The final event of the 07-08 WSOPC season drew a total of 249 players looking for one last big score before the 2008 WSOP.
Although the number of entrants was down by 105 players - decreased fields have been a way of life during this year's edition of the Circuit - there were a number of surprisingly well-known players in attendance.
Jonathan "FieryJustice" Little, Zach Hyman, Matt Stout and several others all made the trip out to New Orleans for some Louisiana poker action.
Perhaps most surprising of all was the appearance of WPT Web hostess Kimberly Lansing. Lansing is rumored to be taking over the full hosting duties at the WPT from Layla Kaleigh, who announced she was leaving the tour last week.
At any rate, Lansing was a welcome addition to the generally 99.8% male content at Circuit events. In fact, Lansing seemed to be leading the charge as a number of female players made the event including Claudia Crawford, who made the final table of one of the New Orleans preliminary events, Sabyl Cohen, Beverly Cheney, Anita Vasquez and a few others.
TJ Cloutier and Gavin Smith Bust
Unfortunately, for those covering the event, two of the biggest headline-grabbers were knocked out in the second level. The veteran poker pro Cloutier and the Canadian loudmouth Smith both failed to get anything going at all and disappeared with little excitement during the first couple hours of play.
They were certainly not the last well-known players to be eliminated. Josh Arieh, Zach Hyman and Steve Dannenmann were all eliminated in Day 1 action.
Edler was in great shape to double up versus his opponent with 6-6 versus 5-5 but four clubs on the board put a stop to that idea and to the Stunning One's tournament life.
Lansing, who by all accounts played a solid tournament, experienced the joy of getting aces cracked in her final hand. She shoved all-in for her last $7,000 on a flop of 8♥ 6♦ 3♠ while holding A♠ A♣, only to have her opponent call with 5♦ 4♦ and hit his straight.
On the bright side, Lansing, who made it past the dinner break, lasted much longer than seasoned pros like Cloutier, Smith and Ted Lawson.
Payouts were announced in the middle of the day and although overall numbers were down the prize pool was still impressive. A total of $1.19 million will be spread among the final 27 players, with $382,928 going to first place.
The last level of play saw several players' fortunes change dramatically. Stout, who admitted he got lucky a few times in Level 7, won a huge hand with JJ versus A-K and didn't look back. The PL.com blogger went from life support to $65,000 in barely one level of play.
Poker is a Simple Game
"I found that if I just got it in bad and sucked out on people I could get a lot of chips," joked Stout. "Poker is really a simple game."
Even more amazing was the turnaround that Lou Esposito manufactured. Esposito entered Level 7 with a short stack and it was doubtful he would even make it to Day 2. Well into the last level of play, Esposito went from zero to hero and by the time the chips were bagged he was the co-chip leader with $102,100.
That's right. "Co"-chip leader. For the first time the PL.com tournament reporting crew cares to remember we had an exact tie between two players for the chip lead at the end of the day. We're talking down to the last chip here, folks.
Both Esposito and David Fox bagged up exactly $102,100 chips, which makes them the two players no one wants to mess with tomorrow. Also, Esposito has the rare opportunity to attempt to repeat as champion at a WSOPC event.
With 69 players remaining, tomorrow could be a marathon as play will continue until we're down to the final nine.
Whatever happens, PL.com will be with you every step of the way so be sure to check our coverage, which kicks off tomorrow at 12 p.m. CST.