An astounding 842 players turned up, making the trip here to Monaco from countries the world over, and came up with the €10,000 buy-in through a combination of satellites and cold hard cash to build a prize pool of almost €8.5 million. With €2,020,000 up for grabs for the eventual champion this tournament is bigger than the 2003 WSOP which spawned it all.
Two Day 1 heats and a pair of marathon playdowns left us with the 39 who returned this afternoon to decide a final table. We didn't quite make it all the way but we were able to pare the field down to the final 10. Because the day ran long, over 12 hours, the tournament staff called a halt to the activities in hopes of giving players a little time to recharge their batteries for tomorrow's festivities.
As the final 39 strolled into the tournament room, their backs still warm from the gentle caress of the Mediterranean sun, it was Antonio Esfandiari in control as the only player to have broken the $1 million mark on Day 3. Oh how things can change.
There's no question that Esfandiari is a made man in the poker world. In terms of celebrity he's about the closest thing we've got. In spite of this his record hasn't exactly spoken volumes to that fact in recent memory. Here in Monte Carlo he looked relaxed and comfortable, lounging in his chair and making great decisions.
One thing is certain, if the cards had cooperated with Esfandiari there's a good chance he'd be the chip leader instead of Glen Chorny. In the biggest pot of the tournament so far Esfandiari doubled up Stig Top Rasmussen when the Magician's pocket queens were felled by Rasmussen's A-T in a massive pre-flop clash.
It's unbelievable that Rasmussen could have got over $700,000 in the middle with pocket tens - this is back when the blinds were $5,000/$10,000 - but it happened nevertheless. Moving all-in over an Esfandiari re-raise, Rasmussen put the Magician in a tough spot to be sure.
Consistent with how he's been playing all tournament though, Antonio thought for a few moments and calmly made the correct decision. The ace on the turn was the only thing not part of his plan.
After that loss Esfandiari was able to chip back up and it wasn't until later that his real trouble began.
Along with the Magician in the big-name department was one Joe Hachem. With last year's EPT Grand Final winner Gavin Griffin becoming the first player to take down the so-called triple crown, an EPT title, a WSOP ring and a WPT main event, it looked like Hachem was in a great spot to become the second.
The fact that Joe's WSOP title was a Main Event and his WPT was the $15,000 Five Diamond Classic a win here would have completely obliterated Griffin's accomplishment, had he gone the distance.
It was a slow burn for the Aussie which left him on the short side going into his final hand. He saw a ten-high flop along with Isaac Baron and they both hit top pair. Unfortunately for Hachem he was out-kicked and at risk of elimination, failing to catch any miracle cards from either the turn or the river.
As we saw the big-name pros begin to disintegrate we watched the opposite happening to the young Internet up-and-comers. Glen Chorny absolutely crushed the feature table and finished the night with a massive $3.3 million stack. PL.com had the opportunity to have a few words with the chip leader so, if it strikes your fancy, head over here to check it out.
Second in chips going into the final playdown, which should never be confused with the final countdown, is Isaac Baron. Known as WestmenloAA online, Baron made a deep run at the recent EPT event in San Remo and is poised for an even deeper one here in Monte Carlo. Although the phrase is thrown around a lot in online poker, many believe him to be the best tournament player on the Internet.
As always a full reckoning of the day's action can be found on the live updates page. Head over to the Live Tournaments home for everything else we have on offer - photography, interviews, blogs, you know, the works.
Action is slated for 1 p.m. tomorrow when we'll be returning to play all the way down to a winner. It could take an hour; it could take more. We're thinking it's probably going to take more. Tune in to PL.com as we walk the line between humor and stupidity. And by walk we mean fall drunkenly over.