Of the big 1,200-plus player field at this year's EPT Barcelona Main Event, nearly a quarter of those who entered earned their way in as online qualifiers. Looking at the list of almost 700 players returning for Day 2, around 175 of the qualifiers are still in the hunt to make the money and possibly win a coveted EPT trophy.
All of the qualifiers bring with them interesting stories about the paths that brought them here, tales that begin in each case with a few innocuous mouse clicks. And the deeper they get in the event, the cooler their stories become.
Among the qualifiers returning today is Harley Stoffmaker of Montreal, Canada. About a month ago Stoffmaker eyed some vacation time this week that would free him from his job working with management for Target Canada, and soon he formulated an idea to try to win himself a trip to Spain.
"This was the only time I could do it," Stoffmaker explained to us just before the start of play today. "We're going to be opening up a bunch of stores during the coming year and it's going to be busy," he added.
A regular live player -- "mostly $2/$5, $5/$5, $5/$10, some tournaments," he says -- Stoffmaker also has enjoyed some online success, his busy job making playing on PokerStars a good alternative when he can't get to the live games.
"I once chopped the Big $162," he told us, "and I won the $55 that same night. I won the Hot $16.50 once, and last year chopped a MicroMillions, too."
We remembered the MicroMillions finish, coming in March 2012 when Stoffmaker managed to turn an $11 buy-in into a $10,750 payday after taking fifth place following a deal.
He had never satellited into a live event, however, until this one. Having settled upon trying a €530 buy-in satellite a few weeks back, Stoffmaker encountered a small obstacle.
"I had given myself a self-exclusion not to play any tourneys with buy-ins more than $530, so when I went to register for the €530 event I couldn't. So I unbanned myself, waited the 24 hours, and was able to play. There were about 120 entrants and it awarded 11 seats or so, and I ran really well and won my seat."
Yesterday Stoffmaker managed to make it through Day 1B to return to a stack of 50,100, thanks in part to a couple of successful final levels.
"I was down to like 30,000 after a hand in which I probably should have lost a lot more," he told us. "I had trips against a guy's full house, but he just flatted the river with the second nuts. I was able to run it up after that, though, with no showdowns and three- and four-betting a lot."
Stoffmaker has yet to explore Barcelona too much as yet although he has enjoyed the nice weather this week. He does have at least one excursion into the city planned, however.
"This week is actually Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year," he pointed out, noting that his family wasn't exactly crazy about him leaving them for this week, although having the rare vacation time he had to take the opportunity.
"There is one of the oldest synagogues in Europe here in Barcelona, so I was thinking I'd go in the morning one time this week to pray," he explained. "Maybe even for a little run good," he added, his grin mischievously matching the one sported by Cat in the Hat on the t-shirt he's wearing today.
Stoffmaker has already made a lot of his first EPT experience, and like everyone else still with chips he's hoping to make a lot more of it -- and thereby make his Barcelona story even cooler.
Click through to live coverage of the EPT Barcelona Main Event. Check out all the festival results here or take a look at what happened in the EPT Barcelona Super High Roller. Follow the @PokerStarsBlog Twitter account to keep up-to-date with all the EPT action and check out the EPTLive webcast.
Martin Harris is Freelance Contributor to the PokerStars Blog.