As announced very early on Thursday morning, those 543 payments of €7,700 create a prize pool of €4,180,000, making for a nice improvement over last year's event, which saw 480 players pay €5,000 to create a prize pool of €2,304,000. This year's first champion will walk away a millionaire, taking home €1,170,000 for first prize, as compared to 2006 winner Bjorn-Erik Glenne's relatively paltry €691,000 (in fact, second place in the 2007 event will pay €673,000, or nearly as much as Glenne's victory stipend - full payout details available here).
Among those who showed up on Day 1b to take a shot at that million-euro payday were such poker luminaries as Johnny Chan, Daniel Negreanu, Greg Raymer, Marcel Luske, Humberto Brenes, Luca Pagano, Thor Hansen, Liz Lieu, Isabelle Mercier, Ross Boatman, Thomas Wahlroos, Patrik Antonius, Kirk Morrison, Andreas Hoivold, Mads Andersen, Harry Potter, Praz Bansi, Fabrice Soulier, Not Johnny Chan, David Colclough and Erik Cajelais, as well as a number of fearsome-looking Euroscreamers over whom PokerListings.com observed the local media going nuts.
As on Day 1a, it took a bit of sorting out to get all of the 279 starters fitted into the cramped confines of the Gran Casino basement, but by 5:30 p.m. CEDT (11 a.m. EDT/8 a.m. PDT) everyone was in their right place and the game was afoot, with a couple of tables appealing to the Finnish-Canadian heritage of your reporter: at Table 12, Canadians Isabelle Mercier and Terrence Chan faced off, while across the room fellow Finns Thomas Wahlroos and Juha Helppi prepared to do battle. As things turned out, only one of the four would survive to see the morrow.
Early casualties of the first day's second flight would include Helppi, who would fall victim to Wahlroos in what has been termed alternately the Juha Brouhaha or the Finnish Civil War, and David "El Blondie" Colclough, who shipped the last of his short stack into the middle with Big Slick and lost a race to an opponent with pocket fives.
Going the other way was Johnny "Not Terrence" Chan, who took a tidy pot in fortuitous fashion when, with one player having moved all-in pre-flop, he shoved all-in on a board of A♣ 8♣ 2♦ J♠, scaring his sole opponent (who'd claim to have pocket sevens) out of the pot and turning up Big Slick to Player 3's A-6. Ironically, the river card was a seven, but instead of bustification Chan found himself at over $30,000 and holding the chip lead for most of the early going.
The fourth of the day's eight 60-minute rounds would be the last for Greg Raymer, who saw himself short-stacked early in the tournament but managed to hold on until hitting back to back influenza with the worst of beats. Raymer would double up an opponent when his pocket jacks failed to hold against his rival's KJo (the player would hit a runner-runner club flush), and on the very next hand would bust when his pocket jacks failed to hold against another opponent's QJo (queen on the river, sayonara). The 2004 WSOP Main Event champion stuck around postmortem, however, and could be seen graciously giving interviews and signing autographs throughout the day.
Later casualties as night turned into early morning included Mats Rahmn, Terrence Chan, Marcel Luske, Erik Cajelais, EPT3 Copenhagen champ Mads Andersen and EPT3 Dortmund champ Andreas Hoivold, before Isabelle Mercier hit the bricks with pocket threes to an opponent's pocket jacks. Mercier's exit would also mark the last known sighting of Liz Lieu, who disappeared from the tournament area shortly after No Mercy's departure.
Almost immediately the rumor mill would begin to churn out reasons for Lieu's hasty exit, but it would later be revealed that Lieu had received some distressing personal news and could not be blamed for having more on her mind than just poker.
Mercier, Andersen, Cajelais et al may have been eliminated, but while they didn't have chips they were neither obligated to bear the odor most rank that began to emanate from the tournament area as the hours dragged on. Indeed, by two in the morning the air in the basement of the Gran Casino had taken on the foulest of qualities, as the bodies of legions of sweaty poker players unprepared for the Mediterranean clime began to show the ill effects of their long hours at the tables.
By three of the clock the place fairly stank of cigarettes and body odor and bad cologne, with players self-eliminating in a frenzy just to get to the fresh air. Amongst those granted a reprieve from the olfactory agony as the night wore on were Humberto Brenes, Ross Boatman, Luca Pagano and Rolf Slotboom.
The rest of the field - all 110 survivors - was forced to wait until just after three in the morning to make their (temporary) escapes. We'll return to the basement confines tomorrow at 5 p.m. with 209 still in the running to play another eight levels of fun, with Gregory Dyer the official chip leader from Day 1a with $76,500 and Daniel Stern the unofficial chip leader from Day 1b with about $110,000.
Among those still in contention from Day 1b's roster are Johnny Chan, Daniel Negreanu, Patrik Antonius, Marc Goodwin, Thor Hansen, Thomas Wahlroos and Praz Bansi. PokerListings.com will return with a vengeance for Day 2 of this epic conquest, armed with nose plugs and ready for action. Tune in all throughout your workday for the absolute, uncontested, most ballingest tournament coverage around.