The latest World Series of Poker Circuit Main Event at Harrah's in Tunica, Mississippi, got under way on Sunday with 480 players forking over the $1,500 buy-in, creating a prize pool of $698,400. The field was full of participants eager to claim the $148,612 first-place prize, a gold championship ring, and points toward the WSOP-C National Leaderboard. Unfortunately not everyone’s dream would come true. By the end of the night, 369 had fallen in Day 1 action, leaving 111 players to return Monday for Day 2. Leading the way is Dale Slatton with 246,400; however, right on his heels is none other than Tommy Vedes with a stack of 246,300.
Vedes arrived to the Main Event a few hours late but managed to recover from any damage the missed blinds and antes may have caused. Vedes put together a late-night run and amassed the vast majority of his stack in the later levels. The combination of a big stack and experience certainly makes Vedes an early favorite.
Meanwhile, the Tunica stop marked the halfway point in the 2010/2011 WSOP-C schedule and many players were eager to secure a spot in the WSOPC National Championship, a $1 million freeroll bracelet event that will take place at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas from May 27 to 29, 2011, and will be televised nationally on the Versus network. At the circuit stops (as opposed to the regional championships), there are only two ways to qualify: win the Main Event or be the highest point earner during the stop, AKA the "Casino Champ." Otherwise, players can accumulate points based upon their performance to climb the leaderboard. If they have enough when the circuit season ends, they’ll be in.
Some of the players who had been grinding the WSOP-C stops competing for points, and who were in action on Day 1, were Joel Merwick (105 points), Kevin Calenzo (167.5 points), Chris Tryba (65 points), Stephen Kats (82.5 points), Dwyte Pilgrim (60 points), Mark “Pegasus” Smith (97.5 points), Faris Nasserazad (75 points), and La Sengphet (52.5 points). Unfortunately, many of these players were unable to get anything going. Smith, Nasserazad, Tryba, and Pilgrim hit the rail early. They were joined by other recognizable names such as Kenny “Badhat” Piel, Corrie Wunstel, “Cowboy” John Land and Justin Kruger.
While many of the day’s notables failed to survive, others managed to thrive. Sengphet, who won a gold ring in an earlier event, ended the day with 87,900. Coincidentally, a fifth-place finish or better in the Main event will give her the title of “Casino Champion,” which currently belongs to two-time Harrah’s Tunica-circuit ring-winner Kyle Cartwright, and ensure her a spot in the national championship. Likewise, ring-winners Tripp Kirk (59,800) and Jessie Bryant (33,800) can grab the title by accomplishing the same feat. Maurice Hawkins can also get it done with a second-place finish. Another player who found success on Day 1 was Kats, who jumped out to an early chip lead of nearly 200,000. Unfortunately for him, his lead had diminished by the end of the night and he was left with 83,100. Also surviving to Day 2 were Rusty Boyker (244,000), Bob Talbot (87,100), Calenzo (66,000), Preston Derden (101,600), and Kurt Jewell (117,300).
Day 2 of the WSOPC Harrah’s Tunica is set to begin at noon local time on Monday in Tunica, Mississippi. The PokerNews Live Reporting Team will be present throughout the tournament bringing you all the action and eliminations as we look to crown another WSOP-C Main Event champion and find the next two qualifiers for the WSOP-C National Championship.