While it is tough to look at a tournament that generates better than a $2.5 million prize pool as anything but a success, the reality is that the World Poker Tour’s stop at the Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, OK, might need to be reworked. That factor doesn’t matter to those who will be moving on to Day 2 on Sunday at the WPT Choctaw, including Day 1B and overall chip leader Lou Garza. Garza dominated the action late to build the massive stack he will start today with, a massive 531,500 in chips that dwarfs the field behind him.

Numbers Drop Once Again for WPT Choctaw

Although 476 entries flooded the cash cage at the Choctaw Casino Resort poker room, combined with the 279 entries received on Friday it was a bit…short. After drawing fields that generated around 1000 entries for the previous three years of the tournament (last year’s entries fell below 1000 for the first time), not even getting close in 2018 has to be a concern for both the WPT and the Choctaw Casino officials. With other tournaments going on in the poker spectrum, there had to be some expectation that the crowd would be a bit lower.

Even thought you can say the 755 entries were the lowest in history, the overall look of the tournament still has a strong look to it. The $1 million prize pool was smashed, generating a $2,548,225 bank that the final 95 players will divvy up. The spoils of the battle will go to the eventual champion, with a $469,185 first place prize, a trip to the 2019 WPT Tournament of Champions and a placard on the WPT Champions’ Cup.

Garza Thunders to the Lead

Garza put himself into the first place slot through two late hands that catapulted him up the standings. In the first, Mark Threadgill raised the betting pre-flop and Garza called him out of the cutoff. The K-J-8 board saw Threadgill check-call a bet from Garza and, on the Ace turn, both players checked their option. The river seven, however, lit the fuse as Threadgill fired off a 25K bet and Garza responded with a raise to 100K. Threadgill made a quick call and was stunned to see Garza turn up a 10-9 to show the gut shot straight had come home. Threadgill could only muck his K-J (flopped two pair) and watch the chips slide over to Garza.

The second hand may not have been for as many chips, but it took a tough player down. Ralph Massey was looking to have some ammunition for Day 2 when he pushed his 30K in chips to the center from under the gun with an A-7. Unfortunately for him, Garza woke up in the hijack with Big Slick; Garza called and, after a King flopped, Massey was drawing dead by the turn and out while Garza took the lead for Day 1B.

1. Lou Garza, 531,500
2. Andy Van Blair, 363,000
3. Tony Ruberto, 358,000
4. Emmett Hickey, 335,000
5. Dusti Smith, 321,000
6. Chance Kornuth, 312,500
7. Thad Smith, 306,500
8. Joe Elpayaa, 305,500
9. Mo Arani, 300,000
10. Jason Gooch, 283,000

When combined with the Day 1A finalists, Garza’s day of dominance becomes even more impressive.

1. Lou Garza, 531,500
2. Viet Vo, 458,500
3. Brady Holiman, 440,000
4. Randy Skeet, 395,000
5. Art Papazyan, 385,000
6. Men Nguyen, 365,500
7. Andy Van Blair, 363,000
8. Tony Ruberto, 358,000
9. Peter Nguyen, 339,000
10. Emmett Hickey, 335,000

207 players will return on Day 2. Those that aren’t going to be a part of the action on Sunday include Seth Davies, Layne Flack, Allen Kessler, Anthony Spinella and Dutch Boyd.

Cards will hit the air at noon (Central Daylight Time) at the Choctaw Casino Resort with the plan to play down to the money. That would set the tournament up well for its conclusion on Tuesday night and the crowning of the next WPT champion.

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