Xanthopoulos, Manquat Lead Charge on Day 1a of Battle of Malta

Pavlos Xanthopoulos Day 1a chip leader IMG 0170
Pavlos Xanthopoulos

Pavlos Xanthopoulos and Clément Brunet Manquat took advantage of Day 1a of the 2016 Battle of Malta and built stacks that easily surpassed 200k.

Xanthopoulos, the second Greek player to ever win a WSOP gold bracelet, locked up the overnight chip lead with 245k chips.

Manquat had a very strong day, that saw him peak at 300k, but he cooled off towards the end of play to finish with 221k.

This year’s 271 entries was actually down slightly from the 305 on Day 1a last year but pre-registration has been very strong for Days 1b and 1c. A massive turnout is still expected for the event.

Poker Pros, Celebs Convene for Day 1a

While Day 1a will undoubtedly be the smallest this year it wasn’t lacking in compelling stories.

Proust knight3
Sir Nicolas Proust

Maria Ho led things off by giving the shuffle up and deal with a couple of Maltese knights as her escort.

European poker pros Andreas Hoivold, Peter Eichhardt, Chris Björin and Fabio Assenato were in attendance.

Perhaps more interesting, however, were the number of celebs who came out for this year’s contest.

Former Swedish National Team goalkeeper Magnus Hedman, Norwegian rapper Petter “Katastrofe” Kristiansen and glamor model Linni Meister all hit the felt with varying degrees of poker experience.

It was also a day of champions as reigning champ Nicolas Proust and 2013 winner Louis Cartarius both joined in on the action.

Maria Ho shuffle up IMG 9838
Maria Ho getting things started.

The amenable Proust even wore a knight’s smock beneath his hoodie to rep the Battle of Malta brand.

Around 90 players including Proust, Hedman, Björin and Jackie “Poker Mama” Cachia survived the day but will have to wait a couple days to come back and play on Saturday for Day 2.

Day 1b kicks off tomorrow at the Portomaso Casino at 2 p.m. local time with a massive turnout expected.

You can follow along in real-time via the Battle of Malta homepage with live updates, news, blogs, videos and more.

Here's a look at the top 10 chip counts to end the day:

1. Pavlos Xanthopoulos - 246,300
2. Clement Brunet Manquant - 221,000
3. Markus Larsson - 205,000
4. Raffaele Sorrentino - 198,700
5. Mattias Lundkvist - 196,700
6. Giulio Spampinato - 190,700
7. Martynas Racinskas - 186,000
8. Rasmus Eriksson - 179,100
9. Gusto La Mattina - 171,100
10. Johan Nilssen - 123,600

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