WSOPC Atlantic City off to explosive start

Caesars sign

The World Series of Poker Circuit has surfaced on the East Coast once again, this time coming ashore at Caesars in Atlantic City. It's proving to be yet another well-attended Circuit event, but what's made it unusual so far were the happenings in Event 1.

Event 1

One of the largest fields in the four-year history of the WSOPC came to the felt for the start of the $300 No-Limit Hold'em tournament Wednesday. A prize pool of $317,100 was generated from the 1,056 runners who showed up for it, and 99 walked away from the event with something for their efforts.

After the final 38 players saw their ranks whittled down to a final table on Thursday, Andy Santiago held the lead with over $1.2 million in chips, and Lesley Thornburg was close on his heels with $1 million.

No one was prepared for the fireworks that would erupt as the final table played out. The action seemed to be fraught with oddities from the start when, with four diamonds on the board, Mike Santoro made a mistake that many poker players make at some point in their playing career.

Thinking he had the K, Santoro called the all-in of Frank Panetta and, upon the cards turning up, saw that he actually had the K. The costly blunder pushed Santoro out the door in eighth place.

Don Mercer suffered a bad beat at the hands of chip leader Santiago when his A-J was run down by Santiago's Q-4 to end his tournament in seventh place. Then the action at the table went further awry.

Thornburg had been warned twice earlier in the tournament for unsportsmanlike behavior. That being the case, everyone was quite pleased to see him get all his chips to the center with A-7, dominated by Santiago's A-Q.

A seven came on the flop, however, doubling up Thornburg and shooting him into the chip lead.

Thornburg eliminated Edward Sullivan in sixth two hands later by drawing out against Sullivan's pocket sevens with pocket fours. Then came the fireworks.

Thornburg, sitting with the chip lead, began again to indulge in the antics that had earned him the warnings on Wednesday. Tournament officials gave him another warning to keep his stack orderly and abide by the rules.

It wasn't until Thornburg pushed half of his stack to the center on a hand and then verbally declared himself all-in that the officials' patience finally snapped. For the first time in the history of the WSOPC, a player was disqualified at the final table and Thornburg was awarded a fifth-place finish.

Civility then took over the table as 45 minutes elapsed before Lee Ervin was ushered away from the table in fourth place. Having struck a deal for the rest of the prize pool, the remaining three players soldiered on to determine the WSOPC championship ring winner.

After six hours of madness, Frank Panetta and Andy Santiago (who had assumed the chip lead after Thornburg's disqualification) got their chips to the center of the table with Panetta's K 10 dominating Santiago's K-7.

When two hearts came on the flop and a third on the turn, Frank Panetta had captured the first event at the WSOPC. The final-table results were:

Place
Name
Hometown
Prize
1st
Frank Panetta
Brick, N.J.
$76,104*
2nd
Andy Santiago
Bensalem, Penn.
$42,824*
3rd
Todd Rebello
Oak Bluffs, Mass.
$25,368*
4th
Lee Ervin
Staunton, Va.
$22,197
5th
Lesley Thornburg**
Richmond, Va.
$19,026
6th
Edward Sullivan
Durham, N.C.
$15,855
7th
Donald Mercer
Sneads Ferry, N.C.
$12,684
8th
Mike Santoro
Egg Harbor Township, N.J.
$9,513
9th
Francis Snyder
Philadelphia, Penn.
$6,342

* Does not reflect deal three handed

** Disqualified for unsportsmanlike behavior

Event 2

The $500 No-Limit Hold'em tournament that started on Thursday was, in contrast to Event 1, much more by-the-book. Five hundred players stepped up to the felt, and when the final table started on Friday afternoon, poker pro David Zeitlin (who won a preliminary event during the WPT Borgata Poker Open) led the field with $654,000 in chips.

The story of the tournament was the survival of the short stacks as players began to fall. Bryce Carroll-Coe, Jake Neff and Sarah Stohler, who were quite a distance back from chip leader Zeitlin, were able to drive deep into the tournament despite their low chip counts.

Neff was the hardiest of the lot as he eliminated Carroll-Coe in fifth place when Neff flopped a straight, and Stohler left in fourth.

Neff continued the charge as, with play three-handed, he was responsible for David Zeitlin's eventual elimination when his A-8 couldn't catch Neff's big slick.

With the action down to two players, Neff held over a 2-1 chip lead over Osborne. However, an hour into the match, Osborne was able to chip up and take the lead. Not long after that, he had the win.

The final-table results were:

Place
Name
Hometown
Prize
1st
Ryan Osborne
Seattle, Wash.
$72,500
2nd
Jake Neff
Philadelphia, Penn.
$38,250
3rd
David Zeitlin
New York City, N.Y.
$20,000
4th Sarah Stoller
Washington D.C.
$17,500
5th
Bryce Carroll-Coe
Detroit, Mich.
$15,000
6th
Adam Steinback
Mechanicsville, Md.
$12,500
7th
John Doran
Woolwich Township, N.J.
$10,000
8th
Victor Johnson
Middletown, N.Y.
$7,500
9th
Artie Smith
Gastonia, N.C.
$5,000

Event 3

For the second time in this WSOPC schedule's first three days, an event drew more than 1,000 players. Event 3, $300 No-Limit Hold'em, attracted a throng of 1,056 poker enthusiasts to begin battle Friday for the top prize of $75,600 and the WSOPC gold and diamond championship ring.

Continuing his outstanding play from Event 1 (in which he finished third), Todd Rebello of Oak Bluffs, Mass., once again battled his way through a large field to make the final table. However, Rebello was able to take it all the way this time.

Full final-table results for this event were not available at press time.

Event 4

The first large-dollar buy-in tournament on this WSOPC schedule, the $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em tournament, boasted a large field size as well with 411 players coming to battle on Saturday for the $123,300 top prize.

The eventual winner of the tournament, Victor Bonavita, was the demolition man at the final table, eliminating seven of the other eight final-table players by himself.

In those knockouts, Bonavita was the favorite in four of the hands and drew out in the other three to take the championship.

The final-table results were:

Place
Name
Hometown
Prize
1st
Victor Bonavita
Bellmore, N.Y.
$123,300
2nd
Al Garver
Billings, Mont.
$66,171
3rd
Larry Nelson
Harleysville, Penn.
$32,880
4th
Stuart Elkin
Delray Beach, Fla.
$28,770
5th
Jason Goldman
Port Charlotte, Fla.
$24,660
6th
Tim Bryan
Centerville, Va.
$20,550
7th
Matthew Casterella
White Plains, N.Y.
$16,440
8th
James English
Tamarac, Fla.
$12,330
9th
Han Oh
Catonsville, Md.
$8,220

Action continues through the remainder of this week with four No-Limit Hold'em events ranging in buy-in from $200 to $1,000. Thursday will mark the start of the Circuit Championship Event which, with its $5,000 buy-in, should draw a considerable amount of interest from East Coast rounders as well as from some top professionals.

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