The launch of the latest PokerStars.net land-based poker tour – the North American Poker Tour – was years in the making. It finally kicked off yesterday with a $5,000 no-limit hold'em tournament at Venetian Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Judging by the size of the field, the NAPT's arrival was eagerly anticipated by players everywhere.
The event was a near sell-out as 872 players came up with $5,000 yesterday to take their shots at life-changing money and the distinction of becoming the first-ever NAPT champion. The player fastest out of the gate yesterday was Las Vegas local Andy Seth, who finished the day with 245,600. He'll have the pole position and a slight edge over the rest of the field as 475 survivors return on Sunday for Day 2.
Given that NAPT Venetian was scheduled for the same day as the highly popular WPT Invitational tournament at Commerce Casino in Los Angeles (which drew a star-studded field in its own right), the turnout for NAPT Venetian was nothing short of a staggering success. The field was filled with the very best in poker talent. It was difficult to spot a table that didn't have two or more very tough spots. That's no surprise considering a first-place prize of more than $827,000 and the announcement earlier in the week that NAPT had signed a television deal in the U.S. with ESPN2.
As it goes in poker, there were a lot of disappointed players before the end of the day. A conversation on Saturday evening with any of Justin Bonomo, Kevin Saul, Hevad Khan, David Benyamine, Phil Hellmuth, Shaun Deeb, Kathy Liebert, Theo Tran, JC Tran, Chino Rheem or Chad Brown might have started with a bad-beat story. All were eliminated before the end of the day.
But for every player who busted, another's chip count increased. Four players managed to increase their starting 30,000 chips to more than 200,000 by the end of the day. Seth was atop the pile with 245,600, closely followed by Philip Collins, Mark Ketteringham, and 2003 WSOP Main Event champion Chris Moneymaker.
Having 200,000 chips is a nice edge against the field, but the field is still a long way from the finish line. The schedule for Sunday's Day 2 calls for six 75-minute levels to take place. Our gorilla math tells us that roughly 200 players will be standing when the chip bags are brought out next, roughly 80 places short of the money. A lot can happen between now and Wednesday's final table.