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World Poker Tour Alpha8 Johannesburg Day 1: Cates Leads; Ivey and Altergott Eliminated

Phil Ivey

The World Poker Tour Alpha8 traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa this week for the fourth installment of the tour's exclusive series of high-stakes, televised poker tournaments. With a buy-in of $100,000, anticipation of an exciting, star-studded event was alive, especially after the massive turnouts for the super high-roller events at the 2014 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and 2014 Aussie Millions. Alas, only nine players participated to generate 10 entries into the event.

At the end of Day 1's play, Daniel Cates topped the remaining seven players with 317,000 in chips. That's well over 100,000 in chips more than his closest competitor, Kinesh Pather in second place with 204,500.

1Jason Mercier175,000
2Philipp Gruissem62,000
3Antonio Esfandiari102,000
4Erik Seidel25,500
5Kinesh Pather204,500
6Jeff Gross114,500
7Daniel Cates317,000

There were three eliminations on Day 1, one of which belonged to Antonio Esfandiari who then reentered and was the only player to do so. The other two belonged to two players coming off recent tournament victories in Max Altergott and Phil Ivey.

According to the WPT live updates, Esfandiari's first bullet ended in Level 5 with the blinds at 500/1,000/100. His {K-Clubs}{K-Diamonds} ran into the {A-Spades}{A-Hearts} for Jason Mercier and failed to come from behind on the {10-Hearts}{5-Clubs}{4-Diamonds}{6-Clubs}{8-Diamonds} board. Albeit for one-tenth of the buy-in, this hand might serve as a tiny bit of redemption for Mercier from when he ran his pocket kings into Esfandiari's aces to bust from the 2012 World Series of Poker $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop. We all know how that turned out for Esfandiari, as he went on to win the largest first-place prize in tournament poker history.

Not willing to admit defeat just yet, Esfandiari fired off his second bullet just as registration came to a close before finishing the day with 102,000 in chips. He'll now need to place in at least second place to earn a profit on this tournament.

Following the close of registration, Altergott was eliminated in ninth place. The winner of the recent Aussie Millions $25,000 Challenge went out during Level 7 with the blinds at 800/1,600/200 in another clash of two big pocket pairs.

Altergott five-bet shoved with the {Q-Spades}{Q-Clubs} against Cates' four-bet. Unfortunately for Altergott, Cates had the {A-Diamonds}{A-Hearts}. The flop did produce the {K-Diamonds}{Q-Hearts}{9-Spades} to give Altergott the lead, though, but it was short-lived after the {A-Spades} landed on the turn. The {3-Hearts} then completed the board on the river and Altergott was gone.

In the following level — Level 8 with the blinds at 1,000/2,000/300 — Ivey, winner of the Aussie Millions LK Boutique $250,000 Challenge, was sent packing. With a short stack of under 18,000 in chips, Ivey moved all in from under the gun for 17,700. Esfandiari called from the hijack seat, and everyone else folded. That left Ivey's {K-Diamonds}{Q-Clubs} up against Esfandiari's {A-Diamonds}{J-Diamonds}. The flop, turn, and river came {A-Hearts}{8-Diamonds}{2-Diamonds}{5-Clubs}{5-Hearts} to give Esfandiari the pot.

Others still remaining are two-time WPT Alpha8 champion Philipp Gruissem, Jeff Gross, and Erik Seidel.

With 10 entries in the event, a prize pool of $975,000 was created. The top three places were set to be paid out, with the winner receiving $500,000. Second place will earn $275,000, and third place will take home $200,000.

Day 2 will commence at 12 p.m. local time on Saturday in South Africa, and you can be sure to find out the winner of this event in a recap of play right here on

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