L.A. Poker Classic Unique Opening Event Draws Sizeable Field

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Poker tournament participation has recently been holding steady or, in some cases, even showing a decline in many American casinos. The opening event of this year’s L.A. Poker Classic has bucked this trend.

The L.A. Poker Classic, held annually at the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, is recognized as one of the preeminent tournament events on the yearly schedule. It opened up play on January 20th with one of the more unusual events on its 51 tournament slate. The $300 buy in No Limit Hold’em event featured a guaranteed $1 million prize pool, which automatically ensures that a deep field will contend for the championship.  Tournament director Matt Savage, who has been lauded for his tweaking of tournaments since he took over as the main man at the Commerce last year, had another surprise in store for the Commerce contestants.

For the opening tournament, Savage scheduled four Day Ones and. Players who were eliminated on any of the first three Day Ones could enter again. With the ability to reenter the tournament, players were highly aggressive over the first three days of competition. Savage’s innovation for the first event on the L.A. Poker Classic schedule led to one of the largest tournament fields outside of a World Series of Poker (WSOP) event in history.

After the carnage of the first four days was completed, a total of 3,791 “unique” players had entered the event, according to a Tweet from Savage. Of those original entries, another 2,083 buy ins were received from players who had been eliminated, but felt they still had a chance at taking down the tournament. When Day Two of the tournament began on Sunday, 5,847 buy ins were recorded, eclipsing the guarantee by over $754,000.

With 3,791 players into the tournament, 540 took away at least $600 for their troubles; however, the majority of the prize pool was divvied up on Day Two. The 72 players who survived the first four days would earn a minimum of $1,980 for their efforts. Leading the way was Tim Telesio of Moreno Valley, California, but he was hotly pursued by several top Los Angeles pros such as Michael Woo, Cuong Nguyen, and Gevork Kasabyan.

The battle for the final table raged well into Monday morning. Nguyen and Kasabyan were victims of the early action on Sunday, but Woo was able to drive to the final table and finished in sixth place. Taking the championship early on Monday was Darrell Cain, who started the day in 25th place. Cain, who calls Sacramento home, was able to defeat Rocky River, Ohio’s Michael Blocksidge in heads-up action to win the “Bronco Buster” trophy (based on the Frederic Remington bronze statue of the same name) and the first place prize of $363,936.

Savage’s innovative tournaments will not be limited to just the opening event of this year’s L.A. Poker Classic. In an attempt to cater to players of all disciplines of poker, Savage has brought such games as Badugi, Chinese Poker, and an Eight-Game Mixed event to center stage at the Commerce during the L.A. Poker Classic. Perhaps Savage’s best innovation, however, is the Ironman Tournament.

The Ironman Tournament, which will be played on February 21st, is a creation from what some would say is the more sadistic side of Savage’s mind. In the $2,000 event, there are no breaks, whether for personal reasons or meals. A player can leave the table at any time, but the player continues to be dealt and blinds are posted appropriately. Play continues until a champion is determined, with the winner taking 50% of the prize pool and a seat into the World Poker Tour (WPT) L.A. Poker Classic Championship Event. No deals are allowed and a security guard stationed outside of the restroom ensures that everyone washes their hands.

The innovative Ironman Tournament was a success when it was unveiled last September. Savage debuted the concept during last year’s Commerce Casino Hold’em Series and 64 players took to the felt for the tournament. After over 19 hours of play, Brett Radin walked away with the $51,160 first prize, defeating a field that included 2009 CardPlayer Player of the Year Eric “basebaldy” Baldwin, Gavin Griffin, Matt “mattg1983” Graham, and defending WPT L.A. Poker Championship winner Cornel Andrew Cimpan.

Savage’s reputation for staging the best poker tournaments in the game today, as well as his innovative game creations, should have the L.A. Poker Classic on the minds of anyone connected to the poker world. The tournament schedule currently in action continues play through the month of February and will end the first week of March with the completion of the WPT Championship Event.

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