The Monster World Poker Tour Tournament of Champions kicked off on Friday, April 22, with 64 members of the WPT Champions Club hitting the green-felt battlefield. Following the first 10 levels of action that concluded Day 1, WPT Amsterdam winner Farid Yachou led the surviving pack with 216,700 in chips.
For Yachou, this trip is his first to America, and he's positioned himself to make it quite a profitable one. When he won WPT Amsterdam just less than a year ago, Yachou defeated a field of 341 entries to earn €215,000.
To help Yachou claim the chip lead moving to Day 2, he busted Marvin Rettenmaier late on Day 1. In the final level, Rettenmaier opened preflop from the button, Yachou shoved all in from the big blind, and Rettenmaier called to put himself at risk with the . Yachou had him crushed with the , and the board did Rettenmaier no good.
Trailing Yachou on the leaderboard podium were Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi with 210,100 and Justin Young with 196,600.
Mizrachi's WPT fame is long and storied. He has two WPT titles — the $10,000 L.A. Poker Classic in 2005 for $1.86 million and the $10,000 Borgata Winter Poker Open in 2006 for $1.173 million — three other WPT final tables, and six total top 10 finishes. For Young, he only has one WPT title, and it came just a few days ago when he won the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown for $669,161.
Of the 64 WPT winners to enter the event, 31 advanced to Day 2 with the plan to play down to the official WPT final table of six on Saturday.
Among those to enter the event but fail to advance were reigning WPT Player of the Year Mike Shariati, Taylor von Kriegenbergh, Shawn Buchanan, Scott Clements, Matt Waxman, James Calderaro, Jonathan Little, Tony Dunst, Dan Smith, David Chiu, and Antonio "The Magician" Esfandiari.
Esfandiari, another two-time WPT champion in the field, busted in Level 8 with the blinds at 500/1,000/100 when he got pocket tens in against the of Noah Schwartz. Schwartz flopped an ace and held from there and went on to finish with 170,200 in chips, which was good enough for fifth place overall.
One of the big hits in the event, and a new twist to a WPT tournament, was the Action Clock, presented by Protection Poker. You can read more about the Action Clock by clicking here, but the gist of it is that it sped up play, increased the action on the event, and was well received by the players.
Other notables to advance through to Day 2 were John "World" Hennigan, Mohsin Charania, Shawn Cunix, Andy Frankenberger, Keven Stammen, and Matt Salsberg.
The top eight finishes will reach the money, with a minimum payout worth $38,160. The winner will earn $381,600 and a plethora of other prizes, including a 2016 Corvette, courtesy of Monster. The winner will also receive a Hublot King Power Unico Titanium watch, an Aurae® Solid Gold MasterCard, a pair of gold Monster® 24K Headphones, a custom premium poker table from BBO Poker Tables, a seat in Tiger's Poker Night Presented by World Poker Tour, and a round of golf for you and two guests at the world-class Shadow Creek Golf Course with Matt Savage. All told, the additional prizes are estimated to be worth more than $150,000.
Day 2 of the event will take place Saturday at 12 p.m. local time at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
*Photo courtesy of Joe Giron/WPT.