For the second consecutive year, the World Series of Poker Circuit returned to the Palm Beach Kennel Club in South Florida, and all signs indicate that poker is booming in the region. Saturday marked the start of the $1,600 Main Event, and so far, 745 players have already taken their seats in one or both of the starting flights. We say "so far" because registration remains open overnight and up until the cards go in the air on Day 2. After two nine-level Day 1 flights, Philip Samuels had amassed the biggest stack, with 160,500 chips.
Despite a plethora of major events running in other parts of the globe, the turnout was strong in Palm Beach. The WSOP Main Event champion from 2007, Jerry Yang, came out to play, but two bullets were not enough for the champ. The afternoon session went quickly for Yang, but he managed to hang on until well after 1:00 a.m. before losing his Day 1b chips to seal his elimination.
Lee Childs was a member of that same final table, and he too was in the building on Saturday. Long before the Main Event, in fact. An hour before the Main Event began, Childs was taking his seat at Event #9's final table, where he finished in sixth place before heading across the room to play the Big Show. Like Yang, though, things did not go well for Childs in neither the afternoon nor the evening session, and he'll be relying on the final two preliminary events to try and snag a gold ring at this stop.
With poker heating up in Florida, it was no surprise to see the home team well-represented on Day 1. Another WSOP finalist, 2010's John Dolan made the drive across Alligator Alley to play here in Palm Beach, and he finished the day with 45,500 chips.
Florida's own John Riordan won this event last year, and a productive Day 1a allowed him to take the evening session off with 57,000 already tucked safely away in his chip bag. Harrison Gimbel could be the mayor of South Florida with all of his young success, and he too bagged up a good stack before dinner to take an early night off.
Things did not go so well for the region's most recent bracelet winner, though. Tristan "Cre8ive" Wade couldn't get anything going during the afternoon session, losing most of his chips when his came up short against an opponent's . The board ran out to steal most of his Day 1a stack, and Wade was unable to muster a charge on Day 1b, ending his event a couple of days earlier than he'd hoped.
Other notables who burned through both bullets included Mstr Lynch, Craig Bergeron, Chris Bell, and the defending WSOP Ladies' Event champion, Marsha Wolak.
On to happier news, though, and tales of those who have survived. Huy Nguyen is becoming something of a household name around the Circuit, and his Day 1b was particularly productive. Nguyen was already over triple his starting stack when he sent Ebony Kenney to the rail late in the evening, and he cruised his way to a finishing count of 83,400.
Jeff Papola and Kyle Bowker needed just the Day 1a flight to turn their 20,000 chips in to more than 70,000 apiece, and they'll return for Day 2 among the big stacks. Kurt Jewell got close to that, with 67,000 before the dinner break, and Chris Tryba was content to bag up 43,000 to take an early night, too.
Everyone is chasing Samuels, though, and his big stack will set the pace for Sunday's moving day. About 220 players (of 477) survived Day 1a, and another ~125 (of 285) made it through the evening session. That will put about 350 players back here for Day 2, and the two members of our Live Reporting team will be joining them inside the ropes.