The PokerStars.com UK & Ireland Poker Tour arrived at a new venue for the first-ever event based in the Isle of Man. Of course, it was no coincidence that the island is also host to the headquarters of PokerStars, very much making this “home territory” as far as the organizers of the UKIPT were concerned.
On Day 1a, 113 players entered the £1,100 Main Event, but after eight levels of fast-paced action, it was Dara O'Kearney who was left as the chip leader going into Day 2 with 112,100 in chips. The Irishman had a very slow start, dropping down to around 18,000 midway through the day before he flew up to the very top of the leader board in the last couple of levels. Indeed, for most of the day it looked to be Niall Farrell who would dominate the counts, as the Scotsman was the first player to break six-figures, but he lost several large pots near the end of the evening to fall back a bit. Even so, Farrell wrapped up the day in ninth place overall with 73,600 in chips.
Day 1a Top 10 Chip Counts
With many of the Team PokerStars Pros flying in from Barcelona today after a special advertising shoot, it was left to PokerStars Team Online members Mickey Petersen and Andre Coimbra to fly the flag for the company. Coimbra was eliminated late on the day against Caleb Sheridan, a staff member of the Rational Group (the parent company of both PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker).
There were plenty of Rational Group staff members playing in this event, a special one-off dispensation for people who work for PokerStars or Full Tilt Poker and are usually not allowed to play events that are organized by either company live or online. In an effort to show full transparency, all staff members were fully kitted up with special staff patches featuring the famous three-legged symbol of the Isle of Man.
Despite the expectation of this tournament drawing a smaller field than usual, it had not stopped several notable big names from entering the field, especially with the potential of a big overlay. Dominik Nitsche, who finished third in the World Series of Poker Europe Main Event barely a week ago was back in action here grinding on Day 1a, having already got his first ever Manx flag with a min-cash in the £150 side event the night before.
Also appearing was David Yan, the New Zealander finished 12th in the European Poker Tour London Main Event. He started off incredibly well as the early chip leader before losing a sizeable pot to Petersen. Yan did make it through the end with 39,800, though.
Players who won't be coming back on Saturday include Full Tilt Poker Tour Ambassador Dermot Blain. The Irishman and former winner of the Asia-Pacific Poker Tour Macau Main Event lost a big pot with a set to Sam Razavi's straight draw and was never able to recover. American Jason Wheeler ran top pair into top pair with a better kicker, while UKIPT Galway finalist Daragh Davey's fate was exactly the same. David Docherty's exit, meanwhile, was much more simple, running the into Priit Brikker's . Zoe Gillings was also on hand to try her luck in the event, but the Olympic snowboarder's tournament was curtailed rather early when she ran queens into Razavi's aces about halfway through the day. Razavi finished the day with an entirely respectable 61,600 in chips.
The Day 1a field was cut roughly in half, with 54 players advancing. There were lots of players who also have successfully navigated the minefield of the first eight levels to come back for Day 2, including Petersen (46,200), Alexander Schilt (101,400), Jamie O'Connor (105,900), and Chris Straghalis (102,300).
With only 113 players for the first starting day, the field is expected to be huge for tomorrow, especially given that 387 players will be needed just to meet the £500,000 guarantee. There will be numerous Team PokerStars Pros getting involved tomorrow, including the newly-crowned WSOP Player of the Year Daniel Negreanu. He'll be joined by Jason Mercier, Liv Boeree, Vanessa Rousso, and Jake Cody, among many others.
The PokerNews Live Reporting squad will be back at 12 p.m. local time for another eight levels of fun as we watch some of the biggest stars in poker make their UKIPT debut. While you wait for Day 1b to kick off, check out a tour of the island from PokerNews' Laura Cornelius: