Tallinn, Estonia. Until recently, not a place usually associated with top-level poker. However, all that is changing. Following the success of the Baltic Festival here in June, the seventh season of the European Poker Tour Wednesday with the PokerStars.com EPT Tallinn from the sixth-floor ballroom of the lavish Swissotel. Nine levels later, less than half the field remained, with Ali Tekintamgac in the lead on an impressive 203,200 chips.
This was always expected to be a relatively bijou affair compared to some other EPTs, but so far it has turned out to be a tournament of very respectable dimensions. Thus far, 181 players have bought in, qualified, or otherwise secured a seat for Day 1a, and with a larger field expected tomorrow for Day 1b, we could see this tournament flirt with the 500-runner mark by the close of registration.
As always, the Team PokerStars Pros were out in force. Among the field were familiar faces Arnaud Mattern, Ivan Demidov, Michael Keiner, Alex Kravchenko, Joep van den Bijgaart, Luca Pagano and Ville Wahlbeck, as well as Friend of PokerStars and serial qualifier Pierre Neuville. Also a familiar face, but with the Team Pro: USA patch on her arm a very recent addition, Vanessa Selbst today made her official debut on the EPT circuit ― although as it turned out, she would not make it through the day.
Also in the small but perfectly formed crowd were Annette Obrestad, Praz Bansi, Allan Bække, Scott Montgomery and Benny Spindler. Unusually, the host country was not the dominant nation in the field. Estonia could only boast three players today, although one of them has an unusual pedigree ― Martin Muursepp, the former NBA basketball player, is now a PokerStars Sponsored Player. He made it through the day to finish on a respectable 70,200. Furthermore, Estonia is expected to make a stronger showing tomorrow, with around 15 Estonian natives registered to play Day 1b.
As so many players heartbreakingly discover at every EPT, not everyone can make it to Day 2. Among the unfortunates who didn't make it to the end of the day were the aforementioned Selbst, Obrestad and Spindler. EPT Barcelona winner Carter Phillips, two-time WSOP bracelet winner Praz Bansi, and Irish Open champion James Mitchell were also among those who fell by the wayside before the day was up.
All those chips have to go somewhere though, and a fair portion of them ended up in Ali Tekintamgac's stack. After his WPT victory in Barcelona in May, this is turning out to be an excellent year for Tekintamgac. His 203,200 was good enough for the chip lead when the time came to bag up the chips for the night.
Also in possession of big stacks at close of play were young Russian Matvey Linov (193,400), Team PokerStars Pro and serial EPT finalist Pagano (124,900), familiar Dutch pro Steven van Zadelhoff (111,700) and Pagano's fellow Team PokerStars Pro Mattern (103,600). Other players of particular note who proceed to Day 2 include Clayton Mozdzen (80,800), Demidov (80,100), Wahlbeck (68,800) and Johan "busto_soon" van Til (41,500). Eighty-nine players remain.
Impressive though the field was today, tomorrow promises to outdo it in quantity and equal it in quality of players. Among the big-name players confirmed to play are Katja Thater, Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier and Dario Minieri. We'll be back here when Day 1b gets under way at noon local time, so be sure to join us back at PokerNews for all the action, direct from the tournament floor.
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