For the next seven days, Barcelona will become the poker hotbed of Europe as top professionals and Internet qualifiers battle it out – chip for chip – for a Pokerstars.com European Poker Tour title.
Monday was Day 1a of the PokerStars.com EPT Barcelona, and 263 players converged on the Casino De Barcelona to battle it out with only one goal on their minds – returning for Day 2. Of those 263, only 137 will make their way back to Casino De Barcelona for Day 2. Leading the Day 1a charge is Loic Sa who bagged up 217,700 in chips at day's end. There were plenty of stories to be told by the players as the day wore on, tales of bad beats, coolers and suck-outs were pouring from the mouths of the players and into the ears of anyone willing to listen.
Take Team Pokerstars Sportstar Fatima Moreira De Melo, for example, who had all her chips in the middle very early against Team Pokerstars Pro Alexandre Gomes. She made a full house on the turn with one card to come while Gomes was hoping the one card that was coming would be the one-outer he needed to make his royal flush and eliminate De Melo. A few minutes later, De Melo was heading out of the casino to check out the city's great architecture – Gomes had hit his one-outer.
In 2008, Team Pokerstars Pro Darus Suharto must have had his fair share of luck en route to his sixth-place finish in the WSOP Main Event. It seemed, though, that just like De Melo, luck was sitting in someone else’s top pocket. Suharto lost most of his stack when his pocket kings were caught up on the flop by his opponents pocket queens. He was eliminated not long after.
As the blinds increased, the tournament really started to kick in. Pots became worth fighting for, and newspapers, iPods and iPads were put away while players paid more attention to their cards and to their opponents. The people who seemed to take advantage at this critical time in the competition were Team Pokerstars Pro Matthias de Meulder, Loic Sa, Yann Dion, Claudio Piceci and Mihai Manole. As these top players clashed, there were some more casualties as Team Pokerstars Pro’s Martin Horecki and Lex Veldhuis bit the dust. Then, just as the reigning champion Carter Phillips was telling us that his parents were heading over to meet up with him, he, too, found himself with a chair but no chips.
The Casino de Barcelona then put on a fantastic buffet lunch for all the players. Upon their return to play, however, Team Pokerstars Pro Richard Toth found himself out. Then, in one of the final hands of the night, when three Team Pokerstars Pros decided to lock horns, someone else had to lose. This time the casualty was 2007 EPT Prague winner Arnaud Mattern, but as you know, behind every great loser is an even greater winner. This time it was Alexandre Gomes. On a flop of , Matthias De Meulder was holding , Arnaud Mattern was holding , and Alexandre Gomes was holding . The three-way all-in resulted in Gomes tripling up to 88,500, De Meulder dropping to 48,000, and Mattern being handed one big blind that left Mattern’s hand on the very last hand of the night and never came back to him.
The Day 1a survivors have a day off as a new batch of players take to the felt to make their way to Day 2. Day 1b kicks off at noon local time, and there's sure to be plenty of action.