Bellande, Nguyen top stories on LAPC eve

Jean-Robert Bellande
Bobby Bellande is incurring the wrath of the forums - and Allen Kessler - for playing PLO with a fifth hole card.

As the main event of one of the world's most prestigious tournaments looms, all eyes are on two of the game's most familiar faces.

The Los Angeles Poker Classic's $10,000 No-Limit Hold'em, World Poker Tour event kicks off at noon Pacific Time tomorrow.

More than four weeks of preliminary action have seen the Commerce Casino host 33 events with buy-ins ranging from $335 to $10,000.

Among the preliminary contests was Monday's $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. championship, a three-day affair that saw Scotty Nguyen once again court final-table controversy before settling down and chopping the tournament while heads-up with Chino Rheem.

According to reports from the table, Nguyen - who under the terms of the deal walked with about $260k, the title and the trophy - seemed on the verge of returning to the antics he'd exhibited during the final table of last summer's $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championship.

That time, tournament director and certified big homey Matt Savage managed to quell the uprising.

Nguyen thus calmed, the tournament proceeded through the endgame, and play was halted with the Prince of Poker and former November Niner Rheem about even in chips.

With the H.O.R.S.E. tournament thus resolved, attention now shifts to the $10,000 NLHE main event, one of the World Poker Tour's most successful events and a virtual magnet for all manner of poker star power.

Last year's event saw Phil Ivey capture his first WPT title, defeating a final table that also featured Nam Le, Quinn Do, Scott Montgomery and the one and only Phil Hellmuth, who talked a good game but flamed out in sixth for a $229,820 score.

Ivey League!

Ivey, meanwhile, would take $1,596,100 for the win, though perhaps not surprisingly, the man "they" supposedly called Jerome claimed his first WPT title was the real prize:

"It means more to me to win the title than anything else," the Full Tilt pro told after the battle, "just because it was my eighth [WPT final-table] appearance and it was getting very frustrating getting down to the end, playing well to get to the final table and then not finishing at all."

The victory came at the expense of 664 other players, with Theo Tran, Blair Hinkle, Jennifer Tilly and 2007 LAPC champ Eric Hershler also among those to partake of the prize pool.

This year, tournament organizers are trumpeting a typically stacked lineup, with Daniel Negreanu, Joe Hachem, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Jennifer Harman and Antonio Esfandiari all among the top-flight pros who have confirmed their attendance.

No official word on Ivey, yet.

Also figuring to be a factor, at least as far as attention spans are concerned, is perennial poker joker Jean-Robert Bellande, who currently finds himself holed up in Commerce losing a game of heads-up Pot-Limit Omaha with online pro Jared Harrington - while Harrington10 spots him a fifth hole card.

More on that story, obviously, as soon as we find Bobby Bellande. More on the LAPC's $10k main event tomorrow, at noon, in the PokerListings Live Tournaments section.


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