The penultimate Main Event of the PokerStars.com European Poker Tour before the rebranding to the PokerStars Championships gathered a field of 134 entrants at the Casino Portomaso. After eight levels of 75 minutes each, only 61 of them bagged up chips and Dan Shak snatched the lead in the very last hand with 185,100 to edge out Pasi Sormunen's 183,500.
The first of two starting days came with an insane rush for Ireland's Mahmood Rasheed, who shot to the top of the leader boards with full house over full house and quads, only to see Martin Kozlov double through him with quads. Rasheed was gone by the time dinner called after level six and Kozlov followed him to the rail in the last two levels of the night when his aces didn't hold up.
Sormunen took over on the very same table and busted players left and right, the Finn had accumulated almost six times the starting stack at the end of level six and the Finn seemed destined to be in the spotlight after Day 1a. Rasheed, Max Silver, Stephan Zesiger and Dario Sammartino were just some of his victims.
Among the other early casualties were Caitlin Hall, EPT12 Dublin 5th place finisher Iliodoros Kamatakis and Jorryt van Hoof. Fatima Moreira de Melo had her aces cracked when Anatoly Korochenskiy turned quads tens and the German High Roller regulars Philipp Gruissem and Martin Finger lasted less than half an hour each before also joining the rail. After coming back from dinner, Pierre Neuville, Theo Jorgensen, Ben Heath, Scott Seiver, early big stack Graydon Kowal, Connor Drinan, Davide Suriano, Anthony Zinno and Justin "Boosted J" Smith ran out of chips, Steve O'Dwyer also failed to make Day 2.
The rise of Shak started just before dinner. In a three-bet pot, the American got it in with a jack-high flush draw against Luke Marsh's ace-queen and hit a jack on the river for a massive double. In the last hand of the night, Shak busted Ghassan Bitar after hero-calling with pocket queens on a flush draw and paired board.
Another two big hands then highlighted the end of Day 1a.
A single-raised hand led to a ten-high flop, and the stacks of [Removed:155], Jeroen Soons and Thomas Rauhut collided. Rauhut had pocket aces, Soons ten-eight for top two pair and Brand pocket tens for top set. Both the turn and river bricked and Brand knocked out Rauhut while almost tripling up in the process. Brand bagged up 163,300 and claimed the last spot on the overnight podium.
And then, the two former EPT champions Oleksii Khoroshenin and Frederik Jensen clashed. Jensen had previously scored a lucky double through Sormunen and flat-called against a limp and the raise of Khoroshenin out of the big blind. Khoroshenin fired two barrels on a paired jack-high board and check-called the river shove with four-deuce for jacks and deuces only to see Jensen turn over queen-jack for trips.
Jensen bagged up 147,800 and is closely followed by German poker prodigy Ole Schemion with 147,500. Schemion finished 6th in the €25,750 Super High Roller earlier today before registering for the Main Event. Other big stacks and notables include Guillaume Valle (143,200), Thomas Mjeldheim (139,700), Dmitry Yurasov (126,500) and Aliaksei Boika (125,100). The top 10 after Day 1a all have different nationalities. Further notables through to Day 2 are Roman Korenev (109,200), Brian Altman (105,300), Charlie Carrel (87,300) and Stephen Chidwick (80,900).
While Day 2 recommences on Tuesday at 12 p.m. local time, the second and bigger starting day kicks off tomorrow at the very same time. The PokerNews live reporting team will be back to provide all the action and you can then also follow updates for the €10,300 Single-Day High Roller as well.