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Mandalay Bay Poker Championship Day One Action

A Wild Ride for Some, Others Hold Strong and Steady

No-limit hold'em is a game of many swings. Chip stacks ebb and flow throughout the day, and sometimes disappear in an instant. You can also get cold-decked, dig in your feet, and try to survive the day. These differences in pace are most apparent during day one of a tournament, when all the players, with all their different styles, start the day.

The tournament area at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino had been built in an overflow zone that had once been the domain of slot machines. This must have made a pit boss somewhere cringe, but it delighted crowds of onlookers as the 228 players took their seats. Day one would be the final day of the tournament for 120 of these players, but a lot of poker took the field down to that point.

The early morning was defined as much by who had yet to take their seats as by who was already seated. When play began, many tables were seven- or eight-seated, but during level one, the holes were filled as players sauntered into the room. Table 18 was the most impressive, quantity-wise, during the early going; it boasted Jamie Gold, Rene Angelil, Roland De Wolfe, Bill Gazes, Davidson Matthew, and Nenad Medic among its occupants. It may have been too much for Medic, who busted before the first break. Table 35 was easily the most intriguing collection of players from day one. The table sat in a corner of the tournament area and basked in an incandescent blue glow coming from a sign that towered over the table. The collection of quality poker talent towered over the field as well. During the course of the day, David Pham and Justin Bonomo were busted from this table, while Chad Brown and Michael Mizrachi were moved in to join David Benyamine, JC Tran, and Barry Greenstein. This table also served as a good example of the dichotomy of journeys that players were taking on day one. One had to look no further then Tran, who ground it out throughout the day. He rarely held more than $10,000 before he doubled near the end of play through Benyamine to end with $12,075. Speaking of Benyamine, he ended the day fourth in chips with $110,375.

Anna Wroblewski went on a wild ride during day one. You were never quite sure if she would end the day as the chip leader or on the rail. During level two, she humped into the lead. On a flop of 8 6 4, seat No. 4 bet $1,100 and Anna Wroblewski made the call. Seat No. 7 raised to $8,000. Seat No. 4 folded and Wroblewski moved all in. Seat No. 7 called and flipped over 8 8, while Wroblewski showed 7 5 for the flopped straight. The turn and river cards were dealt K Q. Wroblewski grabbed the pot and jumped into the chip lead with $46,500. She increased that early lead about a half hour later. With K J 9 3 2 on the board and $23,000 on the middle of the table, Anna Wroblewski bet $17,000. This left Wroblewski with $33,500 left in front of her. Eugene Todd had $26,000 left and went into the tank. He thought for many minutes, counted out his chips, and then ruffled them from hand-to-hand. He made the call and Wroblewski insta-mucked. Todd turned over 2 2. To the victor goes the spoils, and Todd now held $66,000. Wrodblewski's wild ride would end on day one though, at times she played brilliantly, but at other times she seemed disinterested. During the course of level three, she was visibly absent from her chair on numerous occasions.

Another player who went on a wild ride during day one was Jean-Robert Bellande. The jovial Bellande took a huge leap forward on this hand. A player raised under the gun, Bellande raised to $2,100, seat No. 6 flat called, and David Daneshgar went all in for his last $3,300. The player under the gun folded, Bellande reraised $4,500 more and seat No. 6 called. The flop came Q10 4; Bellande bet $4,000 and seat No. 6 went all in for over $40,000. Bellande insta-called with A A, Daneshgar flipped over K K, and seat No. 6 showed A Q. The turn and river were dealt A 7, which eliminated Daneshgar and seat No 6. Bellande held over $140,000 and was the clear chip leader. Bellande would hover near the $100,000 mark for most of the day, but late in level five he would freefall to $17,975. This was thanks in large part to John Juanda.

Juanda had built a large stack by doubling up through Danny Wong. He was set back momentarily by James Van Alstyne, who returned the favor and doubled up through Juanda. Juanda held $48,000 after that series of events, but the day was not over yet. "When you have been playing poker as much poker as I have, you just try to play every hand as best as you can. Every hand is so independent of what happened before," said Juanda. He recovered from the beat Van Alstyne handed him and attacked Bellande. "He was raising a lot of hands," said Juanda. Juanda held A-3 in the big blind when the flop was dealt 8-3-3. He checked and Bellande bet out at the pot. Juanda then put in a small reraise and Bellande pushed all of his chips into the middle. Juanda called and doubled his chip stack. Juanda ended the day with $112,325.

The rest of the top five was rounded out by the day one chip leader, Shawn Buchanan ($158,075), Timothy Hebert ($155,175), and John Racener ($108,550). These three leaders, as well as fellow top stacks Juanda and Benyamine will be joined by the remaining field at noon tomorrow for day two of the WPT Mandalay Bay Poker Championship. Stay tuned to for all the action in live updates, chip counts, photos, and videos.


over 15 years ago

Nice story Ryan but what did Bellande have vs. Juanda?