The cards are flying at the Jack Binion World Poker Open in Tunica, MS, with early results showing record fields and previously unknown players rising up to take their first major titles in tournament poker events.
In the first event, the $500 Pot Limit Omaha Event (with rebuys), Joe Rutledge of Pasadena, TX, overcame a 281 player field that included Thor Hansen, Tommy Grimes and Derek Tomko to take the championship. It took only two hours for Rutledge to eviscerate the final table and take the WPO gold and diamond bracelet and the $104,021 first place prize.
Play moved on to the second event, the $500 No-Limit Holdem Event, with an astounding 1,449 entries moving to the tables. In the end, it came down to a player in only his second live tournament, Shane Shields of Union, KY, versus the seasoned tournament veteran An "The Boss" Tran, of Las Vegas, NV. In what has become the theme of the early action in Mississippi, Shields overcame Tran's wealth of experience and captured the championship and the $174,663 winner's check.
The $500 Limit Holdem Event was remarkable in that, of the thirty or so professionals that started the record 1,117 player field, none made it to the cash-out positions. The $134,058 and, perhaps more importantly, the $10,000 seat in the Championship Event of the World Poker Open, first place award was seized by Campbell Davis of Texas.
In the fourth event, the $500 No-Limit Holdem Event (with rebuys), the professionals reasserted themselves into the Mississippi tournament. Such players as David "Devilfish" Ulliot, Men "The Master" Nguyen, Scott Fishman and Tony Cousineau all reached the cash-out level of the 628 player field, but none found their way to the final table. Freddy Deeb (fourth place) did, but in the end Anthony Hellman of Louisville, KY, was the man who captured the $201,365 first place share and the coveted WPO Championship bracelet.
With fifteen events still to come, what remains to be seen is whether the string of victories by previously unknown players will continue. The fields will continue to set records, with every event to date having their largest numbers yet. The pinnacle of the event is the Championship Event, a $10,000 buy-in event to be conducted January 24th. To the victor will go the most prized award: the entry into the Third World Poker Tour Championship Event to be conducted at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. The World Poker Open has barely started but the action will continue to bring memorable battles along the way!