European Poker Tour Berlin Day 1b: Sander Berndsen Leads
The field for Day 1b of the PokerStars.net European Poker Tour was much larger than Day 1a. Four hundred and fifty-eight players squeezed into the SpielBank, an increase of almost 50 percent of the Day 1a field, resulting in all three floors of the casino being used to fit the players into the tournament area. With capacity reached and almost ready to burst, early play forced some tables to play ten-handed, although that situation only lasted for the first two levels.
At the end of nine grueling levels beneath the hot casino lights, Sander Berndsen emerged as the leader with a massive 242,900-chip stack. The Dutchman, a high-stakes cash game specialist, won several big pots against former European Poker Tour winner Jens Kyllönen, managed to six-bet bluff against fellow big-stack Robert Flink and then showed the less-than-stellar , a hand he put 39,000 in preflop with the blinds at 400/800/75. Flink finished in third place on the leaderboard with 203,400 while PokerStars online qualifier Alek Samardzic came in fourth with 200,200.
A much bigger field brought with it an increased number of well-known players, as numerous Team PokerStars Pros, and former EPT winners, rubbed shoulders with the mass of online qualifiers. Of the many cameras inside the casino, more than a few were pointed at Team PokerStars SportStar Boris Becker, famous for his three victories at Wimbledon in the 1980s. Sadly for fans of the tennis legend, he was eliminated about halfway through the day in the most inauspicious of ways — a simple loss of a coinflip with ace-king to another player's pocket sixes.
Frenchman Aurelien Guiglini started off in a flash, flopping two sets and getting paid off both times to reach 95,000 in just the second level. However, an astonishing hand, that grabbed even more attention, occurred at the same time as Guiglini's plundering of the field. Mark Bolliger and Nicolas Yunis got all their chips in preflop with and respectively and the flop brought possibilities for both coming . The on the turn, though, gave Yunis a flush and he just had to avoid a paired board to win. Instead, the came on the river to put a straight flush on the board, suddenly turning the hand into the most unlikely chopped pot ever.
Last year's winner, Kevin MacPhee, was one of the many players who turned up, but the American misread his hand when moving all-in on the river. MacPhee later said on Facebook that he thought he was moving in with two pair, but in fact only had second pair in a hand against EPT Snowfest runner-up Kevin Vandersmissen. The latter made the call with the same pair but a better kicker, which means Berlin will be seeing a new champion this year. It won't be last year's runner-up Ilari Tahkokallio, though, because the Finn was one of several other Wednesday casualties that also included former EPT winners Liv Boeree, Jake Cody, David Vamplew and Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier. They joined Luca Pagano, James Keys, Annette Obrestad and many others who will at least have some consolation by being able to sample the delights of Berlin.
Players who did survive included Jan Heitmann. The German pro had more swings than a child's adventure playground as his chip stack seemed to oscillate for fun. Heitmann dropped as low as 4,000 at one point but rallied, managing to finish just over the 100,000 mark after a chunky pot right at the end with aces against jacks.
Other players running well were invariably those who have been running well. Vladimir Geshkenbein, victor at EPT Snowfest, ended the day with 180,000 while Roberto Romanello, also fresh from victory at the WPT last week, finished with 152,400.
The 202 players from Day 1b will combine with the 151 from Day 1a to bring the Day 2 field to 353. Play gets under way at 1200 CEST (0300 PDT) and they will all be playing for the first-place prize of €825,000.