We didn't know much about Vilamoura before we jumped on the EPT bandwagon and rolled it into town. It was a region on the Algarve in Portugal, it was warm even in November and you couldn't take photos in the casino. That was about it.
In truth, we don't know that much more about the place as the sun sets on our first day in the neighbourhood. It's definitely warm, the Algarve is certainly a beautiful place, and they're sticklers about that photo law. But we can also now add this: it's a terrific spot for a poker tournament. The first day of the first ever EPT event in Vilamoura has just wrapped, and it was as good as any we've encountered on the tour.
The three men who enjoyed it most were probably the Team PokerStars Pro from Holland, Ruben Visser, the PokerStars qualifier from Lithuania, Dominykas Karmazinas and the Austrian Ljubomir Josipovic. There are several ways to build a stack, and each of them found their own path to success.
Visser and Karmazinas were on the radar for most of the day, always sitting with piles of chips, but deep in the final level they each won monstrous pots to take them into six figures. Visser busted Guillaume De La Gorce - a boat of sixes full of nines against a jack-high flush - while Karmazinas flopped a king-high flush to oust Tyler Bonkowski's aces. Their respective opponents were each chipped up too, but only wound up contributing the lions' shares of Visser's overnight 172,400 and Karmazinas' 183,000.
Those hands sent the pair up to the heights enjoyed by Josipovic for most of the day. The Austrian played the classic day 1a wrecking ball, knocking out player after player, including the Frenchman Ludovic Lacay, and sat atop the leaderboard since the very early stages. Josipovic finished with 192,900, which will keep him there overnight.
Six Team PokerStars Pros started the day and while none could quite match Visser's achievements, Katja Thater (14,500), Chad Brown (21,500), Jason Mercier (53,900) and Joep van den Bijgaart (39,700) will also return for day two. Arnaud Mattern will not: his kings couldn't beat queens in the biggest pot he played, and Mattern slipped out of contention.
The PokerStars qualifier Matt Johns survived the day, more than doubling his stack on the first day of his first EPT. Johns bagged 61,500. Shaun Deeb is also lurking with characteristic menace. He has 61,200.
The full chip counts of the 76 remaining players from day one's 136 are over on the chip-count page.
Some video blogs from the day are over at PokerStars.tv and Neil Stoddart has been battling the Portuguese authorities to keep himself busy and bring us all the static photos.
Take a look back on all the action with any of the following links:
We'll be back tomorrow for day 1b - so will the likes of ElkY "Bertrand" Grospellier, Dario Minieri, Luca Pagano, and many, many more.