The World Poker Tour is back in action with their Season XX schedule, and it is a big one. The WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open is underway at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, FL, and the players have flooded the floor for the first of two-Day Ones. One player who will not need the services of a second Day One is Jesse Lonis, who used a late evening move to capture the overall lead of Day 1A.

Guarantee Smashed with Day 1A

The WPT and the Seminole Hard Rock set a $2 million guarantee on the tournament, but they did not need to worry about the player numbers. 893 entries were received overall for Day 1A, completely smashing that $2 million guarantee by a wide margin. It also seemed like every table featured a formidable foe, a surprise in such a large event.

In a rare move, several top pros were in their seats when the opening gun sounded to start the event. Chance Kornuth, Andrew Lichtenberger, and Shannon Shorr were wide awake for the 11AM start, joined by WPT Champions’ Club members Anthony Zinno, Brian Altman , Darren Elias, and Sam Panzica. With 40,000 chips in front of them and ten 60-minute levels ahead, the players settled in for a day of battle.

It was another Champions’ Club member who made the most noise in the early action, however. After seeing a raise ahead of him, Jonathan Jaffe called the bet and he was joined by the hijack, Alex Keating on the button and Joseph ‘subiime’ Cheong in the big blind. The 7-K-2 two-heart flop did not seem too problematic, but it was enough for Cheong to check his option to the player who had opened up the betting with his raise. That player dropped a 3500 bet in the pot and Jaffe called.

The hijack got out of the way and, after considerable thought, Keating decided on taking the betting up to 13,500. That was enough for Cheong to let his cards go, but the original raiser decided it was time to make a stand and push all in for 36K in chips. Jaffe moved all in “over the top” for 85K total, convincing Keating to depart the hand.

Once the cards were on their backs, Jaffe’s fortune was shown:

Jaffe: pocket deuces (flopped set)
Opponent: K♠ Q♣ (top pair, Queen kicker)

The set mining by Jaffe had paid off, leaving Jaffe’s opponent drawing to only some sort of runner-runner boat that would top Jaffe’s flopped set. The trey on the turn was not that card, however, leaving Jaffe’s opponent drawing dead. After the innocuous 7 came on the river, Jaffe had eliminated a player and sat on a stack of 148,000 in chips; he would finish the day with a healthy stack of 196,000.

Lonis Earns His Way to Top of Leaderboard

The lead for Day 1A was up for grabs well into the evening. On the next-to-last hand of the night, Jesse Lonis was faced with a decision that would determine his fate for the day. Fortunately for Lonis, he made the right decision and will sit back on Saturday to watch the carnage as players chase him.

On an Ace high board and his opponent with all his chips in the center, Lonis faced an important decision. Should he call the roughly 200K that his opponent had just put in the center? Lonis’ decision was a difficult one as, sitting with pocket Queens, Lonis had a strong hand to go to showdown. After some banter (and some mental deductions), Lonis made the call. Much to his relief, his opponent showed an 8-7 for the massive…Ace high that showed on the board. Lonis’ whooped as he showed his pocket Queens to take the hand and the chip lead at the conclusion of Day 1A.

1. Jesse Lonis, 685,500
2. Dan Stavila, 487,500
3. Josh Kay, 454,000
4. Patrick White, 445,500
5. Matthew Ahmed, 430,000
6. Bin Weng, 417,000
7. Lanny Vaysman, 409,500
8. William Watson, 399,500
9. Conor Hannan, 369,000
10. Manuel Amaro Alvarez, 356,000

Day 1B is in action as we speak and, if the tournament adage of “the final Day One is always the largest” holds true, then we should see a massive field for the WPT Lucky Hearts. The 241 players who survived the Day 1A action will not have to worry about this, however, as they are locked in with a stack for Day 2 on Sunday. The eventual prize pool for the WPT Lucky Hearts could eclipse $4 million, according to estimates from WPT officials, and the champion will earn a sizeable six figure payday for their efforts next week.

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