On Friday, the World Series of Poker Circuit returned to Las Vegas for one of the more start-studded stops on tour. Caesars Palace Las Vegas played host to the event once again, and the Day 1a field attracted 311 entries. At the end of the first 15 levels of play, 58 players remained, and WSOP gold bracelet holder Ryan Welch was on top of the pack with 424,900 in chips. That's well ahead of David Tuthill and Andrew Watson, who bagged 274,100 and 267,000, respectively, to finish out the top three.
If Welch's name sounds familiar, you're not mistaken, especially when it comes to the Las Vegas poker scene. Welch has seven WSOP cashes on his record, with the big one coming when he won the $3,000 No-Limit Hold'em Triple Chance in 2010 for $559,371. On the WSOP Circuit, Welch has just one cash for $13,037 stemming back from 2008, but he's set himself up nicely to make a deep run at this event and top that performance.
Day 1a Top 10 Chip Counts
Throughout the day, Welch used the hashtag "#building" as that's pretty much all he did. In one hand that he recapped to the WSOP live reporting staff, Welch took a good chunk of chips from David Miscikowski.
During Level 9 with the blinds at 300/600/75, Welch raised to 1,500 before Miscikowski reraised to 4,000. Welch fired back with a reraise to 11,000, but Miscikowski didn't back down. Instead, Miscikowski moved all in for around 60,000. Welch made the call with and was flipping with Miscikowski's . Welch went on to win the flip and take his stack up for 150,000 or so at the time.
Tuthill, the man who finished closest to Welch on the leader board, also had a very fine day on the felt. The biggest boost came in Level 14 with the blinds at 800/1,600/200 thanks to two key hands.
On the first hand, WSOP Circuit regular Erik Roussakis was faced with an all-in bet from Tuthill for his tournament life on the final board of . Roussakis opted to make the call, but it was a risk that wouldn't pay off. Tuthill revealed the for a full house, and Tuthill couldn't beat it. He was eliminated, and Tuthill climbed to about 115,000 in chips.
Shortly thereafter, Tuthill's fortunes strengthened when he doubled through David Kruger. At the time, Kruger was the current chip leader, but losing this pot cost him roughly half of his stack.
In the same level as when he eliminated Roussakis, Tuthill reraised to 12,700 from the cutoff seat after Kruger had opened to 5,500 from the hijack seat. Action folded back to Kruger, and he made the out-of-position call to see a flop. The came out, and Kruger bet 20,000. Tuthill called, and the dealer landed the on fourth street. Kruger moved all in, and Tuthill quickly called with the . Kruger held the , though, and had turned a full house to take the lead in the hand. There was still one more card to come, and Tuthill needed to hit. When the dealer smacked the on the felt, it changed everything back in favor of Tuthill to give him the winning hand. Tuthill was all in on the turn for 102,900 in chips and doubled to around 275,000.
Plenty of other notable names were in the mix on Day 1a and advanced to Sunday's Day 2. Of those you have, Ari Engel (156,300), David "Doc" Sands (140,000), AP Phahurat (137,200), Keven Stammen (125,000), Erick Lindgren (68,600), Scotty Nguyen (66,300) and Aaron Massey (52,000).
On the other side of the fence, several notables were eliminated from play. Mohsin Charania, Carlos Mortensen, Will "The Thrill" Failla, Brent Hanks, Kenna James, Kyle Knect and Tom Marchese were a few of those to hit the rail, but they will all have the option of firing a second bullet on Day 1b.
The winner of the 2001 WSOP Main Event, Mortensen, was eliminated during Level 8 with the blinds at 250/500/50 by Tuthill. Tuthill recalled the action to the WSOP live reporting staff as he had opened to 1,200 from the cutoff seat with two aces, and Mortensen reraised to 3,100 from the button. Action folded back to Tuthill, and he made the call. After a flop of , Tuthill check-raised all in after Mortensen had fired 9,000 of his 15,000-chip stack. Mortensen called with pocket jacks, but after Tuthill made three aces on the turn, Mortensen couldn't find a ten on the river to stay alive.
Day 1b will commence on Saturday at 12 p.m. PT at Caesars Palace Las Vegas. With last year's Day 1a field already slightly surpassed in numbers, the event is on its way to breaking through to 662-player mark from a season ago. That event was won by Kevin Calenzo for $197,451, but he busted on Day 1a and will be forced to try again on Day 1b if he wants to successfully defend his title.
Be sure to stay tuned to PokerNews for daily recaps of the action as the quest for another WSOP Circuit champion moves forward.