L.A. Poker Classic bursting at seams; Sebok swims ahead

Joe Sebok

The culmination of a record-smashing, month-long L.A. Poker Classic, yesterday's opening day of the Championship had organizers scrambling for space. The giant field was bursting at the seams with a veritable cruise ship-sized contingent of the highest-caliber pros on the planet, and it was surprising Joe Sebok who swam to the top.

They couldn't even fit them all in the world's (almost) largest poker room.

They pitched a tent on the balcony. They took over part of the high-limit room.

But once they got everybody in and going, it was clear a who's who of the poker world was stuffed in cheek-by-jowl, and things were going to get heated.

The largest field ever for a $10,000 World Poker Tour (WPT) event (791) included a mind-boggling array of poker talent side-by-side in the early stages.

At one table: Michael Binger. Still another: Gavin Smith, Alex Jacob, Jason Strasser and David Williams.

And when the chips settled at the end of the day, the front-runner was Joe Sebok; not only carrying $204,000 over to day two, but already being able to claim a longer shelf life than Daniel Negreanu, Huck Seed, Dan Harrington, Antonio Esfandiari, Gus Hansen, last year's champ Alan Goehring, and more.

Some more astonishing feats: Largest prize pool ever for a non-championship WPT event (almost $7.6 million). Largest first prize (Over $2.4 million).

And with the $7.5 million plus from the Championship added to the over $9.2 million already handed out over month, the Commerce Casino will be witness to almost $17 million changing hands by the time they're done on Thursday.

Maybe poker's popularity hasn't peaked after all.

"While many have claimed that poker's popularity has peaked," Commerce Casino's Manager Tim Gustin says, "the record WPT field at the L.A. Poker Classic shows how wrong they are."

The numbers make it hard to argue with him, as will PokerListings.com's scintillating felt-side coverage, with fresh updates, player interviews and play re-caps ongoing as of 3:30 p.m. (PST).

Join two of the most popular felt-siders going, Matt Showell and Owen Laukkanen, in the Live Tournament Section for popularity verification.

Also, check for the latest update on a disturbing side bet that could see the chip leader suffer the ignominy of tattooing a husky Canadian fellow's initials on his backside.

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