With torrential downpours, gale-force winds and that godawful band (not to mention the prospect of tournament under-enrollment creating the need for a substantial overlay to meet the advertised €3 million prize pool) acting against it, the second flight of the first day of the Irish Open did not begin until 2:30 p.m. (GMT) on Friday.
After a last-minute complement of €250 "spin-off" satellites, a peculiar form of insanity whereby players were each dealt a single hand to determine who got the tournament ticket, registration finally closed with a total of 667 players registered and paid up for the event. This meant the total prize pool came in under the advertised, but sponsor Max Pescatori, Dario Minieri, APPT-Macau champ Dinh Le and the Headmaster himself in the form of Liam Flood.
As these things are wont to be, the first few levels of play were fairly, well, boring, with plenty of small pots and pre-ante folding spiced up by the Darwinian spectacle of the tournament's weakest links committing their fortunes to oblivion on the strength, or lack thereof, of such hands as 9-9 and K-Q. By the end of the first level five unfortunates had found their way to the rail.
With 60-minute levels and $10,000 starting stacks, however, things were bound to get real pretty quickly, and among the first victims of that realness was EPT3 Dortmund champ Andreas Hoivold.
The Ladbrokes pro made the bizarre decision of getting his last $2,500 all-in in the dark after his $450 pre-flop raise was flat-called. After the flop came Q-10-x with two clubs, his opponent decided to play along, calling with A♣ J♣ and turning the club flush to blow the Norwegian's pocket sevens out of the water.
Hoivold's elimination would mark the beginning of a flurry of high-profile bustifications, with Ben Grundy, Arnaud Mattern and Mark Teltscher all hitting the rails. The latter's farewell hand was the most painful, as the Cityboy got all-in having flopped a spade flush with 8♠ 4♠, only to be looked up by an opponent with K♠ K♥ who managed to river another spade and beat Teltscher with the higher flush.
After a confusing mid-level/multiway dinner break, Dario Minieri found himself consigned to the rail after getting all-in with kings against an opponent with aces. He'd be followed by Dinh Le, Steve Zolotow, Max Pescatori and Mickey Wernick, the latter sent packing courtesy of Full Tilt Poker BMOC Ray Bitar's pocket aces.
Late-day eliminations would include Bitar himself, as well as Ottawa, Ont.'s Leo Kam, who was sent packing in unfortunate fashion after getting all-in grand with A-Q against A-J on an ace-high flop, only to see his opponent hit a runner-runner heart flush for the suck-out. Also eliminated late were Bruno Fitoussi, Markus Lehmann and Daniel Zink.
Meanwhile, the confusingly named Knut Rysstad and French player Eric Larcheveque were trading blows in an arms race at the top of the chip leaderboard late in the day. Rysstad built a $65,000 stack after a monster three-way hand that saw him all-in with pocket kings against opponents with queens and K-10, but Larcheveque soon countered by amassing over $80,000 when he flopped a set of threes and found an opponent willing to dump $30k in his direction with naught but ace-high.
As the clock ticked toward closing, Rysstad seemed to strike the decisive blow when he had the good fortune to be dealt pocket aces with two players all-in (7-7 and A-K) ahead of him. The rockets held and the Scandi was up to $90,000, but at the time of closing the French media contingent who berth beside the PokerListings.com exclusive media lounge could be heard gleefully celebrating their own player's $99,400 stack. So Eric Larcheveque is chip leader, but don't expect Knut Rysstad to take it sitting down.
Action will resume tomorrow at 2 p.m. (GMT) and, we hear, will continue over another eight levels plus confusing dinner-break scenario, meaning a wrap at about half-midnight again. Along with Day 1b's 148 or so survivors, we'll say hello again to Doyle Brunson, Sorel Mizzi et al. tomorrow as the field is combined into a single uberfield and with any luck, we'll make the money bubble by the bag 'n' tag.
Wherever we end up, PokerListings.com will be present and accounted for throughout the proceedings, bringing you the most comprehensive coverage available of the closest thing the Euros have to March Madness next to when ITV ran that Footballers' Wives marathon a couple weeks ago. It's no San Diego vs. UConn, but we'd like to see De'Jon Jackson decipher our references. Bye!