When the 221 survivors from the assorted Day 1s arrived back at the Casino Vilamoura this morning and retreated from the sun into the Salao Miralago, Leonid Bilokur was the overall chip leader to start Day 2 of the PokerStars European Poker Tour Vilamoura Main Event. The Russian online qualifier — best known for winning a side event at EPT Berlin — could not rest on his laurels, though. An assortment of daunting names trailed only a little behind his own in the chip counts, including Team PokerStars Pro Arnaud Mattern, Paul "badpab2" Foltyn, Toby "810ofclubs" Lewis, Brandon Cantu and Sorel Mizzi. By the end of the day, Bilokur would be busted and it would be Cantu occupying the top spot with 557,400 chips, head and shoulders above his nearest chip rival Andre Coimbra of PokerStars Team Online. Just 69 players remain in the field.
Although very well known in America for his two WSOP bracelets and one WPT title, Cantu is not a particularly familiar face on the European circuit. He has played three or four EPTs and never cashed but is now mounting an attack on the EPT circuit in the hopes of joining Roland de Wolfe and Gavin Griffin in the exclusive club of "Triple Crown" winners. He told PokerNews' Gloria Balding in an interview earlier today, "I'm actually calling my shot here ... and I'm guaranteeing a final table on this one." That remains to be seen, but as we head into Day 3 he is looking in extremely good shape to take a shot.
Cantu was not the only American hoping to snatch a spot in EPT history, but not everyone had as good a day as he did. Antonio Esfandiari (who hasn't played many EPTs but managed an eighth-place finish at the Grand Final in Monte Carlo back in 2008) started the day in the top ten, but he sank to below average in the first level of play. The Magician eventually succumbed a few hours later. Also joining him in the ranks of busted Americans was Dan Heimiller, whose excellent run at the WSOP this summer (seven cashes, including two final tables and one final table bubble) did not continue here in Vilamoura; he ran out of chips before the sun went down on this pleasant beach town.
It was not only the Americans who took Day 2 by storm. A veritable invasion of young Brits including Team PokerStars Pro JP Kelly, James "Flushy" Dempsey, Stephen "stevie444" Chidwick, the aforementioned Foltyn and Lewis, and Sam Trickett all started the day with good chip numbers. Although Dempsey hit the rail and not all of the rest had huge stacks by the end of the day, the new wave of British players still has some considerable representation here and are looking good to have a serious go at taking this EPT title. JP Kelly, in particular, is in a great position to do his country and his sponsors proud — he goes into Day 3 in sixth place with 314,000.
The host nation also had a pretty good day, with PokerStars Team Online's Andre Coimbra occupying second place in the chip counts on 476,400 and his friend Pedro Guedes also near the top of the counts. Reigning champion Antonio Matias, though, busted toward the end of the day.
Also still in the running are Team PokerStars Pros Luca Pagano, Nuno Coelo and Arnaud Mattern, as well as Italian PokerStars Team Online member Antonio Tarantino and English international footballer and Friend of PokerStars Teddy Sheringham. If players can tear themselves away from the beach or golf course long enough to play some poker, it promises to be a very exciting day.
Our globe-trotting Live Reporting team will be back on the floor for Day 3 on Tuesday at noon local time, and you can follow along with all of the action as it unfolds.
If you like big tournament action, the poker world is now gearing up for the biggest online festival of the year, the Pokerstars World Championship of Online Poker.