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Day 1A - The 2006 Bicycle Casino Legends of Poker

The World Poker Tour Returns With Legends of Poker Event; Elite Field Features 234 Of Poker's Top No Limit Hold'em Players

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The first impression made on day 1A of the World Poker Tour Bicycle Casino Legends of Poker hit like a rock straight to the head - goodbye World Series of Poker.

Unlike the online-qualifier-dominated cattle calls of WSOP events, the LOP featured a much smaller field made up almost entirely of big-name poker pros and seasoned tournament veterans. On day 1A (the first of two day ones), an elite roster of 234 players turned out for a shot at a $1.5 million first-place cash prize, and the bragging rights inherent to a WPT tournament victory.

During the 30 minutes prior to the day 1A start time, the first half of the expected 500 entrant total field mingled in the halls of the Bicycle Casino. Other than catching up with opponents not seen since the WSOP, many of the players discussed the big change made to the 2006 LOP, namely, the increased buy-in.

Previously $5,000, the tournament held in the famous Bell Gardens California cardroom now boasted a $10,000 entry fee, and the addition (no pun intended) garnered widespread approval.

"I don't think there's a reason to have a $5,000 buy-in anymore," FullTilt team member Erick Lindgren said on day 1A. "The fields are so big I don't mind narrowing them down a little."

While the numbers may have been trimmed, the LOP remained fat and happy with talent. Some of the biggest names in the sport gathered in the secluded tournament area as the first cards hit the air at 2 p.m. PST with $50-$100 blinds and $20,000 stacks.

In a field loaded with top tier pros, two tables stood out for having particularly tough draws. In one corner of the room Hasan Habib, Ted Forrest, Blair Rodman, Patrik Antonius, and "Captain" Tom Franklin all squared off, while a table at the center of action featured Surinder Sunar, David Matthew, Harry Demetriou, Scotty Nguyen, Cyndy Violette, Steve Brecher, and Alfredo "Toto" Leonidas.

Two members of the 2006 World Series of Poker main event final table also participated on day 1A: fourth- and third-place finishers Allen Cunningham and Michael Binger.

Phil Hellmuth, a player with a memorable 2006 WSOP for winning his record-tying 10th bracelet, also showed up for first-day action at the LOP…eventually. "The Poker Brat" made his customary late appearance, arriving over two-and-a-half hours after the start time.

Despite the tardiness, Hellmuth wasted no time in establishing a presence among the tournament field. He made a dramatic all-in call, pushing both his chips and his body into the pot, on a hand that saw him eliminate an opponent with a set of jacks over a set of sevens.

In a case of mistaken affiliations, an opponent thought Hellmuth represented FullTilt instead of UltimateBet and drew a laugh from the surrounding tables, and an f-bomb said during a conversation with observer Gavin Smith landed Hellmuth a 10-minute penalty, an opportunity he, Smith, and Layne Flack used to start up a side game of Chinese poker.

In the middle of all the extracurricular activities, Hellmuth squared off a number of times, to mixed results, with actual FullTilt rep Erik Seidel. On one hand, Hellmuth made a $500 preflop raise and Seidel called from the button. A Qspade 5club 2diamond flop brought checks, but the 6heart turn generated action as Seidel fired $800 into the pot. A relaxed Seidel ate sushi while Hellmuth stared him down. Eventually, Hellmuth mucked his hand, showing the Kclub 9club, and Seidel said "Good laydown."

After a chopped pot in which both players held 7-6, Seidel and Hellmuth tangled on their second big pot. The action started with Hellmuth calling a $1,500 bet by Seidel on a 6heart 4heart 2spade flop. Seidel stayed the aggressor, raising $4,000 on a Kdiamond turn and $7,000 after the 3diamond river. Hellmuth called both times, but mucked when Seidel flipped over the 5diamond 3club, giving him a flopped straight.

Seidel vs. Hellmuth stretched out over the course of the day, with the two pros battling yet again on one of the last hands of day 1A action. After a Seidel raise of $1,200 from the cutoff, Hellmuth called from the big blind. Seidel bet $1,700 on the Jheart 3spade 2diamond flop, then fired $4,200 after the Qdiamond turn. When the river brought the 5spade, Seidel pushed all in for his last $13,550 and Hellmuth called. The QclubJclub gave Seidel two pair, and a visibly upset Hellmuth tossed his cards before standing up and knocking over a service table.

While Seidel and Hellmuth attracted a lot of attention, Tuan Le made a steady, under-the-radar climb up the leaderboard. The Los Angeles-based pro, playing close to home, took the chip lead after calling an all-in bet by Jorge Walker on a 7-5-3 flop. Walker showed Q-7 for top pair, but Le took down the pot, and eliminated Walker from the tournament, when he turned over pocket fives, giving him a set.

The win bumped Le's stack up to a pack-leading $142,000.

Four minutes before the end of the sixth, and final, level of the day, Doyle Brunson became the last big-name pro eliminated from action. Brunson pushed all in from middle position for his last $11,000 with Aspade 7diamond, only to have Gioi Luong call and show Aclub Qdiamond. A Jheart 6club 5heart 5diamond 3club board offered no help, and Brunson bowed out of tournament play.

At 11:56 p.m. PST, action concluded on day 1A of the 2006 Legends of Poker. Along with Brunson, other pros who failed to survive first flight play included Joe Awada, Harry Demetriou, David Matthew, Johnny Chan, Sean McCabe, Daniel Alaei, Ted Forrest, Tom Franklin, Patrik Antonius, Anthony Reategui, Kathy Liebert, and Chau Giang.

For final day 1A chip counts, click the "Featured Chip Counts" link on the CardPlayer.com homepage.

Day 1B begins tomorrow at 2 p.m. PDT. Also, on Tuesday, August 29, WPT Player of the Year Gavin Smith and the Bicycle Casino will host a charity tournament in memory of Paul Hannum, a WPT cameraman who passed away earlier this month. Proceeds will go to Hannum's fiancée and unborn daughter. For more information, please visit http://www.cardplayer.com/poker_news/news_story/1296?class=PokerNews.

Stay tuned to CardPlayer.com for live updates, chip counts, photos, videos, and for a new episode of "The Circuit."

Quote of the Day:
"Yeah, let's just go to $20,000 the next year, and $40,000 the next year, and let's just get bigger and bigger" - Erick Lindgren on his hopes for the continued practice of increased buy-ins at circuit tournaments.