The biggest non-WSOP tournament with a buy-in of more than $5,000, this year's PCA has attracted not only the biggest names in the game but a slew of talented young players who we're just now getting to know.
Perhaps the most appealing aspect of this tournament is the fact that you only have to be 18 years old to play. That, coupled with the huge qualifying program on T.J. Cloutier, Barry Greenstein, Daniel Negreanu, Tom McEvoy, Bill Edler, Joe Hachem, Greg Raymer and many a member of the PokerStars Pro Team. Annette Obrestad, Justin Bonomo, Erik Cajelais, Noah Boeken and Shawn Buchanan were among the known young guns represented.
Last year's champion, American Ryan Daut, took his seat this afternoon but was unable to get much going and found himself short-stacked in the first few levels. Despite professing a familiarity with the situation, having been low on chips for much of the time leading up to his final-table appearance at the last World Poker Tour event, Daut44 was sent packing after seeing his stack dwindle below the 10-big-blind mark and losing an all-in race, thus ending his 2008 title defense.
But, while some were sent the way of the exit, many fared a bit better, building stacks and towers of chips they couldn't even see over. Beating out the Day 1a chip leader, Ryan Collett, were three players fortunate enough to surpass Collett's $176,450. Brian Lindsay, Asa Smith and Julio Marines are in the lead, respectively, and will be looking to add to that head start come Day 2.
As in many big buy-in events these days, the field was split between the two Day 1 heats. Tomorrow the two halves will come together to see who will make it through to that elusive Day 3. All told, 478 have earned the privilege.
Although the official numbers have yet to arrive as far as payouts go, some approximations have been made by the tournament staff. Each of the 1,136 runners kicked in their $7,800 buy-in to build a total prize pool of roughly $8.5 million with close to $2 million of that reserved for first place. A maximum of 120 will be paid from the remainder, the lion's share of which will go to the eight who make the final table.
After the action had died down and the chips were in the bags the media was given a rare opportunity to actually sit down and play some poker of our own. In a PokerStars-sponsored freeroll offered to all members of the press as well as a few Team PokerStars pros and celebrities, PL.com battled our way through short starting stacks and rapidly increasing blinds for a chance at the monster $600 prize pool up for grabs.
One member of our posse, Owen Laukkanen, managed to make the final table before succumbing to the mounting pressure. Not bad when you consider the field was rounded out by former world champions as well as many of the poker world's most skilled members.
It's questionable whether they were taking it as seriously as us but we would prefer to think they were. In fact, we'll go with the idea that since we outlasted a few world champions we are in fact their equals on the felt; better even. Yeah, that's it. Among the survivors who still had a chance at media-freeroll glory when we left the tournament area was comedian Norm MacDonald and former NHL-er Dave Schultz.
After busting unceremoniously from said freeroll this PL.com reporter, along with a few others of the poker-blogging elite, sought refuge in the nearest bar where, in true degenerate fashion, a slew of online players from the main event were crowded around their laptops, sweating those few players still alive in the Sunday millions. One player was reportedly among the top five with 40 players left, giving him a legitimate chance at a nice payday completely separate from this EPT event.
And so with the authentic poker action of Day 1b over, as well as the not-so-authentic action of the media freeroll out of the way, everyone involved was free to catch some much needed zees before returning once again at noon EST. Either that or rushing off to their computers to worship that gambling monster that has enslaved the world.
PL.com will be doing the former, we assure you, and will return tomorrow recharged and ready to bring you a brand new day of poker pandemonium from right here in the Bahamas. And don't worry, we'll still have a bit of time left over to hit the beach and indulge in that aforementioned Nassau Whammy.