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Day One at the Borgata Poker Open

An East Coast Crowd Pumps Up a Record Field

The Borgata Poker Open was first added to the World Poker Tour in Season III, less than three months after the casino first opened in 2003. Since then, it's been a staple of the WPT, and a winter Borgata event was added as another stop on the tour in early 2006.

With some of the top players (and most of the top Europeans) overseas right now, a dip in the field size for the WPT Borgata Poker Open wouldn't have been surprising. But a record 560 players showed up for this event, 20 more than last year. The top 54 players will earn a piece of the $5.4 million prize pool, and first place is worth $1,575,280.

The tournament got off to a patriotic start at 11 a.m. ET (which felt like 8 a.m. to those West Coast players who arrived the day before) with poker pro Kenna James performing the national anthem. James belted out a rousing rendition without any musical accompaniment, earning a standing ovation from the entire field of players.

As the first major tournament of the season on the East Coast, most of the East Coast pros showed up. However, this tournament field was notable for who didn't show up.

Amazingly, and with such a strong turnout, none of the four prior Borgata Poker Open champions were present - Noli Francisco (2003), Daniel Negreanu (2004), Al Ardebili (2005), and Mark Newhouse (2006). There were plenty of big names to take their places, including East Coast pros like Cyndy Violette, Cliff "JohnnyBax" Josephy, John D'Agostino, and Eugene Todd - all four made it to day two. Other notable day-one survivors include Mike Matusow, Barry Greenstein, Freddy Deeb, Gavin Smith, and Tuan Le. Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi, winner of the 2006 Borgata Winter Open, survived, as well.

While the Borgata features slightly shorter-than-usual 75-minute levels (most major tournaments use 90-minute levels), the structure compensates by giving the players triple chip stacks. With $30,000 in starting chips, the blinds started at $25-$50, giving everyone 600 big blinds to work with. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough for the most recent WPT champion, Bill Edler, who had a rough start and was eliminated in the first round of the day. Edler, along with David Pham, who also busted on day one, will earn no Card Player Player of the Year points at this event.

Seven levels and a dinner break later (around 10:45 p.m. ET), day one ended with the field cut nearly in half, down to 350 players. Here are the top-10 chip leaders, along with some of the notable players with more than the average of $48,000 in chips:

1. Brian Strahl - $170,550
2. Tuan Vo - $163,150
3. David Paredes - $142,825
4. Mark Weitzman - $140,200
5. Steven Cho - $135,200
6. Steven Olek - $133,650
7. Brian Powell - $133,200
8. Leo Wolpert - $131,900
9. Douglas Larson - $130,125
10. John Davidson - $124,525

13. Freddy Deeb - $113,750
15. Mike Matusow - $110,175
18. Lee Markholt - $108,300
27. Tuan Le - $95,500
32. "Captain" Tom Franklin - $87,650
37. Jordan Morgan - $84,225
48. Shannon Shorr - $79,050
49. Justin Bonomo - $78,475
50. Michael Binger - $77,875
52. Cliff "JohnnyBax" Josephy - $76,125
56. Chris Reslock - $73,275
63. Joe Cassidy - $70,475
67. Peter "Nordberg" Feldman - $68,550
85. Thayer Rasmussen - $63,425
82. Jonathan Little - $64,000
90. Kenna James - $61,975
94. David Williams - $60,800
108. Mark Seif - $57,000
111. Clonie Gowen - $56,550
119. Lee Watkinson - $54,575
137. Jon Friedberg - $49,550
138. Eric Hershler - $49,075
139. Cyndy Violette - $49,000

Play resumes Monday at 11 a.m. ET, and play is scheduled to run for another seven levels. Return to for continuing live coverage of all the action.