After a week of preliminary events at the Seneca Niagara Hotel & Casino, the Western New York Poker Challenge Main Event kicked off Friday morning in Niagara Falls, NY. The $1,000 buy-in event features a $200,000 guaranteed prize pool and two Day 1 starting flights, and Friday's flight saw a total of 92 entries hit the felt. Only 25 made it through the day, with Damian Baird bagging the biggest stack after dominating play late in the evening.
Baird stormed to the top of the leaderboard after eliminating Jacob Ostrander, but the lion's share of his chips came during a confrontation against Dave Grana when he turned a Royal Flush with the on a board. Grana moved all in with the and Baird snap-called, and Grana didn't even need to see the river before he had left the tournament area. Baird bagged more than double the stack of his next closest competitor, Jonathan Botier.
Day 1a Top 10 Chip Counts
The Top 10 of the leaderboard is filled with some of the top players in the region. Andy Spears, a two-time Main Event winner at Seneca Niagara, finished third in chips, while Seneca Fall Poker Classic Main Event runner-up Veerab Zakarian finished third. Zakarian, a 19-year-old from Canada, was allowed to play in this event because it takes place on Native American soil.
Zakarian showed his creativity late in the day against Adam Foster. Zakarian led out on a flop only to be raised by Foster. Zakarian called and they both checked the turn. Then on the river, with about 30,000 sitting in the middle, Zakarian checked. Foster made it 17,000 and without hesitation, and Zakarian check-raised all in. Foster gave it some thought before giving it up. Foster rebounded later on by eliminating two players in the same hand to finish with 127,200.
Defending WNY Poker Challenge champion Nick Walker was among the casualties on Friday. Walker was short stacked after dinner and made his last stand with , but was unable to improve against the pocket eights of Budwey Salhab. Others hitting the rail were Josh Knight, Travell Thomas, Jason Nablo, Jeremy Joseph and DJ MacKinnon.
The WNY Poker Challenge Main Event continues Saturday at 11 a.m. with Flight 1b, and a bigger field is expected for the weekend. We’ll have complete coverage of the tournament until a champion is crowned so keep your browsers locked to PokerNews.com until the conclusion!
For more information on the WNY Poker Challenge, which dates back to 2012, either visit their Facebook page or contact their poker room at (716) 278-6300.