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The clatter of chips and the bad beat stories are underway as the 2017 World Series of Poker kicked off Wednesday at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino. Day 1 is traditionally a quieter day than most, but there was still plenty of action with 23-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps transitioning from pool to poker felt for the first tag team event this summer.
The $565 Casino Employees No Limit Hold’em officially kickstarted the WSOP festivities with cards in the air at 11 a.m. The two day-event will be the first to award a bracelet as play wraps up Thursday.
With the addition of a $10,000 buy-in version of last year’s popular $1,000 tag team (which will be played June 5), numerous pros were out in force looking to begin their own dynasty. Last year’s $1,000 event was won by poker pros Doug Polk and Ryan Fee, who took home $76,679 each. In this one, Polk and Fee added Jason Mo and Michael Finstein, who combined have over $2.3 million in combined tournament winnings. The moves paid off again and Team Polk/Fee/Mo/Finstein finished the day as chip leader. Finstein went on a tear in the last hour to leave the group with 240,600.
The team of Christopher Staats, Orlando Romero and Roland Israelashvili sits in second with 216,400, and the team of J.C. Tran, Nam Le, and Antonio Gutierrez is third with 207,000.
To start the action, there was a bit of buzz when Phelps became the fourth member of Team Rast – featuring poker pros Brian Rast, Antonio Esfandiari, and Jeff Gross. The team has plenty of hardware and experience and was hoping to bring home their own gold in the form of four shiny bracelets. No doubt what Phelps lacks in poker pedigree, he makes up for in sheer competitiveness. Despite some early success, however, Team Rast would not survive Day 1.
A late entry to this battle royale was 14-time WSOP champion Phil Hellmuth and fellow pros Andy Frankenberger and Brandon Cantu, both of whom are two-time bracelet winners. Plenty of other pros still remain in the hunt as well.
The three-day event allowed for teams of two to four players and awards a bracelet to each member of the team. The field of 102 teams was whittled down to 51 and restarts at 2 p.m. Thursday on Level 10 with blinds at 800/1,600. To follow the action, click here for the PokerNews live updates.
With 651 entries, the number of entries in the Casino Employees event was down a bit from last year’s 731, but first place will be rewarded a nice $68,817. When play was stopped with 11 players remaining, Chris Gallagher led the pack with 519,000 chips with Chris Solomon close behind with 513,000. Jermel Stephens sits third with 418,000. Day 2 promises for some nice action as players battle for the final table and then the title.
Don McDonald led at the dinner break after building his stack to 225,000, but would ultimately go out in 12th place for $3,453. No player has yet repeated as champion of this event, but 2015 Brandon Barnette was also one of the chip leaders as the bubble burst (98 players cashed in the event). However, his run came to an end in 55th place for $1,278, his third straight cash in this event.
Here are final table payouts:
- 1st – $68,817
- 2nd – $42,508
- 3rd – $29,372
- 4th – $20,629
- 5th – $14,731
- 6th – $10,698
- 7th – $7,903
- 8th – $5,941
- 9th – $4,547
Play resumes at noon Thursday with blinds at 5,000/10,000. To follow the action, click here for the PokerNews live updates.
Event #3: $3,000 No-Limit Hold'em SHOOTOUT
Poker is full of terms harkening back to the Old West and the shootout format certainly is one of those. Day 2 brings on a shootout and with four tournaments in action, the WSOP will really be getting into full swing. Last year’s winner was 22-year-old Phillip McAllister from Winchester, U.K., who took home $267,720 in a field of 400. In a shootout format, players battle out to win their specific table. The winner advances and must then win another table to advance. The event has been moved to early in the schedule this year after being held in late-June in 2016. Players begin with 15,000 chips and the tournament gets underway at 11 a.m. on Thursday.
Event #4: $1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better
One of poker’s most popular games is dealt on Thursday and should see a nice turnout. Last year’s champion was England’s Benny Glaser, who took home $244,103 and topped a field of 934. Glaser shines in this format and not only took home the $1,500 event bracelet in 2016, but a few days later notched his second bracelet of the summer (his third total) in the $10,000 Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better for another $407,194. Glaser “The Razor” will be looking to bring his Omaha prowess back to the felt this summer. The cards are dealt on Thursday at 3 p.m. and players begin with 7,500 chips.
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