As they prepare to hit the home stretch of their Season XII schedule, the World Poker Tour has settled in Niagara Falls, Canada, for today’s start to the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic at the Fallsview Casino Resort.
The 2014 Fallsview Poker Classic could perhaps be called a “throwback” to the way poker tournaments were previously conducted. Instead of having multiple Day Ones, the $5000 buy in tournament will have only one opening day of action. Additionally, there will be no re-entry option for the tournament, something that has become commonplace in other tournament stops in the poker world. The field will be capped at 600 players and should draw an outstanding field of tournament pros for the event.
The current leader in the major Player of the Year races, Mike McDonald, heads an all-star list of players who have committed to playing in the tournament. He will be joined by such notable Canadian pros as Peter Jetten, Mike Watson, Griffin Benger, Mike Leah, Marc Etienne McLaughlin and Xuan Liu on the felt this afternoon. They will attempt to defend their home turf against American pros Vanessa Selbst (looking to catch up with McDonald on the POY charts), Jonathan Little, Christian Harder, Lily Kiletto, Jonathan Driscoll and 2014 WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open champion James Calderaro.
As Fallsview officials get ready to open the doors for today’s play, the race for the WPT Player of the Year title is completely up for grabs. Currently at the head of the pack is Jared Jaffee, who has used three cashes (including the championship at the WPT bestbet Jacksonville Fall Poker Scramble) to amass 1850 points. Jaffee cannot be comfortable with that lead, however, as a pack of players are in pursuit of him that should push the WPT POY race all the way to its conclusion at the WPT World Championship this April.
Tied for second behind Jaffee are Dan Smith and Vasili Firsau, with Smith winning the title at the WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic in December and Firsau using two runner up finishes (in Paris and Prague) to tie him. Three other Season XII WPT champions – Anthony Zinno, David Paredes and Jordan Cristos – are tied for fourth with 1250 points each. The remainder of the Top Ten is filled out by Anthony Merulla, Dan Heimiller, Derrick Rosenbarger, Gary Benson and Mikul Pahuja, who each have 1200 points.
The Fallsview tournament kicks off what will be a maddening stretch drive of tournaments for the WPT over the next couple of months. Following the completion of this Canadian tournament, the WPT will pack up the trucks and head off for what they are calling their “West Coast swing.” In the stretch of 19 days, the WPT will conduct three tournaments in the Golden State that starts with a perennial event on the WPT schedule, the L. A. Poker Classic, beginning on March 1. On March 10, the WPT will head north for another favorite event of many poker players, the Bay 101 Shooting Star, and the “swing” will be concluded by a new event on the WPT schedule, the WPT Rolling Thunder at the Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln, CA, on March 15.
Three other events will be taking place either during the “West Coast swing” or will start up soon after the “swing’s” conclusion. The WPT will head back to Italy on March 10 (giving their European players an event) for the Gioco Digitale WPT Venice. On March 21, the WPT heads to the East Coast for two tournaments, the WPT Jacksonville bestbet Open (March 21) and the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown (April 10). These events all lead up to the WPT World Championship, which will be held at the Borgata in Atlantic City for the first time on April 21.
While they may be in the “home stretch” of the Season XII schedule, touring poker professionals are at the very top of that stretch run. The first step to finishing off the WPT Season XII schedule begins this afternoon with the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic and it should be an outstanding event.