Stepping into this event's setting we were confronted with a few surprises. For one, the room was massive. Unlike many European venues (Grosvenor Victoria Casino, we're looking in your direction), this tournament room is big enough to accommodate the largest fields the EPT is able to produce. The second surprise, and an unfortunate one at that, was the utter lack of players registered for this Day 1 heat.
With Steve Billirakis, both of whom are among the elite group of pros with a permanent space on our radar.
De Wolfe, who took down this tournament just one year ago, failed to make it to his seat at the beginning of Level 1. Billirakis, a well-known online player who snagged the first bracelet handed out at the 2007 Andy Black the most recognizable among them. Black got off to a running start after waking up with pocket aces during the first level and taking down a big pot to increase his stack to well over $20,000. While Black was in the thick of things for the day's entirety, his most interesting antics had little to do with poker.
Practically buried beneath an extensive arrangement of fruits, nuts and various snacks, Black entertained both fellow players and the media alike, holding court over his table, as is his habit. At one point he vowed to "rule [his] table with an iron fist," and we managed to snap a shot of the gesture he used to emphatically drive the point home.
Canada, one of the most underrepresented countries on the tour as well as the home of the PL.com reporting army, has one delegate, who happened to finish with the chip lead. Mike McDonald, of Waterloo, Ontario, finished the day atop the counts with $67,250.
Henric Strath, a PokerStars qualifier, held the chip lead for much of the day but was unable to keep it together in the last few levels and ended up seeing his throne usurped by the Canuck. Second in chips is England's Dave "El Blondie" Colclough with $59,350 and finishing in third, thanks to a massive double-up at the expense of Johnny Lodden, is Phidias Georgiou with $55,475.
The pros actually playing weren't the only familiar faces in the room though, as many who opted to play tomorrow stopped by to say hello and drop off their tournament buy-in. Recent WSOP Europe Main Event champion Annette "Annette_15" Obrestad was on the scene, as was former EPT Dortmund winner Andreas Hoivold and winner of PL.com's award for Most Smilingest Man in Poker, Age Spets. Hendon Mobster Ram Vaswani stopped by just in time to see fellow Mobster Barny Boatman bust out of the tournament and last year's Irish Poker Open champion Marty Smyth made it down as well.
All of these players, and many more we assume, will be returning to the Royal Dublin Society tomorrow at 2 p.m. (GMT) for the second Day 1 heat. Mike McDonald may be the chip leader at the moment but only time will tell if one of his Day 2b counterparts will be able to surpass him and head into Day 2 as el numero uno.
So as always we implore you to keep it locked on PokerListings.com for all your tournament coverage needs. We've looked into it and as far as we can tell we are the only people out here doing this. Trust us, there's no need for you to do any investigating on your own. Live updates? We've got them locked up. Photography? Put a big old check mark next to that one. Daily blogs? Well, you get the picture.