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WSOP-C Palm Beach Day 2: Okonczak and His Big Stack

Jesse Okonczak

Day 2 of the World Series of Poker Circuit Main Event began at noon on Tuesday at the Palm Beach Kennel Club in Florida. From a starting field of 712, 368 returned to pick up the story with Ryan Sponaugle leading the field. After nearly 14 hours of poker, though, he was out of chips, and Jesse Okonczak was the new big stack in town, bagging up 1,717,000 at night's end.

Let's talk about some more familiar names for a minute, though. Dwyte Pilgrim doubled up with queens against nines just a few hands into the day but was fairly quiet for the next few levels — quiet, at least by Dwyte Pilgrim standards. He did K.O. Josh Brikis in a three-way all-in that saw the money go in on a {6-Diamonds} {Q-Spades} {8-Clubs} {2-Clubs} turn. Pilgrim's {6-Spades} {6-Clubs} had out-flopped John Daney's {K-Diamonds} {K-Spades}, and Brikis' {5-Clubs} {7-Clubs} needed to connect with the river to keep him alive. The {7-Spades} filled out the board, though, and that pot gave Pilgrim close to 200 big blinds early in the day. A few slips saw him limp into a small cash, eventually shoving 12 big blinds with {Q-Hearts} {J-Spades} into Jon Brody's {K-Hearts} {K-Diamonds} to end his day.

It's always fun to sweat Ari Engel, and he was easily the most active player in the room for most of this moving day. Engel doubled up with {2-Clubs} {6-Clubs} early on when he flopped {2-Hearts} {K-Hearts} {6-Diamonds} against an opponent holding {K-Diamonds} {10-Hearts}. Later, he put himself among the chip leaders when he tangled with Zhen Cai in a huge pot that never went to showdown. Engel's aggression would ultimately be his demise. Cai would have the last laugh, though, and Engel soon got himself committed with {A-Clubs} {9-Hearts} against Cai's {K-Spades} {K-Hearts}. An ace on the flop was only a tease as Cai ran down a straight to double up and cripple Engel down to about 25 big blinds. Those didn't last long as Engel three-bet shoved his {Q-Clubs} {9-Spades} right into Barry Wiedemann's {Q-Spades} {Q-Diamonds}. About six hours into the day, Engel was sent home early.

Another player making some serious noise on Day 2 was 2007 WSOP Main Event champion Jerry Yang. In the 300/1,000/2,000 level, Yang got himself all-in and in trouble with his {A-Hearts} {Q-Diamonds} dominated by an opponent's {A-Clubs} {K-Diamonds}. The {Q-Spades} on the flop allowed Yang to stay alive, doubling him up to 155,000 and setting the stage for the most jaw-dropping pot of the day. It was two levels later when Yang three-bet shoved against another player after a {5-Hearts} {9-Clubs} {4-Spades} flop. A pot of nearly 300,000 chips materialized out of nowhere, and it was almost hard to believe what the showdown said. Yang tabled {K-Diamonds} {8-Diamonds} for the airball shove, but his opponent's {6-Hearts} {7-Hearts} wasn't any better. The {10-Diamonds} and {4-Hearts} filled out the board, and the 292,000 chips that Yang collected put him in the chip lead near the midpoint of the day — with king-high no less.

But things turned a bit sour for Yang as the day progressed, and he eventually ran his pocket jacks into pocket kings to end his day a few places shy of the money bubble. Others to fall short of a payday on Day 2 included Tommy Vedes, Mike Beasley, Danny Suied, Chris Tryba, John Spadavecchia, T.J. Cloutier, "Captain Tom" Franklin, and Full Tilt Red Pro Stuart Paterson.

The bubble arrived with 73 players remaining, and the unique round-for-round format meant that six people were eventually eliminated on the "bubble," and they chopped up the bottom five payouts. The floodgates opened once the bubble burst, and it was just seconds before a standing-room-only crowd began to form at the payout desk. Pilgrim, Manny Minaya, and "Tampa Bay Ray" Del Cueto were a few of those who escaped with small cashes to show for their efforts this week.

But enough about those who went broke on Day 2. There were plenty of chips flying around, and a couple of players in particular seemed to have their chip magnets on full power. Austin Buchanan was the first man to really separate himself from the pack, moving up over the half-million chip mark during the 500/2,000/4,000 level when his pocket aces found action from {A-Clubs} {K-Hearts}. Near the end of the night, Andrew Touchette got his pocket sevens in trouble against Buchanan's two tens, and a board full of blanks allowed Buchanan to become the first player to crest the million-chip milestone.

But he's not the chip leader at the end of the night thanks to, among others, Jesse Okonczak. Mr. Okonczak was responsible for Sponaugle's elimination earlier in the evening, but he never really had a significantly large stack of chips until the final few levels. Right around 11 p.m., he got his money in with his pocket fives racing against {Q-Diamonds} {10-Diamonds}. Despite the flop coming down {K-Diamonds} {J-Diamonds} {X-}, Okonczak's baby pair managed to hold, doubling him into contention with about 500,000 chips and 50 big blinds at the time. Things kept improving from there, and the last level saw Okonczak snag the largest pot of the tournament. Kevin Deng got all 620,000 of his chips into the middle with {K-Diamonds} {K-Clubs} on the turn of a {7-Spades} {6-Clubs} {5-Hearts} {10-Clubs} board. Okonczak couldn't get his chips into the pot quick enough, turning up his unbeatable {8-Hearts} {9-Hearts} to earn the knockout and a chip stack of about 1.5 million.

Okonczak and the gang of 24 players will be back inside the Kennel Club at noon on Tuesday to play it out to a winner, and the field will be laid out thusly.

M. Arshad Siddiqui411222,000
Marc Levy412340,000
Austin Buchanan4131,236,000
Joseph Daddario414135,000
Mike Minetti415982,000
Mike Morton416230,000
--empty —4170
Luke Graham418773,000
Stephen Kats419420,000
David MacDonald661605,000
Frank Hernandez662484,000
--empty —6630
Jacob Naquin664245,000
Josh Dichkewich665100,000
Jerry Zehr666650,000
Don Todd667479,000
Jon Brody668338,000
Jesse Okonczak6691,717,000
Barry Wiedemann671604,000
Jorge Rivera672475,000
John Riordan6731,394,000
Gerald Timmons674524,000
Zhen Cai675231,000
Ryan Leneghan6761,438,000
Thomas Aprea678186,000
Howard Appledorf679213,000

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