It has been over six weeks since the World Poker Tour has been in action, but yesterday the players returned to the circuit with the first stop of 2011, the Southern Poker Championship at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Mississippi.
The $10,000 buy-in event saw a slight uptick in participation with 214 runners compared to last year’s 208 players. The tournament staff suggested that competing events in Australia and the newly added WSOP-C Choctaw event in Durant, Oklahoma were just a couple of reasons why the field failed to match the Beau Rivage’s best turnout of 283 runners in 2009.
Amongst the 214 runners in this year’s field were all the previous Biloxi WPT winners, including 2007 Gulf Coast Poker Champion Bill Edler, who has not been a presence on the poker scene in over a year. Edler was one of the early casualties in the event, busting in the second level of the day, past winners Hoyt Corkins and Allen Carter both survived to make Day 2, despite being seated side by side for most of Day 1 play.
Several other big names survived to make Day 2 as well, including Gavin Smith, Joseph Cheong, Andrew Lichtenberger, and Jonathan Little, all of whom ended the day in the top ten chip counts. Little is not the only member of his family taking part in this event either. His father, Larry Little, satellite into the event for just $100 and will sit down with 19,000 chips when Day 2 begins. All told, 144 players survived to make Day 2, including Jason Mercier, John Dolan, Scotty Nguyen, Nick Schulman, had Brown, Chris Bell, and Kara Scott.
While Smith has a big stack and held the chip lead during the middle of the day, it is Robert Keller who earned the title of chip leader after busting Tom Braband on one of the final hands of the night in a boat over boat situation. Braband hit the rail, while Keller raked in a more than 90,000-chip pot to end the day with 179,025 after beginning the day with 30,000. Keller and Smith are two of six players who ended above the century mark.
There were a number of Day 1 casualties in addition to Edler. Randal Flowers, Jim Collopy, John Hennigan, Matt Affleck, Matt Brady, perennial Biloxi performer Tyler Smith, Shawn Buchanan, and Dan O’Brien were just some of the players who did not survive to Day 2.
Day 2 of play is set to get underway at 12pm CT. The plan is to play five 90-minute levels before calling it a night.
Here are the top ten chip counts headed into Day 2 of play:
1. Robert Keller – 179,025
2. Gavin Smith – 144,525
3. Vitor Coelgo – 136,250
4. Dermot Blain – 125,825
5. BJ McBrayer – 106,250
6. Joseph Cheong – 101,350
7. Andrew Lichtenberger – 99,125
8. Randy Smith – 92,400
9. Jonathan Little – 91,925
10. Gabe Costner – 91,050
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