With the two Day Ones in the books, poker professional J. C. Tran has moved to the top of the leaderboard for the World Poker Tour’s stop at the Bicycle Casino for the Legends of Poker.
The unique two day format for this WPT stop – in which players who busted out on Day 1A could rebuy into the tournament for Day 1B – proved to be popular with the players. Of the 181 players who were eliminated on Day 1A, 116 of those decided to take their “second chance” at the tournament by playing in Day 1B, a 64% return rate. There even were a few players who, short on chips at the end of Day 1A, sacrificed their menial stacks to take the Day 1B option and try again.
With the buy in of $3500 – and another $3500 for those players taking a second shot – the prize pool is quite impressive. $2,570,015 will be on the line for the 81 players who will cash in the tournament, with a first place payout of $758,085. The final numbers for the first WPT event on American soil for Season Ten: 757 total entries, with the actual number of unique players entering the tournament an impressive 641.
With the technicalities of the prize pool settled, the players actually got down to the business of playing the tournament! One player who made the most of a short day was Tran, who took advantage of the late registration on Day 1B before getting into the tournament. He was a wrecking ball for much of the day, surging to the lead when, on a monochrome three heart board, Tran was able to get his opponent to commit his stack with the 10-4 of hearts. Tran calmly turned up his K-5 of hearts for an unbeatable higher flush and took command of the Day 1B action.
One of the surprises during the second Day 1 was the play of Justin Henry. Although he has roughly $70,000 in tournament poker winnings in his career, Justin is more known for his career away from the felt. Henry starred alongside esteemed actors Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman in the Academy Award winning film “Kramer vs. Kramer” and holds the distinction as being the youngest actor ever nominated for an Oscar (he was eight when nominated in 1979 for Best Supporting Actor for the film). That is the past, however, and Justin was working the tables on Friday as he finished the day with slightly more than 102K in chips.
Canadians were well represented in the field, as both Owen Crowe and Shawn Buchanan stepped up to carry the Canadian flag into the fray. Owen started off the day with fellow pros Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler and Matt Affleck on each side of him, but he was able to deal with that issue to battle to the upper echelons of the leaderboard. After taking a sizeable pot with a set of deuces, Crowe sat on 102,500 in chips and finished the day with 138,500.
Shawn had taken part in Day 1A of the Legends of Poker and seemed to be pleased with his performance on Thursday. Over his Twitter feed, Shawn reported, “Ended day one with 87,000 chips at the bike main! Day off today, then back at it Saturday.” In between Shawn and Owen in veteran Canadian player Randy Holland, who will start play on Saturday with 107,500 in chips.
According to the WPT Live Updates team, there are 340 players remaining who will come to the felt on Saturday at 1PM (Pacific Time). Following Tran on the leaderboard is Day 1A chip leader Matthew Berkey, whose 248,500 in chips is only 16,500 behind Tran. 2010 November Niner Soi Nguyen is in third place at this point, with Cody Slaubaugh rounding out the Top Five. Along with the aforementioned Crowe, Holland and Buchanan, other top pros such as Canada’s Greg Mueller, Maria Ho, Christina Lindley, Will “The Thrill” Failla, 2011 WPT Seminole Hard Rock champion Taylor von Kriegenbergh, Isaac Baron, Alec Torelli and Dwyte Pilgrim are all above the average chip stack.
With 81 players getting paid in this tournament, it is likely that the money bubble will not burst until Sunday’s action. A champion for the 2011 WPT Legends of Poker will be determined on Tuesday night. For those who want to watch the action throughout the tournament (with a slight delay), the WPT is offering live streaming at their website, worldpokertour.com, and the Bicycle Casino is offering up their “Live At The Bike” cameras at liveatthebike.com.