The Casino at the Empire in London is the center of the poker universe this week as the 2010 WSOP Europe Main Event Championship is now underway.
The Main Event attracted 346 entries, which represents a slight increase in participation over last year.  The total prize pool amounts to £3,460,000, equal to about $5,475,363 (USD).  The top 36 places will collect prize money. 
Virtually every tournament table and seat at London’s swanky Casino at the Empire was filled to capacity as many of the world’s top players appeared eager to try and win the very last open gold bracelet still up for grabs in 2010.  This is the final WSOP gold bracelet tournament starting day of the calendar year.
This year’s WSOP Europe Main Event attracted one player who had pretty much disappeared from the poker scene for more than a decade.  Noel Furlong, the 1999 world champion, was a surprise late entry.  During a break in the action, Furlong explained he had been staying in London while WSOP Europe was being played.  When he learned his flight back home to Dublin was delayed, he decided to “kill some time” and non-chalantly plucked down the £10,000 fee to enter. 
Furlong walked around the Empire Casino virtually unrecognized.  Now age 73, the mystery man who has become a Howard Hughes-like figure in the poker world, has not entered a WSOP event since his stunning victory in the Main Event 11 years ago.  When asked if he misses the game, he snapped “no.”  The crusty silver-haired Irishman now spends most of his time running a successful carpeting business which he has turned into a multi-million dollar enterprise.  He also continues to dabble in horseracing during his free time.  When asked the last time he remembered playing poker, Furlong paused for a few moments and finally growled, “I can’t remember."

Furlong was eliminated late in the day by Carlos Mortensen, who oddly enough won the WSOP Main Event in 2001, two years after the Irishman's unlikley Las Vegas triumph.
Aside from Furlong and Mortensen, other world champions who entered this year’s Main Event included – Phil Hellmuth, Huck Seed, and Chris “Jesus” Ferguson.
Four events have already been held this year at WSOP Europe.  The three previous event winners were Phil Laak (£2,500 buy-in Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em), Jeffrey Lisandro (£5,000 buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha), and Scott Shelley (£1,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em).  Laak and Lisandro both entered the tournament, with Lisandro already among the list of those surviving Day One.  Laak remains alive at this stage on Day Two.

All three former WSOP Europe Main Event champions entered this year's tournament.  Annette Obrestad, the 2007 winner, was eliminated early on Day One.  John Juanda, the 2008 champion, survived the first day.  Barry Shulman, the defending champion from 2009, was still alive when this report was filed.

At the time of this writing the £10,000 buy-in High-Roller Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em Championship had been paused in order to allow the final two players – Gus Hansen and Jim Collopy – to participate in the Main Event.  The Heads-Up finale will take place at a time and place to be announced later.

For more information about WSOP Europe, including live tournament updates, please click HERE.