Poker Claus has made his list and checked it twice, and by now he knows who has been naughty or nice. All the nice boys and girls are in Las Vegas for the WPT's Five Diamond World Poker Classic at Bellagio, but the naughty boys and girls? Well, they're in South Jersey. It's the World Series of Poker Circuit Event from Harrah's Atlantic City and the excitement, like the odor, is palpable. But it's better than a sugar plum, right?
A total of 244 players made the trek to Harrah's Atlantic City for the final WSOPC event of 2007. The three-day event included as starters the likes of such poker luminaries as Mike "Little Man" Sica, Carlos Uz, M.J. Bernstein, Matt Stout, Dan "Deece-Deece" Shak, Vincent Procopio, Dean Schultz, Frank Vizza, Alex Bolotin, Chris Reslock, Cyndy Violette, Raj Patel, Paul McCaffrey, David Fox, Ebony Kenney, Andy Black and, uh, Montel Williams, making for a surprisingly star-studded event.
The sizable field yielded a suitable substantial prize pool, with $1,195,600 made available to the field and the final 27 participants taking a piece. The lowest of the low will earn $7,114, with the final table guaranteed $23,712 and the top three earning six figures. First prize is a Christmas-y $379,392, a partridge and a pear tree.
Organizers decided to play only seven levels on Day 1, which combined with the $20,000 starting stacks should make for a marathon-length Day 2 as the field will have to be reduced from the 108 survivors down to a final table of nine. It did, however, make for a pleasantly brief Day 1, with each level only 75 minutes long and the breaks only 10 minutes. The tournament day was over by 11:30 p.m. and the PokerListings.com reporting staff were able to try their luck at the Midnight Madness tournament over at the Taj without much difficulty.
Details of that late-night donkament are best left forgotten, but as for the main attraction at Harrah's there were plenty of memorable moments as the first day of play unfolded. Among the first of those moments was the sudden elimination of Cyndy Violette, who staked her tournament life on a pocket pair of aces midway through the second level, but found herself facing Bruce Bartfeld's flopped set of tens and couldn't recover.
Midway through Level 3, a strange hand emerged that wound up being the last hand of the day for Alex Bolotin. Bolotin popped it to $1,000 from the big blind after two players limped for $200 and was called by a player on the button. The flop came 7♣ 6♦ 2♥ and Bolotin bet out $1,500. His opponent flat-called and the turn was the A♣, prompting a $2,500 wager from the young pro and another flat-call from his rival. The river was the 4♠ and Bolotin checked. His opponent put him all-in for his last $7,000 and cue the tankage.
Bolotin mulled things over for a good five minutes before finally making the call for his tournament life. His opponent turned up 5♠ 4♣ for a busted straight draw and a rivered pair of fours. All good, right? Wrong. Bolotin mucked, conceding the hand and rendering himself eliminato (he would later reveal he had K-Q and put his opponent on precisely 9-8 for the busted draw, a prescient, if not prescient enough, read).
A hyper-aggressive Raj Patel would hit the rail before Circuit All-Star Doug Carli saw his set of fives cracked by an opponent's turned king-high straight in the day's fourth level. Then Matt Larsh would bust in a queens-versus-aces scenario and it was dinnertime.
The after-dinner rush saw the demise of Eugene Todd bro (A-10 v. A-K), M.J. Bernstein and Ebony Kelley, the latter of whom shoved with K♥ T♣ for her last $2,450 with J♠ J♦ and couldn't catch a king or any other helpful cards. She was thus consigned to the rail, to the dismay of every red-blooded male in the tournament. Meanwhile, Mike Sica and 2006 champ Rick Rossetti were chipping up, while Robert Williamson III's stack seemed to climb with every glass of zinfandel he consumed.
Paul McCaffrey and Chris Reslock would find themselves victims of the day's sixth level, as would Dean Schultz and BodogAri. While Schultz and Ari both found themselves busted by jacks (with Q-10 and A-7 respectively) and McCaffrey lost out in a race with 6-6 against K-Q, Reslock hit the bricks the victim of one of many bad beats on the day, losing with A-K to an opponent's A-10 when his rival made a straight to reverse the domination.
The final level of the night would be the end of Andy Black, whose rather incongruous showing at a WSOP Circuit event was marked by a roller-coaster run that eventually saw the last of his chips get in the middle pre-flop with pocket kings against the pocket aces of Robert Salter. No help would come on flop, turn or river and Black was headed for an early exit.
The day would end shortly thereafter, with about 108 players remaining and Ben Fineman, 2006 champ Rick Rosetti and Robert Williamson III among the chip leaders. Action will resume tomorrow at noon Eastern Time and continue until there are only nine players left standing, and with the likes of Dan Shak, Montel Williams, John Racener and Lou Esposito still in the running, you knows it's going to be a good show. Tune in early and tune in often for our comprehensive coverage of the WSOPC event from the geographical equivalent of a lump of coal in your stocking, only on PokerListings.com.