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Day 1 - The 2006 WPT Festa al Lago

Top No-Limit Texas Hold'em Players Gather At Bellagio For World Poker Tour Event


What do you get when you combine the Bellagio, the WPT, and double stack poker? A talented field so big one tournament area can't contain it. Day one of the Festa al Lago $10,000 championship event attracted a starting field of 433 players, a number large enough to fill the entire Fontana Bar and the majority of the casino's famous poker room.

Making its World Poker Tour circuit debut, a replacement for the Doyle Brunson North American Poker Championship, the Festa al Lago began at 12:11 p.m. PDT with $20,000 starting stacks and $50-$100 blinds.

Most deep-stack poker tournaments feature few eliminations during the first levels of action, but that was not the case on day one. A mere four hands into play, David Singer exited when an opponent hit a two-outer, and made a full house to crack Singer's flopped trip nines.

A number of notables soon followed Singer to the rail, including Eric Froehlich, "Miami" John Cernuto, John Juanda, and 2006 World Series of Poker main event champion Jamie Gold.

Despite some high profile departures, the star power of the Festa al Lago was far from depleted, especially in the tournament's poker room playing area. Table 20, located adjacent to Bobby's Room, the regular home of the "Big Game," included Scotty Nguyen (seat No. 1), Peter Feldman (seat No. 3), Erick Lindgren (seat No. 5), Steve Zolotow (seat No. 6), Gavin Smith (seat No. 7), and Robert Mizrachi (seat 8).

The table staged a rematch between Feldman, the 2006 New Orleans WSOP Circuit event champion, and Smith, the runner-up. While not lacking in action, all the big names at 20 survived long enough to see the table break during the second half of level three.

With more and more players moving from the Bellagio's poker room to the Fontana Bar, tournament director Jack McClelland announced that the top 100 positions paid, and that the winner of the Festa al Lago would take home a $1,090,025 first place cash prize.

For a complete list of the payouts please visit

Coming off a final table appearance at the Ultimate Bet Aruba Poker Classic and a first-place finish in the Festa al Lago's $5,000 event, Joe Sebok rose up the leaderboard on day one, but his chance to cash in another big tournament ended when Jeff Madsen spiked a set of tens to beat Sebok's pocket jacks. The win put Madsen's stack over the $50,000 mark.

As the sun set outside the windows of the Fontana Bar, several other pros made strong pushes for day two. A one-time short stack, Erick Lindgren accumulated chips during a late surge, which included busting 2006 WSOP main event runner-up Paul Wasicka, while Phil Hellmuth tripled up after his Adiamond Kdiamond held against two opponents with K-Q offsuit. The biggest move up the leaderboard, however, came on the last hand of the day. Brandon Cantu pushed all in preflop with pocket aces and doubled up to over $130,000 when an opponent called and missed a diamond flush draw.

At 8:50 p.m. PDT, with five levels of play completed, and the Fontana Bar erupting after the Chicago Bears came from behind to a victory over the Arizona Cardinals, day one of the 2006 Festa al Lago came to an end.

Some notables who failed to advance to the next stage were Daniel Negreanu, David Levi, Jordan Morgan, Doyle Brunson, Chau Giang, Barry Shulman, Jeff Shulman, David Williams, Nam Le, Paul Darden, Gavin Smith, Martin de Knijff, and T.J. Cloutier.

The 200-plus remaining field returns to the Fontana Bar at noon PDT for day two action.

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

Quote of the Day: "I always play my Z game" - Steve Zolotow