WSOP 2015 Begins with Casino Employee and $5K NLH Events and Lots of Colossus Buzz

May 28th, 2015 | by Brian Corlisse
WSOP begins Casino Employees Colossus

WSOP action is underway, though the fields aren’t nearly as big as they will be this weekend for the Colossus. (Image: exclusive)

Say hello again to WSOP 2015: the much-anticipated World Series of Poker is now in semi-full swing at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

WSOP features over 60 events, tens of millions of dollars in prizes, and the world’s largest poker tournaments. But you wouldn’t know that from the first day of action, when just two relatively small events heralded the start of the year’s most important poker series.

Series Begins with Casino Employees Event

As always, the WSOP began with the Casino Employees tournament, a $565 buy-in event designed to let those in the gaming industry get into the action before anyone else. Unlike every other WSOP tournament, this one doesn’t feature a bevy of names familiar to poker fans or scores of former bracelet winners, but it has become an important part of the World Series nonetheless.

It’s also one of the quickest tournaments of the WSOP. With only a two-day play down schedule, after the end of Day 1, just 51 of the initial 688 players were still in contention for the top prize of $75,704. Leading the way was Stephen Gilbert of Troutdale, Oregon, who has 236,500 chips heading into Day 2.

Just a few hours after the Casino Employees tournament started, the first open event of the series began. The $5,000 No Limit Hold’em event attracted a small but strong field. With 422 players putting up the buy-in, it was clear there weren’t going to be many soft spots, and the top of the leaderboard proves it.

Ronconi Leads $5,000 Tournament

The chip leader after the first day of play is Darryl Ronconi. He may not be a household name, but Ronconi has plenty of tournament experience, and has finished as high as second in previous WSOP events (that finish coming in another $5,000 No Limit Hold’em event back in 2011).

But he’ll have to navigate a very tough field to hold on to that lead. Just in the top 20 of the chip standings, there are a number of top pros, including Joe Ebanks, Martin Jacobson, Jonathan Jaffe and Joseph Cheong.

After the first day of play, there are 171 players remaining in Event #2, with only 45 being paid. The tournament is expected to finish up on Saturday.

Colossus to Crush Records

While these events may not seem overwhelming, it won’t be long before the Rio is packed to the rafters with poker players. That’s because the $565 buy-in Colossus is scheduled to start on Friday, and all expectations are that it will demolish all previous records for live tournament play.

On Thursday morning, the WSOP announced that the first of the four Colossus flights had sold out, with players only able to join a “late wave” for the Friday morning starting time, which would allow them to jump into the action after a few levels when enough players had been eliminated. Seats were still available for the three other starting flights, though Saturday morning’s flight 1C was filling fast.

Each flight of the Colossus is set up to support 4,600 entries, not to mention up to 1,750 more through two late waves. If all four flights were to fill (which seems quite possible), it would only take a small dip into those late waves to surpass 20,000 players; if the late waves fill, the tournament could rise to more than 25,000 runners.

That’s great news for WSOP organizers, who were hoping that the Colossus and other events would draw in recreational players who might otherwise be intimidated by the stature of the WSOP. Other tournaments, like the Millionaire Maker, the Monster Stack, and a new Lucky Sevens event are also aiming at the recreational market, which should bolster the overall numbers for this year’s WSOP.


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