Hellmuth, Mercier Draw Crowd at Partouche Main Event

Phil Hellmuth
Hellmuth is in the building.

The World Series of Poker Europe doesn’t start in Cannes until next month but big time poker has already arrived with the start of the Partouche Poker Tour main event yesterday.

With a €4 million guarantee, the Partouche Main Event is being billed as the "biggest tournament in Europe" and that's being reflected in the quality of players making their way to the Palm Beach Casino.

Following on the heels of the just-concluded WPT Paris hasn't hurt either, as a litany of poker pros have also made the trip down to the coast for the €8.500 buy-in tournament.

A total of 244 rounders came out on Day 1a, among them last year’s Partouche Poker Tour main event winner Vanessa Selbst, Men “the Master” Nguyen, Jean-Robert Bellande and Joe Cassidy.

Day 1b has brought out even more big names with the arrival of Hellmuth, Mercier, Phil Laak, Antonio Esfandiari, Michael Mizrachi, David Williams, Leo Margets, Chino Rheem, 2011 November Niner Phil Collins, Sorel Mizzi, Freddy Deeb and WPT Paris champ Matt Waxman.

Fabrice Soulier
Fab soul.

Leading a large contingent of French players and fresh off a final-table appearance at the latest Epic Poker League main event is Fabrice Soulier.

Joining him are a who's who of French poker including Anthony Lellouche, Ludovic Lacay, Nicolas Levi, Antoine Saout, Tristan Clemencon, Claire Renaut, Almira Skripchenko and Arnaud Mattern.

Big names that survived Day 1 include Cassidy (102,800), Mattern (102,500), Selbst (86,200) and Max Lykov (22,500).

Chip leader after Day 1a is Lionel Anton (179,800) followed by Julien Pavon (162,800) and Canadian Samuel Chartier (158,800).

Last year the Partouche Main Event drew 764 players and generated a €5.6 million prize pool. Selbst took home €1.3 million for the win, easily topping the £830.000 James Bord took for winning the WSOPE Main Event.

Action is already underway today for Day 1b. Follow along in the Partouche live blog (in French) from Cannes here.

Best Poker Sites - Editor`s Pick