VEGAS DIARIES: WPT World Championship Day 2

Image courtesy of WPT Media

12:30am: Day 1B complete!

The second of our three WPT World Championship flights is now complete, and at the end of what was another huge day, early reports suggest that Aryan Oliveira has leapfrogged Justin Bonomo for the overall chip lead, bagging up more than 1.5 million after eliminating an opponent over the space of two hands.

Great news on the Aussie front too, as WPT Prime Gold Coast Champion Yang Lei recovered beautifully from his earlier setback to finish the night with 403,000 in chips, and Elisa Onay will also carry through a hefty bag worth 326,000. Yita Choong has also advanced, but with only 31,000 in his stack at the end of the night, there may be cause to consider a forfeit in order to try again tomorrow.

At present, we’re now up to a running total of 1,668 tournament entries, with a full house expected for Day 1C. Word on the street is that with the remaining qualifier entries being brought into play, the total prize pool will exceed USD $20,000,000 (AUD $29,167,855) before first pitch.

And just before we wrap things up, we’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate two more series winners in Tyler Willse, who won USD $63,967 (AUD $93,248) and his second major career title in the $1,100 H.O.R.S.E., as well as poker vlogger and YouTuber Ethan ‘Rampage’ Yau, who took out the $25,700 High Roller in the early hours of yesterday morning for USD $894,240 (AUD $1,303,419), topping a field of 108 runners.

And with that, our coverage here in Las Vegas has come to a close, but be sure to join us again as we bring you more from the WPT World Championship and beyond. Until next time, from all of us here at PokerMedia Australia, it’s ‘bye for now!

10:30pm: The hits just keep on coming

As we head into the final stanza of play, we’ve come across another wave of household names in the poker world, including WPT commentator and Honouree Vince Van Patten, John Hennigan, Liv Boeree, Patrik Antonius and 16-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth.

They’re all still in the hunt for a bag tonight, but sadly, the same cannot be said for Ehsan Amiri, who will be back tomorrow for one last shot after being eliminated by Jason Somerville in one of the first hands after play restarted after the break. After losing a 90,000-chip pot to Espen Jorstad in the previous level, he picked up Ace-Queen and moved all-in, but Somerville woke up with pocket Kings and flopped a set.

WPT Prime Gold Coast Champion Yang Lei also had a rough time in the previous stanza, dropping to 125,000 before the break after having his bullets cracked. With the blinds at 1,000/2,000 (2,000) Lei opened to 4,500 on the button, action folded to the player in the big blind, who defended to make it heads-up to the flop of 743.

According to Lei, the big blind then checked, but the dealer produced the 4 on the turn before he had the chance to act. Floor staff were quickly called over to rectify the situation: Lei was given his options back (he checked), the original turn card was pulled back, the stub was reshuffled and a new turn was peeled off, which was the 7.

The big blind then bet 11,500 and Lei flat-called, and then the action repeated after the big blind fired 46,500 on the river 7, but although Lei tabled AA, he was left fuming after the big blind player showed 72 for quads!

Yita Choong also came back from the break with 63,000, but it’s good news for Elisa Onay, who’s currently on 210,000 in chips with two levels to go!

8:15pm: Winning in life (Pt. II)

In just a few short weeks since the order was given to shuffle up and deal on the 1st of December, the WPT World Championship has truly captured the hearts and minds of the global poker community, offering a poker experience unlike any other.

The World Poker Tour and Wynn Las Vegas have certainly spared no expense in making this festival the most accessible, with players, officials and media having been brought in from all corners of the globe to be a part of this historic event which, based on the feedback we’ve received, has been so well executed that it almost feels like it’s been around forever.

And through the WPT global network of live and online satellites, there have been many players who have qualified for this event and have travelled from as far Australia, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and even Slovakia.

Some have even won their USD $10,400 seat through special social media promotions and random draws, and PokerMedia Australia was introduced to one of those players earlier in the day: Dr Josef Strazynski, who is playing in his first major live poker tournament at the ripe old age of 74.

