The spacious confines of the Casino Atrium in Prague's ballerrific Hilton hotel felt unnaturally choked today as 177 Day 1 survivors returned for another kick at the carnage.
Indeed, the day took on a strangely disjointed, unnatural field as those hopefuls marched down toward the money bubble and beyond.
Leading the charge into Day 2 was Sweden's Christer Johansson, who'd amassed the majority of his $108,100 chips courtesy of a donkey on Day 1b and wasted little time in giving back to the poker community as the second round began.
Within the span of a couple hands, Johansson had relinquished the chip lead, and his slide into oblivion wouldn't take much longer. Johansson was eliminated early in the proceedings, nowhere near the money.
In his stead would flourish the fortunes of serial EPT casher and Team PokerStars Pro pro Dario Minieri, as well as French philosopher king Manuel Bevand, who seized the chip lead vacated by Johansson after doubling through Antonio Illiano with a set of nines against the latter's turned two pair.
With every elimination the crowd packed closer to those fortunates remaining, and though the eliminations weren't exactly "fast and furious," they did come at a pace quick enough to make the tournament room resemble the garbage compactor scene in Star Wars.
After five levels of Day 2 action only 64 players remained, and with 56 of their ilk scheduled to be paid, the money bubble was imminent.
Just missing out on the money were quixotic Italian antiques dealer-cum-would-be lothario Gino Alacqua and EPT5 Warsaw champ Joao Barbosa, the latter narrowly missing out on logging his fourth cash of the five EPT events thus far this season.
Early in Level 15, the chaos reached a fever pitch as 58th place was established, leaving only one unlucky eliminatee remaining before the money.
That unfortunate soul would be Austria's Erich Kollmann, who ran his A♦ Q♦ into Rifat Palevic's pocket kings and fail to engineer the suck-out, instead finding himself headed home in the 57 spot, the guarantor of his 56 chip-rich counterparts' collective good fortune.
A few hands later, A-Q would find markedly more success in an even worse spot, dealing Dario Minieri the PokerListings.com Painful Elimination of the Day.
The shorter half of the dreaded Isabario Mercinieri amalgam was sitting pretty near the top of the chip leaderboard when he had the misfortune of running a pocket pair of queens into the big chick of Raul Mestre in a titanic pre-flop confrontation.
An ace on the flop spelled doomsday for Super Dario, who exited in 47th place for a rather paltry €8,300.
By the end of the tournament's 16th level only 35 players remained in the hunt for that €774,000 first prize, and with the tournament director's stated goal being an end-of-day field of 32, the 17th level looked a lock to be the day's last.
Indeed, the final three eliminations seemed to occur within the blink of the proverbial eye, but as places 35-33 were progressively being filled, Fredrik Nygard was playing the biggest pot of the tournament against Spanish loose cannon Juan Maceiras.
The hand saw Maceiras put Nygard all-in for his last $159,500 on the river of a rainbow-colored T-6-4-7-7 board and with over $200,000 already in the pot. The Finn went into the tank, but emerged to insta-call the moment Macieras dared call the clock on him, tabling an offsuit T-9 for tens-up and inducing a muck from the defeated Maceiras.
Nygard would finish the day as chip leader, holding $609,500, while PokerListings.com interview subject Ludovic Lacay is his closest competition with $513,000. Also still in the hunt are PokerStars-sponsored pro Sebastian Ruthenberg, as well as Maceiras (incredibly, sixth in chips with $266,500) and Manuel "Why iz poker? Because iz poker" Bevand. Get full chip counts here.
Action resumes at noon CET Friday from the basement of the Hilton in Prague and will continue until only eight finalists remain. That's 4 a.m. Mountain time, so set your alarms and wake up early for the feeding frenzy that is sure to characterize the penultimate day of the EPT's 2008. Get your fix on PokerListings.com or via our new PokerListings Twitter program - all the kids are doing it!