The European Poker Tour kicked back into action in a big way on Saturday. At the Monte Carlo casino in Monaco, the Main Event for the EPT Monte Carlo opened the first of its two-Day Ones with a sizeable field and a player who sent players out almost as quick as they arrived.

Bright and early at noon on Saturday, the call rang out for the rebirth of the EPT Monte Carlo Main Event. The €5000 tournament was set to play identical ten-round days on both Saturday and Sunday before bringing everyone together for the first time on Monday. With 30,000 in chips, the players settled in for what they hoped would be a lengthy day and, if it turned out it wasn’t, they had a chance to re-enter the tournament one time. If THAT didn’t work, then the players would have the same option for Sunday’s action.

The early start (for poker players, at least) didn’t deter the top players in the game from coming out. Team PokerStars Pros Fatima Moreira de Melo, Celina Lin and Leo Fernandez were a part of the starting field, joined by the Global Poker Index number one player in the world Stephen Chidwick and Team PokerStars Pro Liv Boeree. Rounding out the star-studded field was former World Champion Ryan Riess, Nick Petrangelo, John Juanda, Dmitar Danchev, David Peters and Timothy Adams, among others.

From the beginning of the day, it was obvious that the field would be a large one. Even before the tournament made it out of the first level, 100 entries were cracked. It would only take another 90 minutes for another 100 entries to come to the felt. By the end of the day, 282 entries had been received, with 37 players utilizing the re-entry option to get back in the game.

One of the welcome returns to the EPT Monte Carlo was Victoria Coren-Mitchell. The only player in the history of the EPT to win two Main Events, Coren-Mitchell was out in Monaco to try for an unprecedented third title, but it wasn’t to be (at least for Saturday). Coren-Mitchell was one of those players who utilized the re-entry, with that second entry being chopped down by Mark Demirdjian. In that hand, Coren-Mitchell woke up with pocket Jacks, only to run into the pocket Aces of Demirdjian next to her; a board with no Knaves sent the British champion to the rail, but she’s already said she’ll be back on Sunday for another shot at the prize.

Demirdjian was by far the star of the Day 1A action. It seemed as if he couldn’t make a mistake at any point. After knocking off Coren-Mitchell for the day, Demirdjian would also take out Chidwick in another dramatic situation. The twosome got into a raising battle, resulting in Chidwick’s chips hitting the center of the felt, and he had to feel good about his pocket Jacks over the A♦ 10♦ of Demirdjian pre-flop.

If poker were a game determined pre-flop, then Chidwick would have been gold. In fact, after the 6-J-5 no-diamond flop, he put a hammerlock on Demirdjian, having him drawing to ONLY a runner-runner straight (a 1.62% chance) for any shot at winning. When a Queen came on the turn, those odds improved, but only to a 9% chance. The thunderbolt of a King on the river completely changed the fortunes of the two men, rocketing Demirdjian up the leaderboard and sending Chidwick storming from the tournament arena until he blew off the steam and came back later in the day’s play.

Those two knockouts by Demirdjian, along with some more aggressive play, allowed him to accumulate a massive stack of chips by the end of the night. With his 350,500 in chips, he was the dominant leader for Day 1A and has a serious shot at having the overall lead at the end of Day 1B tomorrow (chip counts unofficial):

1. Mark Demirdjian, 350,500
2. Nick Petrangelo, 213,000
3. Makoto Haga, 198,600
4. Dan Abouaf, 193,000
5. David Peters, 191,300
6. Conor Beresford, 181,500
7. Igor Yaroshevskyy, 173,000
8. Eric Sfez, 172,500
9. Norberto Andres Korn, 162,900
10. Boris Kuzmanovic, 152,100

Out of the 282 entries, only 103 players survived.

If the usual trend holds, then Sunday should be a busy day in Monaco. Usually the final day of a multi-Day One tournament brings out throngs of players and there’s no reason not to believe this will happen on Sunday. It promises to make the reborn EPT Monte Carlo just as successful as their previous stops at the EPT PokerStars Caribbean Adventure back in January and the EPT Sochi at the end of March.

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