Each of the 132 contenders who made it to the felt this afternoon was given their own $15,000 of ammo with which to battle their way to a possible Day 2 seat. The size of the field wasn't the only difference between the two preliminary heats though, as the number of pros and the pace of the action were both significantly ramped up.
Before the first level was done we had already seen a few players headed to the rail, no small feat with stacks of $15k and starting blinds of just $25/$50. Among the busticated was one Ram Vaswani who, following in the footsteps of fellow Hendon Mobster Barny, got all-in on a draw and failed to hit, shipping his stack to Germany's Florian Langmann. Like many winning tournament players, Vaswani likes to either accumulate chips early, giving himself a chance to make a deep run into the money, or forgo the investment of time it takes to hang on to a short stack in hopes of squeaking into the cash.
He demonstrated that philosophy well today as he moved in over the top of a second-barrel bet from Langmann while holding nothing but an inside straight draw. Despite the fact that Langmann had pocket aces and the board wasn't especially scary, Vaswani still put him in a very tough spot. Sponsored by PokerStars to play in these events, Florian has already proved himself up to the task of making difficult decisions, finishing second to Joseph Mouawad in the recent EPT London main event.
Among the players who took their shot today was England's Roland de Wolfe, whose Day 1a absence we had previously reported on. De Wolfe's stack stood all alone in front of his empty seat for the first level yesterday before being taken out of play by tournament director Thomas Kremser. The stack in question was generously returned to de Wolfe this afternoon but, unfortunately for him, he wouldn't hold onto it for long.
In just the third level of the afternoon he got his money in with top two pair and was racing his opponent's open-ended straight flush draw. He wouldn't have to spend long sweating the situation though as the turn completed the straight flush and sent Roland on his way to an early exit.
Despite the theme of this blog thus far, not everyone who registered for today ended up going broke, as evidenced by the 74 bags of chips waiting to be claimed by their rightful owners. Leading the pack going into Day 2 is France's Ludovic Lacay who was able to blow past his Day 1a chip-leader counterpart Mike McDonald, going into Day 2 as the undisputed heavyweight of chip stacks. While McDonald was able to stack close to $70k during his seven levels, Lacay finished the day with more than $85,000 and is a force that his future tablemates will be compelled to deal with.
PL.com first met Lacay when we made the arduous journey to Peralada for the conclusion of the inaugural WPT Spanish Championship just a few short weeks ago. Ludovic finished second at the first final table ever to be held inside the walls of a castle and demonstrated the same relentless pressure here that worked so well for him in Spain. Lacay took the majority of his chips in one massive pot against Ali Mallu but once he had the chip lead he pounded his table unmercifully and cemented his role as Day 1b captain.
Going into Day 2 second overall is Irish old-schooler Liam Flood. One of the men credited with bringing Texas Hold'em to Europe, Flood fought his way back from being the short stack and piled up an impressive $75,750. Doubling-up partway into the evening with pocket aces against pocket queens, Flood went on a heater which catapulted him to his current position.
Forty-eight made it through Day 1a and 74 survived today's bloodbath, all of whom will return tomorrow for more card-related carnage. We're not mathematicians but we're pretty sure that means 122 players are resting up tonight before going back to work at 2 p.m. GMT.
Although today was October 31, it was hard to tell here in the tournament room. The only clue to the date was the rare costumed player and the occasional boom of exploding Halloween ordnance from the surrounding neighborhood. That's not to say we didn't witness our fair share of frights though since the prospect of a sick turn of the cards can strike fear into a player's heart as surely as any ghost or goblin.