Like death, taxes, and a Phil Hellmuth meltdown at the poker table, the World Poker Tour’s traditional trek to the Bellagio is upon us. The 2022 WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic has Day 1 in the books and, from appearances, it looks like it will be a big one. The field size has not been determined yet, but Ethan Yau is holding the top slot on the leaderboard and has a slim edge over Mike Vanier as the players come back for Day 2 today.

450 Runners to the Line

The players flocked to the tables in the Bellagio poker room for the opening salvos of the WPT Five Diamond, seeking the only title that has been contested in each of the twenty seasons of the WPT. When the call went out at noon (Pacific time) to “shuffle up and deal,” 184 players were in their seats for the $10,000 buy-in tournament. With 50K in chips to play with, you would think that the play would be sedate, but that was blown out of the water in one of the very first hands.

Twenty minutes into Day 1 play, Cliff Josephy and Abe Aboukhalil saw a flop of 10 8♠ 3, that would eventually see Aboukhalil with all his chips in the center. Josephy himself did not have much room for error, but it turned out he was on the correct side of the ledger. Aboukhalil’s pocket Jacks looked good, but Josephy’s set-mined pocket treys had caught on the flop. A 6 on the turn brought some potential outs to the flush for Aboukhalil, but a blank on the river ended his day very early and pushed Josephy into an early chip lead.

As the afternoon wore on, other top professionals settled into their chairs to vie for this WPT title. Asher Conniff, Ryan Laplante, Upeshka De Silva, and Daniel Negreanu were just a few of the notables in attendance as the entry numbers climbed. By the beginning of Level 4, the count was up to 320 entries and, by the end of the play on Day 1, the official number of entries sat at 450.

Yau Climbs to the Top…Quietly

For a player with the nickname “Rampage,” Yau’s climb to the top of the standings was an amazingly quiet one. He snuck under the radar throughout the evening, amassing a pile of chips that escaped notice. It was only at the end of the night, once the chips were bagged, that Yau’s work could be fully appreciated.

1. Ethan Yau, 293,000
2. Mike Vanier, 286,000
3. Karim Rebel, 251,000
4. Justin Liberto, 228,000
5. David Kim, 222,500
6. Breno Silva, 219,500
7. Dan Smith, 216,000
8. Andrew Neeme, 210,000
9. Jesse Lonis, 207,500
10. Francisco Fragoso, 205,000

There are two other players – Matt Bond (205,000) and Eric Nathanson (200,000) – who are over the 200K mark in chips. Other top names that are lurking just off the Top Ten include Lily Kiletto (191,500), Justin Bonomo (189,500), Josephy (187,000), and Joao Simao (183,500). 250 players will come back on Thursday to try to be one of those who continue in the event.

The $10,000 buy-in tournament is not yet set in stone, however. Late registration will be running until the end of the first level of the day on Thursday. After that, the official prize pool will be set, and the number of payouts will be revealed (expected to be 12.5% of the field). The prize pool looks certain to crack the $5 million guarantee that has been set for the 2022 WPT Five Diamond, but how far above that line will it go?

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