After a smaller-than-expected field of 180 walked through the doors of the picturesque Alpine Palace Hotel in Saalbach-Hinterglemm Sunday afternoon for Day 1a of the PokerStars.net European Poker Tour Snowfest you would be forgiven for expecting another compact field for Day1b. How wrong you would be, though, as a field of 302 players exchanged €3,750 for 30,000 tournament chips and the dream of becoming an EPT Champion.
Although 302 players bought in, the truth is that there were only 301 present for the first few hours of the day — Team PokerStars Pro Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier missed his flight to Austria and turned up six hours late. Amazingly, despite having his stack blinded off during that time, he still managed to sit down with a rather healthy stack of 25,000 chips. He managed to turn that stack into 60,000 at one point, but with his loose-aggressive style, he lost them all by the time play ended.
There were plenty of Monsieur Grospellier's PokerStars teammates in the field today, too, including the de Meulder twins Mattias and Christophe, Dario Minieri, Sandra Naujoks and Julien Brecard. The latter was celebrating his 32nd birthday, but the poker gods failed to bring him any extra luck, and he and all the above mentioned Pros were eliminated by the end of the day. A number of Team PokerStars Pros did make it through to Day 2, including Luca Pagano who has cashed a record 17 times in EPT events. Max Lykov and Liv Boeree also made it through, and Boeree will return to nurse a stack of 19,000, although she says she is happy with that total considering the cards she was dealt throughout Day 1b.
Along with the vast team of PokerStars Pros, there was a very talented field packed tightly into the tournament area including the likes of Fabian Quoss, who made the final table of the EPOT London High Roller event; John Eames, who finished third at the recent EPT Copenhagen Main Event; and Anton Wigg, who won EPT Copenhagen in 2010. As is usually the case when there is a pro-heavy field, a so-called “Table of Doom” forms, and Monday was no different as, ironically, Table 13 was the home to a host of familiar faces. First, EPT San Remo Champion Liv Boeree took her seat sandwiched between Luca Pagano and James Sudworth. At the opposite end of the table sat EPT Berlin winner Kevin MacPhee, and a few minutes into play, EPT Tallin Champion Kevin Stani sat down in seat five. As far as tough tables go, this was one of the toughest we've ever seen.
Throughout the day, no one looked as if he or she was going to become a runaway chip leader, but a couple of hours from the end, Michael Tureniec went on a mini-heater and went from under the radar to flashing brightly on it with over 200,000 in chips. A large percentage of his stack was won in a hand with Sandro Ruegg. In the hand, Tureniec called a 12,200 bet on a board reading before seeing Ruegg bet another 16,500 when the peeled off on the river. This last bet sent the reigning EPT Copenhagen Champion deep into the tank for around two-and-a-half minutes until he finally made the call, turning over , which was enough to beat Ruegg's . Tureniec could not keep the momentum going right up to the end of the day, although he did finish with 186,800 — a more than respectable total.
The man who everyone will have to catch Tuesday is Vladimir Geshkenbein, who managed to turn his 30,000 starting stack into a colossal 253,700 during the eight levels of play Monday. He burst onto the live poker scene in 2009 when he won the APPT Macau High Roller Event for $266,705 and will be looking to go deep in this event over the next four days.
Play resumes at 2 p.m. local time on Tuesday when the 102 survivors from Day 1a combine with the 166 from Day 1b, all hoping to make it through to Day 3 when they will have a chance to make it into the money or even walk away with the €390,000 first-place prize for winning the PokerStars.net EPT Snowfest.