The fourth annual World Series of Poker Europe kicked off on Tuesday from the glitzy Casino at the Empire in London. The touristy Leicester Square was graced by an international swarm of poker players as 244 runners turned up for the £2,650 No-Limit Hold'em Six-Max event. There were 34 tables in play, the soft cap was set at 204 for the opening event, but the staff worked furiously to accommodate all 40 alternates by the time the first break hit at the end of the second level. All told, ten levels of Event #1 are in the books, and the field has been dashed down to just 31 players.
It was a fine day for Andrew Pantling – a chip-leading type of day, in fact. We didn't see him involved in many pots (or with many chips until the latter stages of the day), but it was a brisk and steep ascent to the top of the board at night's end. If you're unfamiliar with his name, Pantling is a Canadian pro with more than a half-million dollars in live cashes over the past three years. His best result came with a win in the £5,000 Heads-Up Event at the European Poker Tour Grand Final, but he has strong showings on four continents, including a sixth-place finish in the 2009 £2,000 8-Game Championships in London. Pantling is still without a WSOP cash, but he's well on his way to number one at the 2010 WSOPE. The big stack bagged up 106,100 chips, putting himself a few thousand chips ahead of his closest rival. Chris Bjorin and Tai Tran are the only two others who had cracked the century mark in chips as the clock ran out of minutes.
Apart from the chip leaders, there is a big, scary school of sharks lurking in the depths of the leaderboard. If you've forgotten about Jeffrey Lisandro since he won three bracelets at the 2009 WSOP, he'll surely be back on your radar now. The Aussie was one of the early risers of the day at a tough table, though he tired from the torrid starting pace he set. Lisandro bagged up 55,000 chips, putting him in the middle of the pack and slightly above the chip average heading into the run to the money tomorrow. Phil Laak finished just a bit higher with 63,600, and French pro Michel Abecassis is right there with 51,000, as well. Twenty-four places pay.
As far as the home team goes, it was a pretty decent day all 'round for the Brits. Liv Boeree took down a huge EPT event in Italy earlier this year and is hot on the trail of a second European title in London. Boeree was most responsible for the crumbling of then-chip-leader Rui Cao's mighty stack when she called his bluff with on a board. Cao put Boeree to the ultimate test with a covering all-in shove on the river, but Boeree was up to the challenge, and her hand was good enough to win a huge pot and nudge her toward the top of the score sheet. A big slip-up late in the night was the only thing that kept her from the top ten of the leaderboard, and she'll have more work to do again Wednesday. She's just five from the bottom of the overnight chip counts, but she's still alive and kicking and looking for her eighth WSOP cash and first at the WSOPE. And she's still just 30 players away from a bracelet.
Praz Bansi is a name we often find near the top of the board in any given poker tournament, and it's no real surprise to see him still in contention heading into the penultimate day of this one. Another hugely successful Brit, Bansi is looking to become just the second of his countrymen to win both WSOP and WSOPE bracelets after his victory in WSOP Event #5, the first $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em event of the 2010 Series. He dealt handily with Phil Hellmuth for the bulk of Day 1, but like Boeree, Bansi stumbled late to find himself in 20th place of the 31 remaining players. He's below average with 49,300 chips, but that should be enough to work with, at least for the start of Day 2. Other notable Brits to survive the brutal day were Chris Bjorin, Chris Moorman, and Eli Heath, the latter two already proud owners of WSOPE prize money from years past.
Annette Obrestad was a big center of attention today, and she had to deal with a lot of tough players at her table. It began with Mike Matusow, and the two were soon joined by Justin “BoostedJ” Smith and a rotating cast of other mischievous characters. Obrestad stuck around for a good while but went busto in Level 5 before the dinner break rush kicked in. Smith and Matusow didn't fare much better; neither managed to survive the day. WSOP Player of the Year leader Frank Kassela was an early out, as were Men Nguyen, Sorel Mizzi, Brandon Cantu, and Antonio Esfandiari, to name just a few.
Team Full Tilt was represented by eight players, and nary a one could survive to the end. Tom Dwan, Andy Bloch, Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, Erik Seidel, Allen Cunningham, and Matusow all have big red Xs next to their names. Oh, and let's not forget the man himself. Phil Ivey was the beneficiary of a good chip-up to start his WSOPE, tripling his stack within the first level or so. It was, however, pretty much downhill from there. Naturally, Ivey got his money in good on his final hand of the day – all 30,100 of his chips slid into the middle with pocket eights on a seven-high flop with two clubs. Peter Wood decided to call him down with , banking on a flush draw and the one overcard to potentially rid himself and the table of Ivey once and for all. The was a blank on fourth street, but the river gave Ivey the set he didn't want to make. Wood flushed him out the door during the last level of the night, and we'll have to wait until Thursday to see Mr. Ivey back in the Casino for Event #2, the $5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha funfest. Perhaps some nosebleed action in the meantime though, hmm?
Wednesday's Day 2 is slated for a 2:00 p.m. GMT start, and it'll be a horse race from 31 players down to our final table of six. Is the Year of the Brits to continue here on their home turf? Will it be another American who steals back one of Europe's bracelets? Or could it be a rank amateur who emerges from the tough field to claim the title? The answers to those questions await the final two days of the tournament, and our Live Reporting team will back on the floor to bring you all the rest of the action as it unfolds!
This year's WSOPE reporting is brought to you by Full Tilt Poker, who are currently hosting the low buy-in, huge prize pool Mini-FTOPS!