The World Poker Tour is doing double duty this weekend, with one of their events taking place in Osaka, Japan. The ‘other’ event, however, is the one that is going to be drawing much of the attention. The 2024 WPT Choctaw is underway in Durant, OK, with Day 1A in the books and veteran pro Curt Kohlberg sitting atop the standings with what is expected to be a massive Day 1B throng of players looking to flood the Choctaw Casino Resort.

Tough Opening Day 1A for Field

The players who came out for Day 1A of the 2024 WPT Choctaw had a challenging task ahead of them. They were the ones who had to set the pace for the rest of the field to meet, and that included getting off to a good start toward the $2 million guaranteed prize pool. While the players did their best, it will take a sizeable Day 1B field (when arguably most of the players come out) to eclipse the prize pool guarantee.

It started slowly on Friday, with only roughly fifty players in their chairs for the start of action. Some of those in their seats to garner the full experience of playing in the 2024 WPT Choctaw included WPT Champions’ Club members Craig Varnell, Anthony Zinno, and Erick Lindgren. Only one of those players would make an impressive Day1A effort and may be around for a deep run into this event.

While it may have started slowly, the numbers quickly began to ramp up for this WPT tournament. By the start of Level 3, 171 entries were in the books and, with eight levels left in the day’s schedule, optimism was high for a strong Day 1A roster. The rush of players to the cage slowed down as the day wore on, which will put an onus on Saturday’s action to pick up the pace.

Once the late registration period closed after Level 8 (which also brought the close of the unlimited reentry period), 293 entries were officially registered in the rolls. With each buy-in going for $3500 (not counting juice and fees added on) and the Day 1A field bringing in just over half ($1,025,500) of the guaranteed prize pool, Choctaw officials will be gnawing on their nails to hope to equal the Day 1A field, but it should be met easily.  

Kohlberg Starts Strong, Finishes Even Better

The players would start with 50K in chips, and Kohlberg put every one of those chips to work quickly. A veteran of the tournament poker world with over $3.6 million in tournament cashes in his career, it seems that Kohlberg is still not a recognized commodity to the Oklahoma poker-playing crowd. In the first level of action, Kohlberg would demonstrate his expertise and skills on the felt as he thundered to the lead.

First to act pre-flop, Kohlberg put out a raise and only got the blinds to come along with him. A 9-7-2 flop was innocuous, but Kohlberg put out a bet. Only the big blind would make the call and, after a ten came on the turn, Kohlberg put out another 2500 chip bet. His opponent decided to get tricky at this point with a check-raise, only to see Kohlberg commit a three-bet to the pot, which was called.

On the river, an Ace came…which is arguably what got Kohlberg’s opponent in trouble. That big blind checked again, and Kohlberg dropped a 22K bet in the center. The big blind made the call and just as quickly mucked their cards as Kohlberg turned up an 8-6 for the turned straight, scraping in the pot that pushed him close to 100K in chips.

Apparently, the players did not get the message that Kohlberg was there to play. On a board of 9-9-5-4-J, another opponent checked their option to Kohlberg, who responded by moving all in and putting his opponent to the test. After an agonizing period, that player (big blind, once again acting out of position against Kohlberg) released their hand and Kohlberg shot over the 100K mark in chips. That stack just got longer as the day moved on, eventually with Kohlberg holding the chip lead of the 83 players left from the Day 1A festivities:

1. Curt Kohlberg, 505,000
2. Brian Battistone, 482,000
3. Kyle Arora, 436,000
4. William Lamar-Boone, 383,500
5. Fred Goldberg, 363,000
6. Danny Doucet, 362,500
7. Chris Vickery, 359,500
8. James Carroll, 347,500
9. Michael Wang, 347,500
10. Eider da Cruz, 347,000

Lurking under the Top Ten is a former two-time WPT champion and two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner in Erick Lindgren. He will start Day Two after finishing in eleventh place with his 288,500 stack. David ‘Chino’ Rheem and Ren Lin are also in the Top Twenty and could make some noise on Sunday. Defending champion Jonathan Jaffee was a part of the Day 1A action but did not make it to the closing bell; he has another chance to defend his championship on Saturday.

Day 1B action should be frenetic for several reasons. It will be the last chance for players to earn a bag for Sunday’s Day Two and, with unlimited reentries into the day’s play, the wallets will be open for those who are hunting for a WPT championship. Expect the Day 1 B field for the 2024 WPT Choctaw to be busy, with the $2 million guaranteed prize pool firmly in the crosshairs of the players in attendance.

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