VEGAS DIARIES: WPT World Championship Day 1

12am: Gilmartin gets a bag!

It was a case of mixed fortunes for our Aussies flying the flag in today’s flight of the WPT World Championship, as we’ve received word from Ehsan Amiri that he has been eliminated, along with Yita Choong and Ken Demlakian, who lost the flip for his tournament life after his Ace-King failed to improve against his opponent’s pocket fives.

“It was a bad Level 9 for me,” Demlakian said. “I got up to as much as 135K, but lost half of it to another player who hit a runner-runner straight.”

Some great news, however, as Alan Zhang finished with around double the starting stack of 100,000, and we’re also pleased to confirm that life is still good for Australian Poker Hall of Famer and WPT Anchor Lynn Gilmartin, who bagged 277,000 after busting Jeff Platt in the final level of play.

“I got dealt pocket Queens on the button and Jeff called my pre-flop raise of 9,000 from the big blind,” Gilmartin recalled. “The flop comes 9-X-X, all low. I bet 12,000, he calls; turn is another low card. I put him all-in and he tank calls with 9-7. River bricks.”

In all, 235 players survived from the 615 total entries that were brought in today. Justin Bonomo finished the day as the overall chip leader, with Roberto Romanello, Alex Foxen, Kitty Kuo, Daniel Negreanu and WPT Brand Ambassador Andrew Neeme some of the other notables to have advanced to Day 2 on Thursday.

WPT WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP – DAY 1A TOP 5 CHIP COUNTS (615 entries, 235 survivors)

Justin BonomoUnited States1,011,000
Joey CoudenUnited States935,000
Steven McKuinUnited States895,000
Roberto RomanelloWales725,000
Dominic BrazierUnited States714,000

This brings today’s PMA coverage to a close, but rest assured that we’ve got plenty more in the works, including a very special edition of ‘Heads-Up’, where we’ll be sitting down to interview one of the absolute living legends of the game: WPT Brand Ambassador, Phil Ivey!

Thanks again for joining us, and until tomorrow, from all of us here in Las Vegas, it’s ‘bye for now!

7:30pm: Time for tee

Shortly before the 459 remaining players returned from their 90-minute dinner break in the WPT World Championship, the WPT $25,700 buy-in High Roller final table was confirmed, with Justin Rabichow leading the way with more than 4.3 million in chips.

The American high-stakes specialist from Chicago came close to winning his first major live title after finishing runner-up in last year’s WSOP $100,000 High Roller for USD $1,210487 (AUD $1,789,381), but he’s up against some stiff competition, including popular poker vlogger Ethan ‘Rampage’ Yau, who comes in fresh from his victory in the PGT Poker Masters $10,000 NLH event last September.

All nine players have locked up minimum of USD $81,000 (AUD $119,735), with tonight’s victor taking home the title and USD $894,240 (AUD $1,321,872) in winnings.

Meanwhile, the WPT League Sydney and Illawarra contingent were treated to a night out of fun and games at TopGolf Las Vegas, where we also got a chance to catch up and share stories with the team, including the pride of Wollongong himself, Dave Wonson, who was the last Aussie standing in the WPT Prime Championship.

Wonson told PokerMedia Australia that he was absolutely over the moon with the result.

“It’s bittersweet [not being able to go further] … so close, but so far,” Wonson said. “I’m still very happy with the result, though.”

Wonson is definitely is no stranger to Sin City, as he visits extended family here with his wife quite regularly, but this was one of the handful of opportunities he’s had to be part of a big poker event like this, turning an AUD $250 satellite ticket at one of his local WPT League games into a USD $5K payday.

For Wonson, however, every moment in Las Vegas both on and off the felt was of far greater value, which included exclusive access to the Thank You Party, the VIP Players Lounge and the opportunity to meet some of their poker idols, including Scotty Nguyen and Doyle Brunson.

“When you add it all up, the whole package – airfares, accomodation and all that – it’s about USD $15-$20K,” he said, “and I’ve known [WPT League licensees] Bruno Rao and Tyson Orth for years, but being able to hang out with them and the boys and talk poker, I think that’s really helped my game, you know?”

“The world is your oyster here in Las Vegas. You can do what you want, when you want, 24/7 … the whole experience has been amazing! Absolutely, 100% I’ll be trying to get back for it next year!”

From all of us at PMA, congratulations Dave, and we look forward to seeing you and an even bigger crew back at the WPT World Championship next year!

5pm: A milestone in the making

Our PMA contingent caught up with two of our nation’s biggest industry names chatting excitedly in the hallway: WPT Asia-Pacific Live Events Specialist Danny McDonagh, and WPT Global Tour Management VP Angelica Hael, who have been working non-stop since they arrived here in Las Vegas.

Already, the feedback they’ve received from players has been incredibly positive, and that this inaugural series has made a lasting impact on the industry. For the Aussies, this event is reminiscent of the salad days of the Aussie Millions, the Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) and the Australia New Zealand Poker Tour (ANZPT), all of which Hael and McDonagh have both provided significant contribution.

For Hael in particular, the fruits of her labour here in at The Wynn have been vast, with satellite figures for the WPT World Championship more than doubling the number of seats guaranteed – and along with the record-shattering field for the WPT Prime Championship, the projections for the Big Dance have event organisers aiming higher than ever before.

“Forget cloud nine, I’m on Cloud 88!” she exclaimed. “I didn’t want to say it so early, but so many people have told me that [the WPT World Championship] could get as high as USD $25 million (AUD $37,022,475)!”

