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:

Frank Panetta
Brick, N.J.
Andy Santiago
Bensalem, Penn.
Todd Rebello
Oak Bluffs, Mass.
Lee Ervin
Staunton, Va.
Lesley Thornburg**
Richmond, Va.
Edward Sullivan
Durham, N.C.
Donald Mercer
Sneads Ferry, N.C.
Mike Santoro
Egg Harbor Township, N.J.
Francis Snyder
Philadelphia, Penn.

* 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:

Ryan Osborne
Seattle, Wash.
Jake Neff
Philadelphia, Penn.
David Zeitlin
New York City, N.Y.
4th Sarah Stoller
Washington D.C.
Bryce Carroll-Coe
Detroit, Mich.
Adam Steinback
Mechanicsville, Md.
John Doran
Woolwich Township, N.J.
Victor Johnson
Middletown, N.Y.
Artie Smith
Gastonia, N.C.

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:

Victor Bonavita
Bellmore, N.Y.
Al Garver
Billings, Mont.
Larry Nelson
Harleysville, Penn.
Stuart Elkin
Delray Beach, Fla.
Jason Goldman
Port Charlotte, Fla.
Tim Bryan
Centerville, Va.
Matthew Casterella
White Plains, N.Y.
James English
Tamarac, Fla.
Han Oh
Catonsville, Md.

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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