While many may be lamenting that, for the first time in 16 years, there is nothing going on in the Bahamas, the tournament poker world is going on. It may have slipped under the radar, but the World Poker Tour has gotten back into its Season XVIII swing with a stop at the Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens, CA. The WPT Gardens Poker Championship, to this point, has a cozy crowd while Randall Emmett and Cole Sudeck have emerged as the early chip leaders.

Day 1A a Smallish Affair

Perhaps still suffering from the post-New Year’s hangover, the field was a quaint one for Day 1A of the WPT Gardens Poker Championship on Thursday. Only 72 entries were received on the day, with 42 of those players moving on to Day 2 action on Saturday. Emmett was the one who did the best among the smallish field, emerging as the chip leader after the action concluded for the evening.

Perhaps the format of the tournament kept the numbers down for the first day. The $10,000 buy in tournament offered the ability for players to re-enter once if they were eliminated. While this might sound nice, with two Day Ones – and late registration stretching into Day Two, in which players eliminated on the previous days’ action could STILL re-enter – it would be possible for a player to shoot five bullets – $50,000 – and not have anything to show for their actions.

The players that did come out on Thursday didn’t seem to have many answers for Emmett, at least for one bullet. Emmett, the Hollywood producer responsible for one of the top films of 2019, The Irishman, had to take advantage of the re-entry option after his first try failed. That second chance seemed to work for Emmett as, within the final three hours of action and sitting at a table that featured Chance Kornuth, he was able to work his stack up to 240,900.

There will be plenty of competition for Emmett, including the record holder for most titles in the history of the WPT and one of the biggest “High Rollers” in the tournament poker world:

1. Randall Emmett, 240,900
2. David McCaw, 177,500
3. Darren Elias, 151,700
4. Ali Imsirovic, 151,500
5. Anthony Zinno, 138,300

Day 1B Numbers Improve

The players dribbled through the doors of the Gardens Casino on Friday in a little larger numbers, finally totaling up to 124 entries. Eight levels of action saw Sudeck emerge as the leader for the day, while only 68 players will move on for further action in the event.

Kornuth was back for a second shot on Day 1B and he had arguably one of the most exciting hands of the day. Late in the evening, Ping Liu made a standard raise from under the gun and the cutoff three-bet the action. Kornuth was on the button and pushed out a four-bet (what does that mean, kiddies?) and Liu didn’t hesitate in making the call. After some deliberation, the three-bettor decided to ease out of the way and Kornuth and Liu went to battle:

Kornuth: A♣ A♥
Liu: Q♣ Q♥

Not only did Kornuth have Liu in the “pair versus pair” race, he also had him covered in the suits as well. That looked to be unimportant, however, as the flop came Q♦ 10♣ 8♣ to give Liu the lead with a set of ladies. It got more interesting when the 3♣ came on the turn, however, as it opened Kornuth’s outs up from two (the two remaining Aces) to ten (the Aces and the eight clubs remaining in the deck). The unbelievable backdoor flush came home on the 4♣ river, giving Kornuth a tournament-saving double up and knocking Liu down to fumes.

It was Sudeck’s day, however, as he fended off the charge of two former WPT champions to take the lead for the Day 1B field:

1. Cole Sudeck, 199,500
2. Jordan Cristos, 198,400
3. David Lambard, 197,600
4. Sebastian de Jonge, 194,300
5. Joe Kuether, 173,600

This left the two-Day Ones overall leaderboard (unofficially) looking like this:

1. Randall Emmett, 240,900
2. Cole Sudeck, 199,500
3. Jordan Cristos, 198,400
4. David Lambard, 197,600
5. Sebastian de Jonge, 194,300
6. David McCaw, 177,500
7. Joe Kuether, 173,600
8. Jonathan Depa, 164,300
9. Upeshka De Silva, 157,900
10. Darren Elias, 151,700

There is still no information as to the prize pool yet, due to the fact that late registration will be going on until the start of Level 11 on Saturday afternoon at about 4PM (Pacific Time). Currently the field stands at 110 players from the 198-player field and it is expected that there will be many latecomers on Saturday to push the field into the mid-200s. Action continues at the Gardens Casino at noon as the WPT looks to crown its first champion for 2020.

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