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WSOP-C Palm Beach Day 1: Sponaugle Leads at the First Turn

Ryan Sponaugle

The World Series of Poker Circuit has opened its doors to third-party venues, and this week, the circuit stopped at the Palm Beach Kennel Club in Florida for another $1,500 Main Event. It is the ninth in the series of 15 Main Events, but this one is certainly a bit unique in comparison. For starters, this tournament marks the first time WSOP action has invaded Florida, and it's the first time a WSOP-branded event has been held at a noncasino property, as well. As the matinee dog races were in full gallop outside the picture windows of the poker room, 712 players filed into the club on Monday for their starting flights. With nine levels in the books at the Day 1 finish line, more than 350 remain.

The morning flight kicked off at the ungodly early hour of 11 a.m., a near-travesty in the poker world. Still, 468 runners proved that the start time was just fine with them as they showed up in droves for the 1a half of this starting day. Among the early starters were a pair of former WSOP World Champions — Greg Raymer and Jerry Yang. The latter had a very productive day, bagging up 72,600 chips with which to wage war on Day 2, but Raymer, the 2004 champ, failed to escape the first three levels of the day. "Fossilman" first had his stack decimated when his six-high straight was bested by an opponent's seven-high straight, then he ran {A-Hearts} {K-Hearts} into another player's {A-Spades} {K-Spades} for the rest. The final flop was two spades and a heart — good news for Raymer's suit — but the turn and river both brought spades to flush him out the exit before the first break.

Joining Raymer on the rail were a smattering of notables including Chris Tryba, Ari Engel, Stuart Paterson, Tristan Wade, Jared Jaffee, Paul Magriel, and Florida's own Harrison Gimbel. The latter was eliminated in the very final minutes of the day after holding the chip lead at various points during the early stages. It was a big clash with Tom Nguyen that robbed Gimbel of the majority of his stack, and Nguyen ended Day 1a with a chip-leading count of 135,400 chips. With that, the first batch of players were whisked out the doors at about 5:45 p.m. to clear the way for the night session.

Another 244 players joined up for the 7 p.m. start to bring the field up to 712. The fresh set of faces included another good group of notables such as bracelet winners Robert Mizrachi, Jason Young, and Tom Schneider, as well as circuit regulars Kevin Calenzo, "Cowboy" John Land, La Sengphet, Joanne Dorin, and Michael Traylor. Also in the mix were heavyweights Tommy Vedes, Dwyte Pilgrim, and Josh Brikis.

Land could not even make it through the first two levels before his aces were lassoed by a two-outer. Full Tilt Poker Red Pro Paul Wolfe didn't last much longer, running his two mystery cards into a set of threes on a {10-Clubs} {7-Diamonds} {3-Spades} {Q-Diamonds} {6-Clubs} board to seal his fate. Speaking of sets of threes, Jason Young spent the afternoon in bed fighting a cold but insisted on coming in to try and grind out a stack through his bloodshot eyes. It was going rather well for a while, and level six saw Young double up with his own set of {3-Spades} {3-Hearts} on a {10-Spades} {8-Hearts} {3-Clubs} {4-Spades} {6-Clubs} board. A moment later, though, his aces were set up by an opponent's pocket fours on an {8-} {8-} {4-} flop, and Young tumbled right back down the hill he had so valiantly climbed.

Calenzo didn't fare much better and was soon joined on the rail by Mike DeGilio, Schneider, and Mizrachi. The older brother of Michael, Robert Mizrachi found a big pot to move to 56,000 at the 250/500 level but was busto just a few minutes later after taking his {Q-Clubs} {Q-Diamonds} up against Ryan Sponaugle's {K-Spades} {K-Hearts}. The board full of blanks ushered Mizrachi to the door, and that pot moved Sponaugle into a big chip lead that he would not relinquish. At the end of the day, Sponaugle bagged up 201,200 to put himself atop the field as they combine for Monday's Day 2.

Speaking of Monday and Day 2, the restart is scheduled for noon EST from South Florida, and our Live Reporting Team will be back inside the ropes as the field plays down toward a final table. If you missed any of the action from today, you can check out the blogs from Day 1a and Day 1b.

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