The 2016 World Series of Poker hasn’t seen many more exciting days than Saturday’s action brought. Event #41, the $1,500 Monster Stack No-Limit Hold’em championship, concluded its two Day Ones with 6,927 players signed up. That’s slightly fewer than the Millionaire Maker, but could end up being more than the Main Event even pulls in, to be determined.
All three tournament rooms at the Rio in Las Vegas were crowded on Saturday, thanks to that Monster Stack action. There should be a bit more room to maneuver on Sunday, as “only” 2,001 of those players will be coming back for Day Two.
Despite so many top poker pros entering this event, Steven Harper, a man who hasn’t ever cashed in a WSOP tournament, holds the chip lead (279,700) at start of play today. But there are still three days of play ahead and the leaderboard is sure to adjust frequently.
Harper entered Day 41B, the second of the two Day One starting flights. Gregory Alexander ended Day 41A with the most chips (253,300). He has just two cashes in WSOP events.
But the big story in this event isn’t the chip leaders or the tournament’s massive field. Six-time bracelet winner T.J. Cloutier finished Day One with a huge stack (180,800). One of the game’s all-time greatest players would love to win his first bracelet since 2005.
Cloutier, now 76-years old, is one of the most respected poker players ever. Due to health concerns, he doesn’t play as much as he used to. He received a loud ovation prior to announcing “shuffle up and deal” before the start of a Colossus II Day One starting flight. Cloutier played and cashed (2,114th place) in that event.
The 2006 Poker Hall of Fame inductee will try to prove that age is only a number. Other players to keep an eye on during Day Two include 2015 Main Event champ Joe McKeehen, 2012 Big One for One Drop champ Antonio Esfandiari, WPT commentator Tony Dunst, legendary player Erik Seidel, and long-time pro Dutch Boyd.
Imagine how upset the poker community would be if Chris Ferguson won a bracelet. He had an opportunity to do so on Saturday in Event #39, the $10,000 Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em. But he fell just a bit short, taking 4th.
Had Ferguson won, poker players on Twitter would have melted down. They can thank Martin Kozlov for sending him to the rails. Kozlov went on to win the bracelet.
Ferguson entered the final table of six in 2nd place, but never could get his momentum going. It was downhill from the start. The cards simply didn’t fall his way and neither did the breaks.
Justin Bonomo followed Ferguson to the exits shortly after in 3rd place. Davidi Kitai was the runner-up. No one at the final table ran as well as Kozlov. It was his day. On multiple occasions, he found himself all-in as the underdog, but continually escaped.
The other bracelet handed out on Saturday went to Christopher Vitch from Phoenix, Arizona. He conquered event #40, the $2,500 Mixed Triple Draw Lowball (Limit), for $136,854. Vitch defeated Siegfried Stockinger in a short heads-up match to win the title.
Vitch had never before won a WSOP gold bracelet and previously had just four cashes at the summer series. But he is a well-respected poker pro, and now he’s a WSOP champion.
After Day One of Event #43, the $10,000 Seven-Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better, Randy Ohel, a talented pro, leads the way with 372,000 chips. He’s been in contention in multiple events this summer, as has George Danzer, who finds himself in 2nd place (338,000).
This is a three-day tournament with 136 entrants. Day Two on Sunday will begin play at 2 pm PT with 51 remaining players. Other notable players left in the field include Eli Elezra, Todd Brunson, David Benyamine, Dzmitry Urbanovich, Mike Gorodinsky, Brian Rast, Joe Hachem, David Grey, Cyndy Violette, Dan Shak, Justin Bonomo, and Rep Porter. In other words, an all-star cast.
The final table is set for Event #42, the $3,000 Shootout No-Limit Hold’em. The player known as the “Homeless Millionaire,” Faraz Jaka, is the chip leader. A winner will be crowned on Sunday. Cards get in the air at 2 pm at the Rio.
Sunday also marks the beginning of Event #44, the $1,000 No-Limit Hold’em and Event #45, the $1,500 Mixed No-Limit Hold’em/Pot-Limit Omaha. Both tournaments are scheduled to conclude on Tuesday.