WPT Eyes Another Record Field at Five Diamond with Help of Qualifiers
In this 16th year of the World Poker Tour Five Diamond World Poker Classic at the Bellagio Hotel & Casino, the event has kicked off with a bang, on pace to surpass last year's 791 record number of entries for the event, which is still tied for the largest WPT $10,000 buyin field.
With registration open until rather late on Day 2 (beginning of Level 9), PokerNews asked what it would mean to the WPT for the event to break last year's record number of entries.
In the words of Angelica Hael, VP of Global Tour Management, "It would be absolutely incredible. Bellagio is a tremendous partner of the WPT, it is clear that WPT Five Diamond at Bellagio is a can't-miss event for players from all across the world."
The hefty buyin, coupled with the reputation as one of the most prestigious events on the tournament circuit, means a tough, elite field. Adding to the excitement are the various opportunities available for players to qualify into the event for much less than the buyin suggests. According to Hael, these opportunities, along with some other factors, are paramount to the event's continued success.
"Bellagio is an iconic, world-class venue, and Craig Lumpp and his entire team provide a great schedule of events and cash games that players love. It's also a great time to be in Las Vegas, and the poker community is in very healthy economic state right now. Those factors, in combination with Bellagio's live satellites and online qualifiers from ClubWPT and playMGMpoker, are all contributing greatly to the success of WPT Five Diamond."
In addition to around 100 players who won their $10,400 Main Event seats before Day 1 for a smaller fee through one of several satellites running at the Bellagio, there are four lucky WPT qualifiers and five playMGMpoker qualifiers from New Jersey who got in for even cheaper.
Four ClubWPT qualifiers have taken their seats with the world's best at the Bellagio. Two of them — Bill Mynatt and Michael Evans — won their seats by outlasting large fields in online qualifiers, while Rob Hearon and Jan Garner were the two winners of the King of the Club promotion earlier this year.
Evans, owner of Evans Estate in Hawaii, beat out a field of 2,406 in five hours to win his seat, while long-time WPT fan Mynatt took down a 2,401-strong field after 5.5 hours of play to secure his seat. Mynatt (pictured above) talked with PokerNews during a break in the action.
"I played 2,401 people, and I was the one."
Mynatt said he got his seat in an online qualifier with ten-minute levels, and compared that with the 90-minute blinds in the WPT Main Event.
"It's like speed poker compared to turtle poker."
His goal for the trip? "To win this thing," because honestly, "If you're not there to win it, why are you there?"
For starters, he was looking to be chip leader on one day of the tournament, gunning for the $5,000 bonus that comes with it.
A computer tech by trade, Mynatt has been playing on ClubWPT.com for about 2.5 years and has had a "really good" last six months. In the qualifiers for this event, he got 11th, 9th, 7th and of course, first, proving quite the track record.
According to Mynatt, "The trip has been wonderful." He and his wife drove from Wyoming, turning 1,000 miles into 1,400 miles with side trips, including one to see the Great Salt Lake in Utah. He had never seen it, but now he has.
A trip of firsts for Mynatt, he is now getting to play alongside some of the biggest names in poker.
"It's awesome. They're all really nice. Every one of them that I've asked for an autograph is like, 'yeah, yeah, not a problem.'"
He was happy to get autographs from Gus Hansen and one of his favorites, Doyle Brunson the night before the event started, and is looking forward to meeting his other two favorites — Daniel Negreanu and Antonio Esfandiari. Getting to bust one of them or, less ideally, getting knocked out by one of them, would be the cherry on top for Mynatt.
King of the Club Promotion
The ClubWPT King of the Club promotion took place during January and February. Sixteen players had to win an online qualifier into one of two live King of the Club TV Finals, held at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida back in April. The two winners of those tables got their entries into the $10,400 WPT Five Diamond in Las Vegas.
One of those Kings of the Club is Jan Garner. Originally from Chicago, Garner now resides in Venice, California and hosts a weekly home game.
Rob Hearon is a union electrician out of Trenton, New Jersey whose foray into poker, like that of many others, can be attributed to the "Moneymaker effect," as he and his friends started playing for fun after amateur player Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 WSOP Main Event. From there, he started playing online at ClubWPT and then started playing more live events, mostly at nearby Parx Casino.
For Hearon, qualifying for the WPT Five Diamond was "just an amazing run," which started on his couch at home. He played tournaments daily on ClubWPT. He qualified for the King of the Club end of the month tournament and then qualified to the live final table from there. Then, it was to Florida for the finals, where he shipped the King of the Club title.
He's looking forward to seeing the final table air on FS1 pretty soon.
"Just being a normal average person that just plays poker, to go on TV for the first time and win something is just amazing. It was really cool."
All of these ClubWPT qualifiers are hoping to parlay their qualifying wins into a deep run in the WPT Main Event at the Bellagio. For Hearon, continued poker success that could allow him to turn his hobby into a full-time job is appealing.
"I mean, you know. I'm getting older now. I'm getting tired of climbing ladders," he said with a heartfelt chuckle.
On Day 1, he was playing it cool, staying patient and just trying to play his game. But his plan, first and foremost, was "to have fun, enjoy the experience, and no matter what happens, build from this."
Hearon unfortunately did not make it through Day 1, but we can bet he has plenty to build on from the experience.
Among the five players who won a $12,000 package to the event in one of the qualifiers on playMGMpoker in New Jersey is WSOP bracelet winner Michael Gagliano, who has five career WPT Main Event cashes including a fifth-place finish at King's Casino in the partypoker WPT Prague in 2012 for just shy of $100K. Gagliano will be looking to improve upon that finish here this week on his discounted bullet.
Check back often at PokerNews for continued coverage of the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic. You can also follow the WPT Live Updates to keep tabs on the remaining qualifiers' progress in the event.
Photos courtesy of WPT
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