The World Poker Tour Season X has been under way since the end of May and is already two events deep; however, things didn’t kick off in the United States until Thursday when the WPT Legends of Poker, one of the most anticipated tournaments of the year, got under way at the Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens, California. While some whispered that the tournament could be the largest in WPT history with its $3,500 buy-in and optional re-entry, Day 1a of Legends drew a modest field of 322 players. By the end of the night, only 148 players remained and Matthew Berkey emerged as the chip leader with 248,500.
Season X Legends of Poker Day 1a Top 10 Chip Counts
Berkey acquired quite a few of his chips in Level 9 with the blinds at 400/800 with a 100 ante. He raised to 1,600 and a player in middle position made the call, according to the World Poker Tour Live Updates. David “ODB” Baker then woke up with a reraise to 5,600 from the button, which only Berkey called. When the flop fell , Berkey check-called a bet of 7,000. The turn saw Berkey check-call another bet, this time 11,500, before both players checked the river. Berkey rolled over for the winning hand, bringing him close to the 200,000-chip mark. Not long after, he was moved to a different table and managed to add another 40,000 or so before night’s end.
To learn more on Berkey, check out the WPT’s post-Day 1a interview with the chip leader:
A number of notable players will be joining Berkey and company on Day 2. They include Zach Clark (126,400), Maria Ho (99,900), Greg Mueller (74,200), Jeff Madsen (68,000), Chris DeMaci (42,000), Allen Cunningham (30,000), and Brent Hanks (34,000). In fact, it was Hanks who eliminated fan-favorite Gavin Smith late in Level 8 when the latter picked up only to run into Hanks’ .
Another player eliminated late in the day was Andy Frankenberger. He who won this event last year on his way to becoming the Season IX WPT Player of the Year. His demise came when he flopped two pair against the top set of Raymond Dolan. Luckily for Frankenberger, his title-defense hopes did not die because Day 1a eliminations are given the option of re-entering on Day 1b. Some other pros who fell throughout the day were Dan Shak, Faraz Jaka, Allen Kessler, Ali Eslami, Alan Sternberg, Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Laak, Andrew Lichtenberger, Kathy Liebert, Jonathan Little, and Sam Stein.
Likewise, Phil Hellmuth was unable to survive Day 1a and was eliminated when he fired out 3,000 under the gun on a flop. Hafiz Khan called behind, another player raised to 10,000, Hellmuth called off his meaning 2,000, and Khan folded.
Hellmuth flopped middle pair but was in bad shape against his opponent’s two pair. Neither the turn nor the river helped the Poker Brat, and his tournament hopes were put on hold as he made an unusually hushed exit from the tournament floor.
Hellmuth will likely return on Day 1b, which will need to see 721 players enter to surpass the 2010 WPT Borgata Poker Open (1,042 players) as the largest WPT ever. That number will certainly be hard to hit, but we expect the field to be large nonetheless. Interestingly, the winner of the aforementioned event, Dwyte Pilgrim, is still alive and well in the Legends of Poker, sitting with an above-average stack of 92,000.
Who will join the prestigious list of Legend of Poker winners?
Legend of Poker Champions
The final table of the WPT Legends of Poker will be streamed live on August 30, 2011, and can be viewed on the World Poker Tour website. In the meantime, check back with PokerNews for recaps as the field slowly whittles itself down.
*Hands referenced from the WPT Live Reporting Blog. Photo courtesy of WorldPokerTour.com.
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