Last year, a young gun by the name of Yevgeniy “Jovial Gent” Timoshenko took down the World Poker Tour (WPT) Championship for more than $2 million and returned this year to defend his title. Players who entered coughed up $25,000 each at the Bellagio with the hopes of taking down the $1.5 million first place price. In a bit of a twist, there were no multiple Day 1s, but players instead started with 100,000 in tournament chips. Blinds began at 100-200 with 90-minute intervals and players could buy in as late as Level 8, which occurred during Day 2.
A total of 195 players entered. With players playing so deep at the start of the tournament at 500 big blinds, eliminations weren’t expected to be a commonality on Day 1. That proved to be the case, as only 23 players hit the rail after play concluded around 8:30pm in Las Vegas.
Chip counts at the end of Day 1 saw Shawn Buchanan in the lead with 388,600. In second place was Brian Lemke with 289,825, who was playing with a heavy heart due to the one-year anniversary of the death of his cousin, noted poker journalist Justin Shronk. In third place was high-stakes cash game player David Benyamine, who accumulated chips to get a final total of 291,275. In fourth place with 277,275 was Timoshenko, who you might remember as “Jovial Gent” in his PokerStars WCOOP Main Event win last year.
In fifth place was recent WPT final table member Soheil Shamseddin, who stood out during the broadcast for his wild playing style and high-level enthusiasm. In sixth place was Chris Moore with 243,700 and in seventh place was Cody Slaubaugh with 231,300. Eighth place belonged to the incomparable Phil Ivey, a Full Tilt Poker pro, at 230,250. Ninth place belonged to Todd Terry, who has 213,825 in chips, and in tenth place was Christian Harder with 211,675.
The average chip count at the end of Day 1 was 117,518. Notable eliminations included Jeff Shulman, Kevin “BeL0WaB0Ve” Saul, Antonio Esfandiari, and Annette “Annette_15” Obrestad. Shulman was eliminated late in play during Day 1 and was crippled when Beth Shak’s pocket aces bested his A-K. After that hand, Shulman was only left with 2,000 in chips and was eliminated a few hands later. Esfandiari was eliminated by Shamseddin when he mucked his hand after seeing Shamseddin make a flush on the turn with 10-8 of clubs.
Some players were in dire straights and severely short-stacked after Day 1. Notables in this situation included Andrew “good2cu” Robl with 10,025 in chips, Paul Wasicka with 27,250 in chips, and Dwyte Pilgrim with only 22,900 in chips. Some of the tougher tables that started up on Day 2 include Table 49, which had industry icons Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, and Billy Baxter sitting together. Another tough table looked to be Table 54, which included names such as Josh Arieh, Cliff “JohnnyBax” Jospehy, Kathy Liebert, and Harder. ClubWPT.com winner Leron Washington, who parlayed his freeroll site win into a victory at the recent WPT Celebrity Invitational, remained alive with 46,475 chips.