It does seem like it just started last week, but the 2021 World Series of Poker is coming into its final events, in particular the $10,000 Championship Event. Day 1A is in the books for that event, graced by the presence of a couple of the wizened veterans of the game. While Friday will bring Day 1B of the Championship Event, it will also crown the champion of the $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship, with five men vying for the title of best all around poker player and the latest to hold the vaunted Chip Reese Trophy.

The Game is Easy – When Players Give You Their Chips

The first Day One of the 2021 WSOP Championship Event, the first time the tournament physically has taken place in over 800 days, was replete with the usual fanfare that the WSOP brings for the event. The 2020 champion* (there were two, and it would behoove the WSOP to recognize their screwup and let Stoyan Madanzhiev be recognized if possible) Damian Salas gave the call to “shuffle up and deal” in the Amazon Room and then went to bust out of the event early. It seemed that people were waiting for Salas as they took on the defending World Champion* with sometimes less that the best.

After starting with a 60K chip stack, Salas saw those whittle away, with most going to Oliver Thomas in what was a devastating hand for Salas. A 9-8-7 two-heart flop hit both Thomas and Salas and saw all of Thomas’ chips hit the center. Thomas had flopped top pair and had a gut shot straight draw with his J-9, but Salas was arguably in better shape with his A 10 for the nut flush and open-ended straight draw. That came home when a J hit the turn, but it also opened some doors for Thomas with his newly found Jacks up. A second Jack on the river negated Salas’ nut flush and gave Thomas a boat, leaving Salas with just a few chips; he was unable to do a Jack Strauss, falling moments later to Peter Gould when Gould’s pocket fives found a straight to add insult to Salas’ A-Q and send him out of the event.

The PokerGO streaming broadcast brought us some of the fun from the event, albeit only for a short time (there was a “free” option that aired over YouTube; all the remainder of the 2021 WSOP Championship Event will be streamed on PokerGO’s PAY service and CBS will not broadcast until they show their edited version later this year). On the featured table were a few veterans of the poker wars, including the legendary Doyle Brunson, Women in Poker Hall of Famer JJ Liu, and WSOP bracelet holder Perry Friedman. While the free broadcast was going, the table certainly entertained the viewers.

It almost seemed as if the participants were enlisted to give their chips to the veterans, with several of them just completely disrespecting Liu as she rocketed over 200K in chips. In one particular hand, Liu flopped a set of fours and her opponent, with only a pair of sixes to go to battle, unreasonably thought that his hand was going to best Liu and moved all in. Liu wasted little time in making the call and crushing his dreams. Liu would go on to finish the day with a highly respectable 180,200 in chips.

The 88-year-old Brunson also proved to be a formidable opponent. He slowly dragged pots through the evening and looked to be having the time of his life. During one of the breaks, PokerGO sideline reporter Jeff Platt asked Brunson why he chose to play in the 2021 WSOP Championship Event. “I was bored,” was the simple answer from “The Godfather of Poker” with a chuckle. It turns out it was a good decision as Brunson will be back for more poker on Day 2 with his 151,000-chip stack.

At the end of the day, it was another notable pro who sat atop the standings. Here is the unofficial Top Ten for Day 1A of the 2021 WSOP Championship Event:

1. Mustapha Kanit, 363,500
2. Rittie Chuaprasert, 345,700
3. Alex Livingston, 319,200
4. David Fong, 298,500
5. Fabian Quoss, 273,800
6. Billy Baxter, 248,600
7. Dragana Lim, 237,700
8. Vladimir Vasilyev, 232,000
9. Vidur Sethi, 226,200
10. Ayaz Mahmood, 221,200

Day 1B will hit the floor of the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino’s Amazon Room (and others) at 11AM (Pacific), when there will be additions to the 523 players who took part in Day 1A on Thursday.

Eli Elezra Leads Poker Players’ Championship Final Five

After taking a rest for a day, the $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship will take to “The Mothership” to determine its winner on Friday afternoon.

Eli Elezra will be the leader of a tightly bunched final five players, holding 4.62 million of the chips on the table. He is closely pursued by two combatants, Paul Volpe (4.36 million) and Chris Brewer (4.325 million), who will look to take any advantage of a slipup by Elezra on the felt. A sneaky pick for the championship might be Dan ‘Jungleman’ Cates, who lurks with a healthy stack of 3.875 million chips for battle. The one player who might need some help – and a quick double up – is the short-stacked Ryan Leng, who will be looking to ladder up by making increases to his 1.625 million chip mountain.

The action for the $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship will be live streamed by PokerGO this afternoon beginning at 3PM (Pacific) live from the Rio’s Amazon Room. All the men left on the table are guaranteed $211,235 for their efforts, but the big prize up top is what all of them want. The eventual champion will earn the WSOP bracelet for one of the most difficult events on the schedule, a $954,020 payday and, perhaps most importantly, have their name immortalized on the Chip Reese Trophy, significant as the sign of the best all-around poker player in the world.

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