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World Poker Tour Championship Day 1A

A Small Field Arrives on the First Day of Play


The story during day 1A of the World Poker Tour Championship at Bellagio had more to do with who was not here than who was, as the cards got into the air shortly after noon in the Fontana Lounge. A small field of 210 players registered for day 1A when things were all said and done, and although a much larger number is expected tomorrow, it does not appear that the size of the field produced at last year’s WPT Championship (639) will be matched in 2008.

What this field lacked in quantity, it more than made up for with quality players. There were too many to list here, but a lot of them were seated at two stacked tables when play began:

Table 55:Table 62

Seat 1: Jonathan Little
Seat 2: Jonathan Westra
Seat 3: Brandon Cantu
Seat 6: Michael Gracz
Seat 8: Andy Black
Seat 9: Joe Sebok
Seat 10: Scott Clements

Table 62:

Seat 1: Tony "Bagels" Cavezza
Seat 2: Hoyt Corkins
Seat 3: Mike Sexton
Seat 4: Wei Kei Chang
Seat 6: Phil Hellmuth (arrived late)
Seat 7: Adam "Roothlus" Levy
Seat 8: Lee Markholt
Seat 9: Bruno Fitoussi
Seat 10: Barry Greenstein

The pro-heavy field, long levels (90 minutes), and deep starting stacks (50,000) ensured that there was a lot more play not only pre-flop, but subsequently on every street. The usual all-in move that most players lean on was replaced with smaller bets and raises that were made with the intention of extracting information from opponents to store for larger battles. As a result only a small portion of the field was sent home on day 1A, and an even smaller portion of that group was professional players. When eliminations did come down, they were usually the result of a cooler. As evidenced by some of the earliest knockouts:

On a board of A Q 4 7 Roy Winston bet 2,350 in late position and Daniel Alaei went into the tank in the big blind, before firing out 5,000. Winston called and the 3 fell on the river. Alaei bet 6,250 and Winston raised all in, putting Alaei to a decision for his tournament life. Alaei went into the tank with about 5 and a half minutes left in the first level and remained there as the rest of the field went on break. He finally made the call and Winston turned up A Q. Alaei mucked and he was eliminated from the tournament early. Winston was pretty sure that Alaei held A-K when spoke with the tournament coverage team on the break. This pot shot Winston up to 100,000 and he took the early chip lead.Guy LaliberteSteve Billirakis








Steve Billirakis jumped up above Winston when he won a huge pot a few minutes later against Guy Laliberte worth 125,000. Billirakis was all in and held a full house to Laliberte's straight, which left Laliberte crippled with just 8,500 (which he lost a few hands later to be eliminated).

Scott Clements experienced a similar fate when he was busted by Brandon Cantu just before the third break. Cantu flopped a straight on a flop of 6-5-4, holding 8-7 to Clements' 5-3 and the two players got all of their chips into the middle after the turn brought a jack. The river was an inconsequential rag and Clements was eliminated from the tournament.

Joining the three professionals mentioned above on the proverbial rail were Lyle Berman, David Williams, Eric Froehlich, Ted Lawson, Hasan Habib, and Jonathan Little. A tough field still remained at the end of the day (141 players total), and they will join the remaining players from day 1B the day after tomorrow.

Here is the schedule for the rest of the tournament:

Day 1B: Five, 90-minute levels (Sunday, April 20).
Day 2: Five, 90-minute levels (Monday, April 21).
Day 3: Five, 90-minute levels (Tuesday, April 22).
Day 4: Play down to 27 players. (Wednesday, April 23).
Day 5: Play down to six players. (Thursday, April 24).
Friday, April 23: Off Day (Production day for WPT Ladies Championship Final Table).
Final Table: Play down to a champion (Saturday, April 25) Begins at 5 p.m. PDT.

Here are the top ten chip counts from the end of play:

  1. Billy Baxter -- 167,150
  2. Darrell Dicken -- 163,675
  3. Steve Billirakis -- 156,800
  4. Scott Epstein -- 147,800
  5. Brandon Cantu -- 145,125
  6. John Hillman -- 124,550
  7. Abe Mosseri -- 123,400
  8. John Celii -- 121,075
  9. Dario Minieri -- 118,650
  10. Jim Bechtel -- 115,000


over 13 years ago

yea smokey!