The World Poker Tour kicked off its first event of Season XII on Thursday, with a smallish Day 1A field invading the Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens, CA, for one of the stalwarts on the tour, the WPT Legends of Poker.
With three Day Ones (and the ability to re-enter the event on subsequent Day Ones if a player busts out or isn’t happy with their finishing stack), the small field of 142 players wasn’t unexpected. The low number of players did ensure that each table in the event was chocked with professionals looking to make their way to Day 2 and avoid the potential of having to go through another Day One. Tables that had difficult lineups included Joe Serock and Adam Wineraub, Adam Geyer and Christina Lindley, Matt Stout and Jeremy Ausmus and Soi Nguyen and Lee Markholt.
With the start of the first U. S. tournament on the WPT schedule, the WPT also announced their roster of “Ones to Watch” for the year. Lindley was named as one of those players alongside Athanasios Polychronopoulos (a strange choice as he is a two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner), Jeff Gross, Danny Suied, Kyle Julius (another odd selection as he has been a major figure on the international poker scene), Loni Harwood and Aaron Massey. Only Lindley was on the felt to start Thursday, but Polychronopoulos and Julius would join her as late registration brought in more players.
Two players would have a difficult start to the Legends of Poker. David ‘Doc’ Sands would lose half of his stack to Serock after Serock flopped a straight, Sands caught a set of Queens on the turn and couldn’t pair the board on the river. Like Sands, Scott Clements would report over Twitter, “Lost half my stack in the first 2.5 levels.” Clements would rebound to make it through Day 1A, while Sands would be eliminated as the afternoon wore on.
Serock cruised through the afternoon play and was the first player to crack the 100K mark in the event. Right behind him was Julius, who seemed to revel in being named to the “Ones to Watch” list. Looking to get his name back in some of the Player of the Year races, Paul Volpe would instead be eliminated at the hands of Jake Schindler after his Q-10 couldn’t catch up to Schindler’s A-J.
Volpe would have plenty of company on the rail as the action worked through the evening. Polychronopoulos, Julius, Ausmus, Jeff Madsen, Dan O’Brien, Mohsin Charania, Faraz Jaka, Freddy Deeb, former Legends champion Will Failla, Phil Laak and David Chiu would all drop to the rail by the time the final cards were dealt for the day, but the late night action saw the player who would eventually become the Day 1A chip leader making some moves.
On one of the final hands of the day, Barry Hutter was locked into a battle against Carlos Chadha on a J-8-8-7-Q board and almost 100,000 chips sitting in the center. Considering his options, Hutter decided to move his remaining stack to the center (approximately 98K in chips), which easily had Chadha covered. Chadha checked his cards over and, after a moment in the think tank, decided that there would be another day to fight and mucked his cards. Hutter continued to build after that hand and, although he would give up some of those chips to a short stack on the last hand of the night, Hutter is in good shape atop the Day 1A leaderboard with 56 survivors at the Legends of Poker:
1. Barry Hutter, 212,400
2. Nick Phoenix, 207,700
3. Joseph Cheong, 188,100
4. Eddy Sabat, 150,900
5. Joe Serock, 147,500
6. Bart Hanson, 136,300
7. Jesse Yaginuma, 130,100
8. Matt Stout, 106,100
9. Jamie Armstrong, 105,500
10. Christina Lindley, 103,100
Day 1B of the Legends of Poker will kick off at 1PM (Pacific Time) today at the Bike and many of the players who didn’t make it through Day 1A (and those that aren’t happy with their chip stacks) will most likely be back with another host of newcomers. The jury is still out on whether the 2013 version of this tournament will reach last year’s numbers (622 entries), but it should be an excellent weekend of action from California as the World Poker Tour’s Season XII schedule rolls along.