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European Poker Tour Copenhagen Day 1a: PokerStars Qualifier Mark Hirleman Leads Day 1a Field

Mark Hirleman

While spring is indeed on the horizon, snow was still falling in Copenhagen as the European Poker Tour's second event of 2011 returned to the Danish capital where last year Anton Wigg bested a field of 423 to take home the title and roughly $672,000 in prize money.

The chip leader at the end of the day was PokerStars online qualifier Mark Hirleman from the U.S. who finished the day with 163,400 in chips. Around 135 players remained from the initial 213 who entered Day 1a. Hirleman took over the chip lead during the last level of the day after winning several key pots to push himself just ahead of talented Swede Per Linde.

Wigg was one of the many players who signed up for Day 1a's field. He briefly led the pack before losing a 100,000-chip coinflip with pocket jacks against Koen Schiepers' ace-king, although he did not survive to make it through to Day 2. Other players playing Monday included three of the winners from Sunday night's Nordic Poker Awards, Ilari Tahkokallio who won Best Performance for his magnanimous turn at EPT Berlin, Team PokerStars Pro Theo Jorgensen who won the award for Best Live Player, and EPT Tallinn winner Kevin Stani who was named Rookie of the Year. Both Tahkokallio and Jorgensen were eliminated from Day 1a, but Stani, who found Day 1a a real grind, had a good final couple of levels to send him to Day 2 with a medium-sized stack.

Dominating a lot of the talk coming into Monday's play was the return of Peter Eastgate. The Danish former World Champion had taken an eight-month sabbatical from poker but showed no signs of rust as he finished the day with an above-average stack on a fairly tough table.

Copenhagen has a reputation as one of the tougher EPTs, so the number of non-Scandinavians playing Monday was fairly small, although there were the occasional familiar faces from the European circuit such as PokerStars Team Pro Arnaud Mattern. The Frenchman managed to lose with aces twice and kings once yet still recover his stack well enough to make it through the day. James Akenhead was leading the British contingent but succumbed fairly early on and was reduced to supporting his friends from the rail Tuesday. No one, however, traveled as far as PokerStars qualifier and former APPT Macau winner Victorino Torres. The Northern Marianas islander traveled over 10,000 km to make it to the EPT. He previously made the trip for EPT Vienna where he made a deep run. This time he didn't fare so well, and despite a memorable hand where he flopped quad aces, he was one of almost 80 casualties on the day.

As expected, the Scandinavians almost completely dominated the leaderboard. Annette Obrestad sits with over 100,000 after a late rush, Per Linde (nominated at the Nordic Poker Awards for Best Live Player) looks to be in second place with about 130,000, and Team PokerStars Johnny Lodden and EPT San Remo runner-up Jakob Carlsson have both also gotten through to Day 2.

Tomorrow the tournament organizers are expecting a slightly bigger field, which is expected to include Team PokerStars Pros Sebastian Ruthenberg, Viktor Blom and JP Kelly as well as former EPT winners Toby Lewis and Jake Cody.

Day 1b gets under way Tuesday at noon local time and the PokerNews Live Reporting Team will be there to follow all the action from the first shuffle to the final river.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news.

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