“I’ve been playing mixed cash games for a long, long time,” Josef explained, “but this is Texas Hold’em. I’ve been learning the principles and the nuances – some of which were new to me – but I hope that what I’ve been able to learn will carry me through.”

“Still some adjusting, some normal nervous tremors, but I’m living the dream here … I’m loving every moment of it!”

The good doctor has been committed to studying vigorously in the months leading up to the WPT World Championship, helped along by some coaching from professional poker coach Jonathan Little, and his son, Robbie Strazynski, who was able to provide him all the tools and resources his father needed.

And as any loving son would, the owner of Cardplayer Lifestyle booked his trip to Las Vegas immediately after the news broke, flying in all the way from Israel in order to document their experience here at The Wynn – and it was clear that regardless of the result, they were both so thrilled just to be a part of it.

“[The WPT World Championship] really has this big event feel, not something you get at most poker stops.” said Robbie. “You can tell through all the players, when they walk into this ballroom and they’re like, ‘Okay, this is something special.'”

But although there’s still a way to go in this tournament, Dr Josef is hopeful that he can run deep, and declared that he’ll be spending it on his family if he does.

“My children, my grandchildren and my wife … they’ve had to put up with me buried into study for the last month,” said Josef. “I’m here, and I’m enjoying myself. I already have my reward, and any money will be for them.”

And Robbie will no doubt be by his side should that pipe dream become a reality: “The goal now is to make through to the end of Day 1, but if Dad somehow made it to the money and there’s cameras nearby, you’re gonna see some and some gigantic hugs, that’s for sure!”

Flight 1B of the WPT World Championship was been locked out at 1,053 total entries, with the clock showing 711 players remaining shortly before play ticked over into Level 8. Joe Ingram returned from the dinner break as the overall chip leader holding 447,000, with Frank Kassela and WPT commentator Tony Dunst also coming back with stacks north of 400K.

As it stands, the total number of entries is currently at 1,640, good for almost USD $16.1 million in the prize pool (AUD $23,498,111), with one more flight to be run tomorrow.

6:45pm: Awesome foursome

A quick Aussie update as we head off on the dinner break: as you may have seen already in our Facebook stories, Sean Ragozzini leads the green-and-gold with 288,000, followed closely by Elisa Onay with 234,500.

Yita Choong is still in there and will return to a stack worth 101,500, but having been as low as 55,000, Ehsan Amiri found a crucial triple-up to end the session with 153,000 in chips.

As Amiri recalled: “Espen Jorstad opened from mid-position, new guy to the table three-bets, but the hijack didn’t see that and called. I jammed with Ace-King from the small blind, Espen folds, the three-better calls with Ace-Queen, hijack with Queen-Jack. Flop is Queen high, but the turn is a King!”

Time for us to rustle up a bite to eat! Back soon with more after play resumes at 7:30pm local time.

4:30pm: It’s showtime!

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any bigger and better here at the WPT World Championship … they just did.

Soon after the players returned from the second 15-minute break of the day, the tournament clock was paused and each player and dealer was issued a special LED wrist band.

WPT CEO Adam Pliska and members of the WPT family then came up to the stage to give special thanks to everyone, with honourable mentions to two of the brand’s co-founders: Lyle Berman and Steven Lispcomb, before the room was darkened in preparation for the half-time entertainment.

And it was at that moment the place really got lit.

Leading off today’s act was the Swedish-American juggling trio, Water On Mars, who threw everything into their performance; balls, clubs, hoops – and even rolls of toilet paper – before they made way for the bombastic stylings of the Drumbots, the official drum line of the Las Vegas Golden Knights ice hockey team.

Pliska then instructed everyone to hold their wristbands high into the air, which all lit up in a vibrant blue as a collective drumroll resonated through the Encore Ballroom.

“1 … 2 … 3 … REVEAL!”

10 of the dealer’s wrist bands changed from blue to red, and floor staff rushed to each of those tables and instructed them to high-card the players at the table. Their prize? A WPT Passport valued at USD $1,100 (AUD $1,606). Just like that. That’s Vegas for you.

