The first weekend of the 2023 World Series of Poker is upon us, and the folks at the Horseshoe and Paris Las Vegas aren’t letting the players rest at all. In the two major tournaments, a longtime “High Roller” pro picked up his second piece of jewelry, while 64 men have battled down to the “Sweet Sixteen” in heads-up play. Elsewhere, the Tournament of Champions will determine a victor on Saturday (after playing well into the night on Friday) and Stud gets some love with the continuation of their $1500 tournament.

Chad Eveslage Captures Second Bracelet in Dealer’s Choice

456 entries had been whittled down to the final eleven on Friday afternoon in Event #5, the $1500 Six-Handed Dealer’s Choice tournament, with chip leaders Andrew Kelsall (1.95 million) and Clayton Mozdzen (1.555 million) holding a tenuous edge over the ravenous field behind them. Included in that “ravenous field” were the other three players over the seven-figure mark in chips, James Johnson (1.465 million), Nick Pupillo (1.105 million), and Chad Eveslage (1.095 million). For the other six men in the tournament, it was going to be a tough haul to make any significant comeback.

There were a wide variety of games being called by the players when the dealer button reached them – Big O, Badacey, Omaha and Stud Hi/Lo 8 or Better, even Pot Limit Deuce to Seven Triple Draw just in the first hours – indicating the wide variety of skills the players needed to contend for the title. The first significant action of the day came when, in Stud Hi/Lo Regular (no qualifiers), Mozdzen and Racener went bet-for-bet all the way to the end of Seventh Street. When the cards were turned up, Racener was devastated to see the results:

Racener: (A-7) 4-A-7-Q (K) (two pair with King low)
Mozdzen: (5-5) 4-6-5-10 (3) (trip fives with a ten low)

The resulting scoop for Mozdzen sent him to the lead, while Racener seemed to be devastated in the hand. Despite only having 80K in chips after the faceoff against Mozdzen, Racener showed incredible fortitude in fighting off the felt. In fact, Racener did so well, he would be a part of the “official” final table of six, outlasting Mozdzen (who would depart in fifth place).

Eveslage was the player in the dominant position with the final six, however. He would have more than half the chips in play at that point and was never seriously challenged. Eveslage and Kelsall would reach heads-up action against each other, with Eveslage holding more than a 3:1 lead, and over the next hour, Eveslage would finish the job.

On the final hand of No Limit Hold’em, Kelsall was pushed all in by the blinds and big blind ante. Kelsall turned up a measly 6-4 for the fight, but they were live against Eveslage’s “computer hand” of Q-7. They became even more live for Kelsall when the 10-5-3 flop came down, opening the doors to straight draws for the man in the Philadelphia Eagles jersey. None of those outs would come for Kelsall, however, as a King on the turn and another five on the river sealed the title for Chad Eveslage, his second bracelet win in as many years.

1. Chad Eveslage, $131,879
2. Andrew Kelsall, $81,509
3. Nick Kost, $54,247
4. John Racener, $36,953
5. Clayton Mozdzen, $25,779
6. James Johnson, $18,428

“Sweet Sixteen” Determined in $25K Heads-Up Championship

There was a rush to the cage to get into the field for Event #7, the $25,000 Heads-Up Championship tournament, because the field was limited to only 64 players. A host of top pros queued up behind some fellow pros who were a bit quicker on the draw, hoping that they might get called as alternates. Alas, there weren’t any “no-shows,” and the battles began.

Chance Kornuth is in the running again for a bracelet, making quick work of his first two opponents in Jeremiah Williams and Keir Sullivan. He faces the potential of meeting up with Anthony Zinno in the Elite Eight, should both men defeat their Sweet Sixteen opponents (Landon Tice for Kornuth, Joshua Heinzl for Zinno). Here’s the lineup for those Sweet Sixteen battles that begin on Saturday:

Daemon Richardson v. Eric Wasserson
Sean Winter v. Kevin Rabichow
Chanracy Khun v. Gabor Szabo
Landon Tice v. Chance Kornuth
Joshua Heinzl v. Anthony Zinno
Chris Brewer v. Tyler Gaston
Doug Polk v. Reiji Kono
Isaac Kempton v. Roberto Perez

Action on Saturday will take the field from sixteen players to the Final Four, with the championship set to be determined on Sunday.

Michael Moncek Picks Up Win in Event #6

Some big names would be a part of Event #6, the $5000 Mixed NLHE/PLO tournament, final table. A second lady would make a final table for the series, Kristen Foxen (following up on Lisa Eckstein’s final table finish in the Casino Employees Event), but Foxen’s run at gold would end in seventh place. The same was also true for Christian Harder (fifth), Michael Banducci (fourth), and Alex Livingston (third).

The heads-up match came down to Fernando Habegger, trying to make it a second bracelet for Switzerland following Alexandre Vuilleumier’s win earlier this week, and Michael Moncek. Moncek started with a nearly 3:1 lead and never let Habegger into the fight, taking him out in a PLO hand that saw Moncek hit two pair with his K-J-10-4 holdings on a K-J-5 flop and finish out with a runner-runner full house (ten on the turn, King on the river). Habegger never mustered much for the fight with his A-9-3-3 as he congratulated Moncek on his victory and his first bracelet.

1. Michael Moncek, $534,499
2. Fernando Habegger, $330,344
3. Alex Livingston, $235,062
4. Michael Banducci, $169,674
5. Christian Harder, $124,266
6. Tyler Brown, $92,362
7. Kristen Foxen, $69,683
8. Ferenc Deak, $53,377

Around the Horseshoe and Paris for Saturday

The Mystery Millions, which only seems like it has been going on since the start of the 2023 WSOP, will have its fourth and final Day One on Saturday. After today, we will have an idea of both the prize pool and the final entry numbers for the tournament. At this mark, 529 players are moving on to Sunday’s Day Two action; expect that number to potentially double with the final opening day on Saturday.

Day Three of the $1500 Limit Hold’em tournament is ready to go, featuring seventeen players vying for the next WSOP bracelet. Jason Duong is atop the leaderboard, but David ‘ODB’ Baker is right behind him in the chase for the gold. Everyone is guaranteed a minimum of $4843 for coming back on Saturday, but the $146,835 top prize is what everyone wants.

Finally, Day Two will kick off in the $1500 Seven Card Stud tournament, Event #9 on your scorecard. Dzmitry Urbanovich is at the helm of the 112 players left in the field, with Chris Hundley and Shaun Deeb in pursuit. Two other Stud masters, Nick Schulman, and John Monnette, round out the Top Five. It is going to be a busy first Saturday of action around the Horseshoe and Paris Las Vegas for the 2023 WSOP, but the players wouldn’t have it any other way.

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