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Apparently Italians love poker because they came out in droves for the European Poker Tour’s first ever event in Italy. The registration line was so long that people were waiting in the streets as people itched to become part of the action that was the EPT San Remo event, and the event sold out as 337 people paid a €5,000 buy-in for Day 1a. Even more people were seated for Day 2, and the event has turned out to be the second biggest EPT tournament of the year so far. Only 500 seats were initially planned for, but the maximum number of players was expanded to 700 in order to accommodate all the interest. This generated a massive €3,195,860 prize pool, with €869,000 for first place.

Team PokerStars pros Daniel Negreanu, Tom McEvoy, Vanessa Rousso, Raymond Rahme, Lee Nelson, Dario Minieri, Luca Pagano, and Katja Thater all represented the online sponsor for the event, and over 160 players qualified for EPT San Remo through online PokerStars satellites.

337 players started Day 1a, but only around 95 survived to see Day 2. Thater was one of the early casualties despite an early double-up with a set; she lost her in the first few levels after running into pocket kings with her pocket tens. One of the most famous (and sexy) faces in the room, Patrik Antonius, also went out in the first few levels, bluffing his stack off to someone who couldn’t fold trips.

Not all the sexy people busted, though. Liz Lieu got some nice cards throughout the day – including rockets versus someone else’s pocket jacks – and built up a decent stack that would return to action on Day 2. Some other survivors of Day 1a included past EPT winner Brandon Schaefer, Roland de Wolfe, and earlier mentioned PokerStars pro Rahme. Two PokerStars pros that were playing on home soil, Minieri and Pagano, both survived Day 1a as well. Ville Nyman, a Finland native, finished the day with the chip lead.

If you searching for an interesting tidbit from Day 1a, you’ll be pleased to know that someone spent part of their Day 1a watching the movie Rounders on their iPod Nano. I love that movie and everything (even though I find Oreos disgusting), but who does that? Eh, maybe getting live reads is overrated or something.

As foreshadowed earlier, Day 1b was even bigger than Day 1a, and it featured some huge names including Negreanu, Todd Brunson, Mike McDonald, Isabelle Mercier, and Antonio Esfandiari. The Casino San Remo was absolutely jammed with spectators, creating a navigational challenge for any players or media trying to get around the building.

Esfandiari started out Day 1b out great, flopping quad sevens over his opponents rivered set of queens, helping him finish the day with a top ten chip stack. He actually had one of five dealt quads over the course of the day. Apparently Gino Alacqua even had a royal flush sometime during the day, winning chips from a player who, unfortunately (for him), had a full house. Some other notable survivors of Day 1b included Brunson and Juha Helppi. Helppi actually chipped up quite a bit during the last hour of play and wound up with a healthy 6th place chip stack. It was Anthony Lellouche, a France native, who finished with the chip lead at the end of the day, however.

Some notable Day 1b busts included Mercier, Lee Nelson, Tony G, and EPT Prague champion Arnaud Mattern. The interesting tidbit of the day was thanks to Soren Jensen, the second place finisher of the recently played EPT Scandinavian Open, known for screaming loudly and flailing his arms around every time he won a pot. Day 1b of the San Remo event was no different, and he let out a couple victory cries as he survived the day and moved on to Day 2.

Around 200 players gathered at the San Remo Casino today (yesterday by Italian standards) to play another day of poker and see who would move on to Day 3. The day started out fast and furious with almost 50 players busting within the first hour of play. Esfandiari was one of those players, pushing top pair into a set after becoming significantly short-stacked. Negreanu left the field early, as well, despite getting lucky and beating pocket aces with his A3. His day ended after an opponent pushed a queen high flop with a pair of queens and Negreanu called with ace high.

Some other notable busts included that of de Wolfe and Miss Lieu. De Wolfe thought he was going to double up after getting it in with pocket queens versus pocket jacks, but his opponent spiked a jack on the river. “I knew that card was coming,” he said after the hand was over. Lieu made it to the top 72 and, consequently, the money, but she got bad beat a couple too many times and then lost the rest of her stack when she couldn’t suck out herself with A8 versus an opponent’s QQ.

Indeed everyone who survived Day 3 was guaranteed a cash, but most of the field was focused on going deep and making the big bucks. One player who did great the entire day was Eric Koskas of France, who had apparently made it his goal to run over his table every chance he got. He raised almost every pot and knocked countless players out of the event. He will definitely be looking to make the final table when play resumes tomorrow (or today, if you are reading from Italy). Mineri also did extremely well on Day 3, to the delight of the Italian crowd. He battled back from a small stack before the dinner break but quickly doubled up twice to get back in contention. The big winner of the day was American Jason Mercier, however. He finished the day with 684,000 chips, good for the top stack at the end of the day.

With a huge prize pool and some talented players remaining, this tournament is sure to become even more exciting with two more days remaining in the schedule. Come back to the FTR blogs on Saturday because dthorne04 will be covering the end of this first Italian EPT event.