The PokerStars.it European Poker Tour Sanremo stop has always been a popular destination for poker players from around the world. Ever since the first time in 2008, the year Jason Mercier first showed his face to the poker world, the tournament has made for a packed Casinò di Sanremo.
At first, the tournament was held right before the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo, making it the perfect destination for a three-week poker trip for lots of players who combined the back-to-back stops. The last two years, the stop in Italy was moved to the first half of the EPT schedule, but this year it's back right before the big finale in Monaco.
Day 1a of the tournament attracted 175 players, which was down from last year's 320 players. One of last year's participants was Ludovic Lacay, who wound up beating a total field of 797 players to win the trophy and the accompanying €744,910 first-place prize. Day 1b is expected to be quite a bit bigger, so we'll find out then if this year's Main Event can give last year's number a run for its money.
Despite the modest field, a lot of action was seen on the first of two starting days. There were plenty of familiar faces in the field including 2011 World Series of Poker Main Event champion Pius Heinz; bracelet winners Michael Gathy and Vanessa Selbst; and a slew of Team PokerStars Pros, which made for a competitive day of poker.
EPT Vienna winner Oleksii Khoroshenin was in action as well trying to win back-to-back EPTs. Unfortunately, his quest came to an end in the last level of the night. After an opening raise to 1,400, Pawel Brzeski three-bet to 4,000 in the small blind and the Vienna champion moved all in for approximately 14,000 one seat over. Brzeski looked him up with the and was behind against the of his opponent; however, the flop provided the necessary help. The turn and river both blanked and that was it for the Ukrainian.
Blazej Przygorzewski from Poland was the first player to bust on Day 1a. His queens couldn't beat the ace-king of his opponent in an all-in preflop race. He was soon joined on the rail by tons of players. Coincidentally, another EPT Vienna winner, Michael Eiler, was one of them. Eiler lost his stack in the first level of the day, not able to get anything going and eventually busting with jack-eight to a set of sixes.
Another familiar face who wouldn't play eight 75-minute levels today was Kitty Kuo. The frequently-tweeting Chinese player was seated next to Selbst throughout Day 1a. Her face and Twitter stream showed a cry for compassion, but she wouldn't get it from the Team PokerStars Pro on her left. Selbst and Kuo were involved in the same hand several times, and Selbst got the better of it in most encounters. That included the last one when Kuo's ace-king failed to beat Selbst' queens.
Vanessa bust me out qq vs my AK ,sad now,I want to fly to London tmr !Follow @kittykuopoker
Friend of PokerStars Natalie Hof tried her luck as well, but it wasn't meant to be. Hof, who won the ladies event in Vienna just two weeks ago, was eliminated when her ace-queen didn't improve against Jordan Westmorland's jacks. Her fellow German, the aforementioned Heinz, nearly joined her on the rail. He got short early on, but would soon find new life. He doubled up with a turned flush against pocket queens, and then gathered even more chips in back-to-back hands winning huge pots. He ended the day with 80,100.
Poland's Jose Carlos Garcia, like Hof, wasn't lucky with ace-queen against jacks. Aku Joentausta was his executioner after flopping a full house. Garcia, who won the €2,000 six-max turbo side-event here in Sanremo two years ago, had zero chips left after that encounter, while Joentausta went on to bag up 125,500.
Joentausta wouldn't finish the day as the chip leader, though. That honor went to Cristiano Guerra from Italy. He flopped a set of eights and one fine gentleman wasn't willing to fold his pocket aces. The eights held up and the monster pot was pushed Guerra's way. He finished the night with 148,700.
Day 1b will start at 12 p.m. local time on Tuesday. Players are able to enter up until the start of Day 2. Lots of familiar faces are expected for Day 1b including Team PokerStars Pros Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier, Liv Boeree, Vicky Coren, and Victor Ramdin. They will be joined by lots of other seasoned pros, qualifiers and local grinders giving it a go.
PokerNews.com will again cover the event with updates from the first flop till the last river, the best photos, and of course video interviews with all of the biggest names. Speaking of which, check out this video on why you should visit Sanremo: