The second edition of the World Poker Tour Tournament of Champions got underway Friday at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Florida. A year after 64 players turned up for the special event, attendance got a slight boost as 66 entered, of which 30 advanced to Saturday's Day 2.
It's Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi who leads the remaining field after he turned his 50,000 starting stack into 287,600. Mizrachi has had one of the most storied careers in the history of tournament poker, with over $15 million in tournament cashes and countless trophies, and he finished third in this very event last year for $140,450.
"Everything turned out well," he said. "A few bluffs got away, a few big hands got paid off. I think I play really good against good players. It's a little tougher playing against bad players, because you don't know what they're going to do."
Mizrachi said he's focused on doing better than last year, but he isn't about to let himself get too excited after a big Day 1. The man has a well-known proclivity for running up huge stacks early on and then reversing course and busting out, something he made light of after he bagged.
"I'm the best Day 1 player in the world," he said. "We'll see about Day 2."
Indeed, Mizrachi's unpredictable style was on full display at times on Day 1. According to the live updates, Mizrachi showed up in big pots with motley holdings like and .
He also played a bizarre four-bet pot against Niall Farrell early on. With over 13,000 in the pot on a board of , Mizrachi used one of his four allotted time extension chips and then bet the minimum of 200. Farrell called and both players checked the , with Mizrachi's taking the showdown.
Inaugural WPT Tournament of Champions winner Farid Yachou also advanced. Yachou emerged as an unlikely winner last year after his first live cash came with a victory at WPT Amsterdam.
However, he'll be one of the shortest stacks on Day 2 as he takes 35,800 into Level 11 (1,000/2,000/300).
Other players surviving included Erik Seidel, Scott Seiver, Anthony Zinno and the most recent WPT champ, Ryan Riess.
A little over half of the field busted out of the exclusive freezeout event, in which current season champs automatically got seats and other former champs could buy in rake-free for $15,000. Mohsin Charania, Mike Sexton, Darren Elias, Tony Dunst and the red-hot Dietrich Fast all fell during the 10 levels played.
Sexton ran up a nice stack early and scored some eliminations before running out of steam late. In his final hand, he bet 11,000 on a board of only to see Seidel check-raise to 24,000. Sexton committed his stack of about 85,000 with pocket kings, but Seidel had outflopped him with pocket threes and held on the turn and river.
Day 2 begins Saturday at noon local time, with the plan of playing to an official final table of six. Registration closed early for the event, and the first-place prize came out to $381,500, so that's what the remaining runners will have their eyes on when play resumes. Here's a look at the top 10 stacks, courtesy of the WPT live updates team:
Photo courtesy of WPT
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