Come bag-and-tage time, though, Munz was on top of the chip count. On almost the last hand of the day, first he knocked out Barbero and another player in a single monstrous hand and then his pocket queens flopped a set against Barbero's pocket jacks and the other player's to send them both to the rail.
Munz may be in the lead for now, but there's a whole other Day 1 to go yet. The PokerNews Live Reporting Team will be back on the floor at noon local time, so be sure to check back then to see who fails to make the grade, and who's going to get paid.
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