McDonagh is also keen to bring another new concept into the land down under, which the WPT have dubbed ‘Milestone Satellites’. Inspired by a similar format utilised on the European circuit, the Milestone Satellite is a standard MTT qualifier, but provides players with extra motivation and incentive by allowing them to “cash out” once they reach a certain amount of chips.

In the case of today’s satellite, each player starts with 20,000 in chips, but if they hit 240,000 (or 12 stacks’ worth, for those of you keeping score at home), they can then call the floor and get their WPT World Championship seat paid out on the spot. Reckon that’s worth a look-in!

3:45pm: Amiri eliminated

A few more Aussies have dropped in for today’s first flight of the WPT World Championship, including Attila Bognar, Yita Choong and Australian Poker Hall of Fame Legend Joe Hachem, who arrived late last night after a lengthy delay to his inbound flight from Los Angeles due to storms along the west coast.

Not so good news for Ehsan Amiri either, who is now loading up his second $10K bullet for the day after being eliminated earlier this afternoon. As Amiri recalled, he had a nut flush and a gut-shot straight draw against his villain who was also drawing to a nine-high flush draw and a lower gut-shot, but managed to get there to send the Aussie to the rail.

Meanwhile, fellow Aussie Sean Ragozzini has made himself known on one of the outer tables and is now seated between Lynn Gilmartin and Jeff Platt, with Jeff Schulman, Stephen Chidwick, Andrew Lichtenberger, Vanessa Kade and WPT Brand Ambassadors Andrew Neeme and Brad Owen amongst the other notables now in the sub-600 field.

2:15pm: Vince and Isai with the honours

The WPT World Championship is now up to almost 500 entries at the start of Level 3, which kicked off after WPT President and CEO Adam Pliska made a special presentation to recognise the newest WPT Honours Awards recipients: Vince Van Patten and Isai Scheinberg.

As one of the longest-serving members of the WPT brand, the Hollywood actor and director first began his poker journey through his father Dick Van Patten before suiting up as a commentator alongside the late, great Mike Sexton in the very first season back in 2003. Van Patten continues to work to this day sharing stories from across the felt, both within and outside the poker community.

Scheinberg’s tireless work behind the scenes, however, has been equally if not more significant: as one of the co-founders of PokerStars, the poker industry magnate and philanthropist brought the game to the people through their online portal and series of live events worldwide, positioning the PokerStars brand as the market leader for more than a decade before selling the company in 2014.

“These two men have both made transformational contributions to the poker community,” Pliska said. “Isai as a pioneer with his incredible ingenuity and boldness, and Vince with his love and dedication to expanding the game of poker. Both honourees are truly deserving of the award.”


2017Bruno Fitoussi, Linda Johnson, Mike Sexton
2018Lyle Berman, Steve Lipscomb
2019Deb Giardina, Matt Savage
2022Vince Van Patten, Isai Scheinberg

1pm: Cards in the air!

The Encore Ballroom is already packed to the hilt, with Day 1A of the USD $10,400 (AUD $15,415) buy-in WPT World Championship now underway. Team Australia is represented today by Ken Demlakian, Ehsan Amiri and WPT Anchor Lynn Gilmartin, but there’s already a lot of famous faces already scattered throughout the 426 entries for today’s flight, including Maria Ho, Freddy Deeb, Jeff Platt, Shaun Deeb and Andrew Moreno.

Erik Seidel is also in the mix, along with WPT commentator and analyst Tony Dunst, while reigning WSOP Main Event Champion Espen Jorstad has just taken his seat along with the likes of Chris Moorman, Shannon Shorr and Daniel Negreanu.

Plenty of action on the cards (and in them) today, as we also move into the Day 3 of the WPT Prime Championship and Day 2 of the USD $25,700 High Roller, with the USD $1,100 H.O.R.S.E. tournament, scheduled to kick off at 1:30pm local time.

Live updates for all events and feature table streaming can be found at

Monday 12 December 2022

From wherever you are watching in Australia, New Zealand or indeed, around the world, good morning and welcome to PokerMedia Australia and our exclusive Antipodean coverage of the 2022 World Poker Tour (WPT) World Championship!

From the moment our media contingent set foot on the ground here in at The Wynn Las Vegas, it became abundantly clear that we are in the midst of something truly special.

Already, the WPT have obliterated all previous records for a tournament with a $1,000+ price point, with the WPT Prime Championship locked out on Saturday night at 5,430 entries, good for a total prize pool of USD $5,267,100 (AUD $7,824,007).

And as most of the Australian contingent let their hair down at last night’s 20th Anniversary Thank You Party at AREA15, it was strictly business for Dave Wonson, who grinded his way to a respectable 94th place and a payout of USD $5,640 (AUD $8,378). Well done, sir!

Hopefully this result will be the first of many from Team Australia – and we’ll be sure to track the progress of all our Aussie and Kiwi friends, and catch up with many of poker’s household names over the course of the week – and without giving too much away, PMA has already got arguably the biggest name in the game already lined up for a very special ‘Heads-Up’ interview tomorrow morning.

All that and more coming your way, so be sure to log onto for live updates, and follow us here at PMA as we chronicle our adventures here in Las Vegas, and follow us on Discord, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube for even more bonus content. See you soon!

All images courtesy of the World Poker Tour. WPT, World Poker Tour and the Spade Card Design are registered trademarks of WPT Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.

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