2017 WPT Fallsview Poker Classic: Ben Wilinofsky Leads Record Field After Day One



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After a record field for the event flooded into the casino, “semi-retired” poker professional Ben Wilinofsky emerged as the chip leader following Day One of the World Poker Tour’s Fallsview Poker Classic in Canada last night.

Long a popular stop for poker players due to its proximity to the U. S./Canadian border and its beautiful surroundings, the Fallsview Casino was ready for a rush of players for this tournament, a $5000 buy in event with one rebuy should a player bust out of the event. Several top players were in attendance for the earlier events on the calendar, with Canadians Xuan Liu and Mike Leah taking down two of those preliminary engagements. This was the one the players were waiting for and, once the call to arms was made with the “shuffle up and deal,” the players immediately responded.

As soon as the bell sounded, roughly 350 players were on the tables in the Fallsview Casino tournament room. This was significant as, in the 2016 tournament, 423 entries were received to set the record. Depending on how deep the pockets were for the players – which included two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Kristen Bicknell, WPT Champions’ Club members Olivier Busquet, Anthony Zinno and Darren Elias, among others – there was a good chance that the record would be broken in this tournament. As Level 3 began, 373 entries had been received and the late registration was still going on.

Several players would play a bit looser than normal, taking advantage of the chance to either build up a stack or get back into the tournament with their one rebuy option. Mike Dentale was one of the players who took advantage of that rebuy option, his K-Q catching on a Q 8♣ 6 flop against his opponent’s K 10. After a blank turn, Dentale seemed to be primed for his double up, but a diamond on the river canceled that action, instead sending Dentale back to his wallet for another $5,000 for his “one time.”

After Level 6, the popularity of the Fallsview Casino and this particular WPT event were demonstrated. With late registration and the one rebuy option still on the table, there were 428 entries received to crack the 2016 record. With those actions available until the start of Level 10 following the dinner break, it became a question of just how high the numbers would go.

As the tournament worked into the late-night hours, the notable names began to drop to the side, either exhausting their two chances at glory or choosing to stick to one shot only. Such players as Marvin Rettenmaier, Mike Watson, Dietrich Fast, Nenad Medic and Leah were all out the door by the time the close of action came after Level 13. By the time the chips were bagged and the names were noted, Wilinofsky – who hadn’t even been noticed by tournament staff until they received his day’s work – was holding a decent Day One lead.

1. Ben Wilinofsky, 275,900
2. Mark Toulouse, 262,700
3. Carlo Alteri, 241,000
4. David Cloutier, 236,700
5. David Ho, 230,000
6. Jason James, 213,400
7. Anthony Dalpra, 199,600
8. Andy Zhang, 198,100
9. Aaron Massey, 196,200
10. Darren Elias, 195,000

Wilinofsky’s rise to the top isn’t surprising considering his talents. A former European Poker Tour champion with almost $1.4 million in tournament earnings, Wilinofsky has also been quite open about personal issues he has had that have kept him from pursuing live tournament poker full time. Those problems – depression and anxiety issues – have kept the Canadian online professional out of the casinos but, with the WPT in his backyard for a stay, he suspended his “semi-retirement” (his definition of his status in the game) to try to add another jewel to his poker resume.

Action resumes at noon with Day Two of the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic. With 152 players remaining from the record-setting 489 entries that were eventually tallied (no prize pool or payouts have been announced yet), the money bubble will pop at some time on Friday, but there’s more to deal with than just popping the bubble. The serious work will be done on Friday as, with plans for the final table to play on Saturday, the field will be jammed to get down to the six-handed WPT final table.

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