The Casino at the Empire in London is the center of the poker universe this week, as the 2010 edition of WSOP Europe Main Event Championship continues.
Day 1-B, the second of two starting days designed as A and B, ended with James Mitchell (London, UK) holding the chip lead. He holds a slight edge over second-placer John Dolan (Bonita Springs, FL USA), who is one of this year's November Nine. Mitchell is best known in poker circles for winning the Irish Open championship, held in April of this year.
The chip leader from Day 1-A was Nicolas Levi (London, UK), with 153,850 in chips.
That means James Mitchell is currenlty the overall tournament chip leader, with both surviving fields combined. The average stack size is about 52,000. Players began with 30,000 in chips.
There are 195 players still remaining, which is about two-thirds of the starting field. Among those who survived the initial 12-hour days were Antonio Esfandiari, Eli Elezra, Carlos Mortensen, Phil Ivey, Barry Shulman, Jennifer Tilly, John Racener, Dan Shak, Phil Laak, Roland de Wolfe, J.P. Kelly, Mike Matusow, Nenad Medic, Kathy Liebert, Daniel Negreanu, J.C. Tran, Praz Bansi, Greg Mueller, Barry Greenstein, Freddy Deeb, Nick Schulman, Pascal LeFrancios, Allen Cunningham, Huck Seed, David Baker, Hoyt Corkins, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Ted Lawson, Vitaly Lunkin, John Juanda, Jeffrey Lisandro, Erik Seidel, Farzad Bonyadi, Chris Bjorin, Jason Mercier and others.
Interestingly, three members of the 2010 Novermber Nine still remain alive -- including Filippo Candio, John Dolan and John Racener.
Among those who less fortunate were David Benyamine, David "Devilfish" Ulliott, Men "the Master" Nguyen, Max Pescatori, James Akenhead, Dan Heimiller, Robert Mizrachi, Jeff Madsen, Frank Kassela, Michael "the Grinder" Mizrachi, Phil Hellmuth and others.
This year's Main Event attracted 346 entries, which represents a slight increase in participation over last year. The total prize pool will amount to £3,460,000, equal to about $5,475,363 (USD). The top 36 finishers will collect prize money. First place will pay £830,401, equal to about $1,314,176 (USD).
When the day began at noon, virtually every tournament table and seat at London’s swanky Casino at the Empire was filled to capacity. 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.
An insteresting side note was this year’s WSOP Europe Main Event attracting 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 none other than poker icon Phil Ivey, who oddly enough won his first of eight career gold bracelets back in 1999, the same year of Furlong's stunning triumph. Following his bust out, it was not known if Furlong managed to make it back to Heathrow in time to catch his flight.
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 gold bracelet 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 among those surviving Day One. Laak also remains alive at this stage, with a healthy-sized stack.
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 also still alive at the conclusion of Day One with a stack that was well above average.
Day Two will take place on Saturday at 12 noon in London at the Empire Casino. Day Three is played on Sunday. Day Four comes Monday, which will play down to the final nine. The final table will be played on Tuesday. Tournament re-start times for all days take place at noon.
The overall numbers from WSOP Europe are up from last year. Although five events were played in 2010 -- up from four in 2009 -- the total prize pool increased, even when omitting the new Heads-Up event introduced this year. The total amount of prize money awarded in 2010 amounts to £6,282,000. 
Note: At the time of this writing the £10,000 buy-in High-Roller Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em Championship has 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 is tied at 1-1 in a best-of-three format. The conclusion 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.
FOOTNOTE : A 2010 to 2009 comparison shows that £5,252,000 was awarded for four events (omitting this year's Heads-Up championship, a new addition to the schedule) versus £5,113,000 last year.