Sooner State Showdown: WPT Choctaw Kicks Off in Oklahoma; Andrew Moreno Crushing
The poker community has found its way to Southern Oklahoma for the start of the WPT Choctaw, which kicked off at 11 a.m. Friday morning, and Andrew Moreno wasted little time stacking chips.
Early turnout indicates the tournament is headed for a huge field with over 225 players already registered at the time of publishing, five hours prior to the end of Day 1a registration. Players will have another opportunity to get in on the $3,800 buy-in no-limit hold'em tournament on Saturday.
Moreno Cruising, Buckner Out
There are some heavy hitters in the field, including last year's runner-up Steven "Cuz" Buckner, who was an early exit on Day 1a this year. He'll have another shot to build up a stack and return to the final table on Day 1b.
The defending champion, Chance Kornuth, hasn't yet appeared at Choctaw Casino & Resort, which boasts one of the top poker rooms in the country. Kornuth, the Chip Leader Coaching founder, had one of the most memorable World Poker Tour victories last May when he took down the event for over $460,000, 5% of which went to poker dealer Randy Gordon, who is battling cancer and used the money to fund his treatment.
Ray Qartomy, who also reached last year's Choctaw final table and finished third, was back in action on Day 1a and quickly built up a stack to twice the starting size.
Two of the greatest players in WPT history, Anthony Zinno and Eric Afriat, were among those competing in the opening session. The duo each have three World Poker Tour titles and a combined 14 final table appearances.
Tournaments aren't won in the first few levels, but everyone at this point is chasing Andrew Moreno, who has already increased his 50,000-chip starting stack to over 270,000 before the dinner break. No other player was even close to his stack at the time of publishing.
Moreno, brother of vlogger Johnnie "Vibes" Moreno, has become a beast in tournament poker the past couple of years. He won the $10,000 buy-in Wynn Millions Main Event for $1.4 million in 2021 and has been crushing ever since. According to Hendon Mob, his live tournament cashes exceed $3.9 million. If his early heater at Choctaw is any indication, he could crack the $4 million mark this month.
Other big name players who have appeared in the Main Tour event prior to dinner break include Jeremy Ausmus, Michael Wang, Jacob Ferro, Jesse Lonis, and 2018 World Series of Poker (WSOP) runner-up Tony Miles.
Day 2 at Choctaw begins on Sunday, followed by Day 3 on Monday when the tournament will play down to the final table. Those at the final table will then take a break for a few weeks and travel to Las Vegas to play down to a winner at the Luxor's HyperX Esports Arena.
*Images courtesy of WPT.