The final 24 players in this year's PokerStars European Poker Tour San Remo reconvened Monday in the atmospheric theater which has been the venue for the latter stages of the tournament since last year. Nicolas Yunis from Chile was in pole position, the only player over 2 million, but by the end of the day, Yunis would be long gone and Max Heinzelmann and Rupert Elder would be virtually tying for the chip lead, the former making his second consecutive final table and hoping to go one better than his runner up spot at EPT Berlin, the latter already guaranteed his biggest-ever live score. Elder is just a shade ahead on 8,005,000 to Heinzelmann's 7,885,000. Between them, they have over half the chips in play. Team PokerStars Pro Max Lykov is also still in the running and although he is among the short stacks, he could yet become our first ever double EPT winner.
First to hit the rail was Nicola Boldini, the Italian's failed to outdraw Xuan Liu's pocket jacks, despite flopping a flush draw. Boldini took 24th place for a not-too-shabby €25,000. He was followed out the door by fellow countryman Nicola Grieco in 23rd and then our last two Frenchmen Freddy Darakjian and David Lichentin in 22nd and 21st places respectively.
"I hate knocking out my friend," said Joe Cada upon busting Fabrizio Cataldi in 20th place. But whether or not Cada liked it, Cataldi moved in with and Cada called with pocket queens, sending the Uruguayan home with €25,000 and briefly giving Cada the chip lead - until he doubled up Antonino Venneri the next hand, Venneri's pocket threes held against Cada's . Cada flirted with the chip lead again when he eliminated Luca Cavecchi in 19th place with jacks against the Italian's - but it wouldn't last.
There followed the exits of Luciano Longhitano in 18th, Kamal Choraria in 17th and Nicolas Yunis in 16th - the overnight chip leader four-bet shoved with and smacked into Max Heinzelmann's . Marco Fabbrini was picked off in 15th place by Max Lykov holding which rivered a Broadway straight against Fabbrini's , and Heinzelmann claimed another tournament scalp in the shape of Diego Bolzoni in 14th place.
Joe Cada lost several small to medium sized pots meaning that he was soon reduced to short-stack status. His end came when he got his whole stack in with but was in poor shape against Max Heinzelmann's . Cada flopped a flush draw but the board ran out to dash the 2009 World Champion's hopes of an EPT title this time around. This pot propelled Heinzelmann into the lead ahead of Rupert Elder who had dominated for much of the day.
Heinzelmann cemented his chip lead busting Andrew Teng 20 minutes later, his made a flush against Teng's to send the Brit home in 12th place for €40,000. Elder soon caught up with the German however, knocking out Marco Bognanni in 11th place to put him and Heinzelmann at around 8 million chips apiece.
Antonino Venneri fell in 10th place for €50,000 when he snap-called all in with on the river of a board. Xuan Liu, who already knows what it's like to win here after taking down the €1,000 side event at IPT San Remo late last year, showed him for the full house and he was gone.
Down to an unofficial nine-handed final table, it took just one hand for Luigi Pignataro to exit in ninth place and end the day. Costantino Russo opened under the gun and Pignataro pushed from the big blind with pocket eights. Russo snap-called with aces, and with that the official eight-handed final table was reached.
The final table will start at 1200 CEST (0300 PDT) and the whole thing will be broadcast direct to your computers on EPT Live. We will also be there to report on all the action, so join us back at PokerNews.com to see who will take home the €930,000 top prize and the coveted EPT trophy. In the meantime you can see what Rupert Elder had to say when Laura Cornelius spoke to him earlier in the day.
For up-to-the-minute news, follow us on Twitter.