2017 WPT L. A. Poker Classic Day One: Nick Maimone, James Romero Take the Helm



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So how much of a break did the WPT staff and professional players get after the crowning of Darren Elias for his victory in the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic late Friday night before they had to jump back into action? How about just a scant few hours as Saturday saw the start of one of the venerable tournaments on the WPT circuit, the WPT L. A. Poker Classic at the Commerce Casino in Bell Gardens, CA.

The first leg of the WPT “California Swing” (with the other two events being the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star and the WPT Rolling Thunder at Thunder Valley Casino), the LAPC has been a part of the WPT schedule since the origination of the circuit. It’s roll of champions lists such names as Anthony Zinno, Phil Ivey, Michael Mizrachi, Antonio Esfandiari and Gus Hansen, who won the inaugural WPT event way back in 2003. The $10,000 event (and it has remained that since the beginning) usually draws the crème of the poker world and the 2017 version hasn’t disappointed.

From the opening call of “shuffle up and deal,” the potential dangers were obvious around the room. Just the former champions of the WPT – including former World Champion Joe Hachem, eight-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Erik Seidel, Mohsin Charania and former WPT LAPC champion Sean Jazayeri – would have presented a daunting task, but adding in such players are Aaron Massey, Ari Engel, Justin Bonomo, Dan Heimiller and Faraz Jaka and the minefield became even more treacherous. This wasn’t even broaching those that were on the way to Cali for the tournament and taking full advantage of the late registration period (such as Elias, jetting from Canada to the West Coast after winning on Friday).

After the first level was in the books, 320 players were on the tables with the field still growing with the likes of WPT Montreal champion Ema Zajmovic, fellow WPT Champions’ Club members Marvin Rettenmaier and Jared Jaffee and defending Super High Roller Bowl champion Rainer Kempe entering the fray. With the 30,000 chip stacks, the players were a bit cautious – none of the flailing around as in multiple rebuy events because the LAPC is a one-shot freeze out tournament – but they would mix it up when the situation called for it. By the time Level 3 began, 416 players had ponied up the “dime” to take part in the tournament.

Over the span of eight hours of action, there were those that stretched themselves away from the field. Zajmovic was able to triple her starting stack, but it was Romero (the champion of the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic in December) who was a real surprise. Late in the evening, Romero was able to rack up five times his starting stack (150,000) and, if it weren’t for Nick Maimone’s sneaky route through the field in earning six times his starting stack, would have been the chip leader. As it is, he’ll have to settle for second going to Day Two of one of the most prestigious events on the WPT.

1. Nick Maimone, 187,000
2. James Romero, 153,600
3. Sam Phillips, 143,000
4. Daniel Strelitz, 127,600
5. Marco Cavallaro, 126,800
6. Seth Berger, 115,400
7. Niall Farrell, 108,200
8. Bart Hanson, 105,400
9. Ivan Karim, 102,000
10. Jake Schwartz, 101,300

At this point, the 306 players that remain from the original 498 entries still don’t know what they’re playing for. With late registration going on until the start of Level 10 (approximately 1:45PM Pacific Time), there is plenty of opportunity for those in the area to scratch up their $10,000 to still get in. There’s a good possibility that the 2017 field will eclipse that of last year (515 players), but it will be a stretch to see it go much further. With that said, it is still one of the jewels on the WPT circuit and the next champion of the WPT L. A. Poker Classic will earn quite the payday for their efforts.

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