In the words of WPT Ambassador and living poker icon Doyle Brunson: “I’ve never seen anything like it!”

Play has now entered into Level 6, with the clock showing 1,017 total entries for today’s flight. Five-time WPT final tablist Kathy Liebert was amongst our most recent sightings, and there was also another huge boost to the Aussie armada in the form of the 2022 WSOP Main Event runner-up, Adrian Attenborough!

2:30pm: Winning in life (Pt. I)

More fresh faces amongst the crowd here in Day 1B of the WPT World Championship, including Sydney’s own Elisa Onay, who along with her husband Hasan Onay, now hit both the felt here in Las Vegas, as well as WSOP bracelet winner and PokerNews‘ US Editor Chad Holloway, who celebrated his 40th birthday two nights ago.

Our reporter also spotted Yita Choong back in the field, along with esteemed poker commentator Jamie Kerstetter, while WPT Prime Gold Coast Champion Yang Lei has now been seated and finds himself opposite Erik Seidel and Maureen Bloechlinger.

We also caught up with another adopted Aussie in Joey Weissman, who we first met back in 2020 after winning the AUD $1,150 buy-in Super High Roller the WPT League QPC (now known as the WPT League Championship) in Tweed Heads.

The American pro has had plenty to celebrate as he and his partner Nellie have trekked across the globe, including his most recent victory in the BetMGM Poker Championship Main Event, good for a top prize of USD $224,236 (AUD $327,274), but that paled in comparison to the pair’s engagement, with Weismann popping the question on bended knee amidst the snow-capped vistas of Alaska earlier this year.

But only moments ago, tournament officials have confirmed the current number of entries in today’s flight at 916, which means we have broken through the USD $15 million ceiling – and that’s with another four levels of late rego and Day 1C still to come. Absolutely phenomenal!

12pm: Kicking goals

Day 1B of the WPT World Championship is off to a monster start: up to more than 630 entries already seated in the first level, which puts us about 300 or so away from hitting the USD $15 million guarantee.

Plenty of familiar faces back in action, including Australia’s own Ehsan Amiri, who has fired his third bullet, and we’re also expecting Yita Choong to late-reg later this afternoon, once the World Cup semi-final is all wrapped up. Let’s hope he’s got his money on Argentina, as they’re already 2-0 up in the first half!

Other big internationals now seated in the Encore Ballroom include Shannon Shorr, Mike Del Vecchio, Darren Elias, Ben Lamb, Jeff Trudeau, Ryan Laplante and Cliff Josephy, along with 2020 Aussie Millions Main Event Champion Toby Lewis and 2009 WSOP Main Event Champion Joe Cada.

And speaking of big internationals: the PMA team has been informed that WPT Ambassador Phil Ivey has elected to play in Day 1C and as such, any and all media commitments have been delayed until tomorrow. Thank you all for your patience!

Tuesday 13 December 2022

Good morning and welcome back to PokerMedia Australia‘s continued coverage of the WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas!

Yesterday marked the official launch of the World Poker Tour’s USD $10,400 (AUD $15,173) buy-in World Championship tournament, with 235 players bagging up at the end of Day 1A from a starting field of 615 entries.

Leading at the end of last night with 1,011,000 in chips was American pro Justin Bonomo, who is coming in hot from the most recent WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic down the road at the Bellagio, highlighted by two High Roller victories and a deep run in the Main Event to boost his career earnings to almost USD $59,000,000 (AUD $86,103,520).

Other notables to have bagged up included Roberto Romanello, Alex Foxen, Chance Kornuth, Cary Katz, Kitty Kuo, Daniel Negreanu and WPT Brand Ambassador Andrew Neeme.

We’ve also confirmed that three Australian players have made it through to Day 2 on Thursday: WPT Anchor Lynn Gilmartin (277,000), Alan Zheng (189,000) and WPT Champion Joe Hachem (100,000), who’s already making the most of his time off, heading out early for a round of golf with Ken Demlakian.

Plenty more coming your way, so stay with us here on PMA for our blog updates throughout the day, as well as bonus content through all our socials: Discord, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. 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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