The unique format of the World Poker Tour Bay 101 Shooting Star makes it stand out from the tournament crowd during this blossoming springtime poker season. Day 1a of the $10,000 buy-in event ran on Monday, and the Bay 101 Casino in San Jose welcomed 136 players to the kickoff party. Among them were 17 “Shooting Stars,” each a famous or accomplished player with a $5,000 bounty on their heads. In addition to that knockout money, the overnight chip leader from each of the two starting days is rewarded with a bonus of $10,000. With nearly $100,000 in bonuses driving the early action, almost two-thirds of the starting runners failed to make it through the first ten levels.
T.J. Cloutier got the bounty ship sailing in the very first level when he went broke with on a flop of . Wade Griffith turned over to put Cloutier in bad shape, and the turn and river crapped out to eliminate the first Shooting Star of the day. Gus Hansen lasted a few levels longer before going broke with a flush draw, and Jen Harman lost a flip with ace-king to give Masa Kagawa her bounty. Jason Mercier, Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier, and Tom “durrrr” Dwan were also in the mix of midday casualties to have their bounties claimed.
As the tables began to break throughout the course of the evening, the remaining Shooting Stars began to funnel to other tables. At one point, four bounty players (Chris Ferguson, Gavin Smith, Steve Brecher, and Mike Matusow) were all huddled around the same juicy table. Greg Mueller and Hoyt Corkins were also together, but only for a short while before the Cowboy ran his into Mueller’s . That late-day clash gave Mueller the bounty of his fellow Shooting Star, and the pot he stacked propelled him into contention for the chip-leader bonus, as well.
In the final few orbits of the night, the four chip leaders were all seated together, creating an epic shootout for the $10,000 prize. Mueller, Vanna Tea, and Odie Dardon were each over 100,000 chips, and Scott Montgomery was approaching that milestone in a hurry as the clock ticked on. Mueller was narrowly ahead with 12 minutes to go but was unable to hold off the charge from his stacked table. It was Tea who managed to pip him at the end of the night, and her finishing count of 143,900 locked up the overall top spot. A regular on the California tournament trail, Tea collected the $10,000 bonus, which means she’s essentially free rolling from there on out.
Mueller, sporting a huge red Canada hockey jersey, ended the day in second place with 132,800 chips, and he's one of six Shooting Stars still in contention. Freddy Deeb, Matusow, Daniel Negreanu, Brecher, and Yevgeniy Timoshenko are all still hanging on to their bounties – for now.
The last flight of starters is cleared for takeoff on Tuesday morning before 11:00 a.m. PST. It should be a standing-room-only crowd inside the casino with the full allotment of 25 bounties on hand. By the time registration is closed, the total field should be hovering right around the 400-player cap.
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