The lounge was nearly filled to capacity Wednesday evening as the second flight of the $10,300 buy in World Poker Tour event took place. Players not already in the event were playing $350 satellites in the front of the room to try to win seats into the 9 p.m. mega satellite to earn their $10,300 seat.
At the featured table on a stage on the left-hand side of the room, noted poker writer David Sklansky did battle with nine others.
Even with the World Series of Poker going on just down Flamingo Avenue, the media hasn't forgotten about this event, with a bank of laptops set up across the edges of the room to keep track of chip counts.
As play on Day 1B ended Wednesday night, David Oppenheim stood on top of the field with 100,700 in chips, followed by Nenad Medic with 94,900 and J.C. Alvarado with 75,800. The stack sizes at the end of Day 1A were bigger, however. Kevin Saul led with 262,075 and Koustautin Puchkov was next with 180,500.
While $500 and $1,000 second-chance tournaments are running at the Rio, the finale of the Bellagio Cup III is the true second chance for many big pros or those with big bankrolls wishing for another shot to make a million before heading home.
Steve Frederick, whose most notable cash was a 5th in the WPT Mirage Poker Showdown last May, said he prefers the WPT events to the WSOP.
"They're always at nicer venues and they give you double chips," he said, though noting that the WSOP now also gives double chips.
Frederick said he actually prefers the WPT events because they draw better players and smaller fields. "It's more of a minefield when you play inexperienced players," he said.
Frederick was hoping to satellite into the mega and then into the main event to play in the just added third flight.
John Nieznanski, poker tournament supervisor at the Bellagio, said the addition of a third flight is in response to Harrah's adding a fourth starting day to the WSOP main event.
"In order to accommodate the players we thought we would give them a chance to come over here if they busted out over there," he said.
According to the original schedule, Saturday would have been a day off or at least a short day at the Bellagio with the WPT final table on Sunday. Now, Saturday will feature a full day of play. Nieznanski said players may have to play an extra level on Friday.
The turnouts for the preliminary events of Bellagio Cup III were rather flat, with many of them drawing under 100 and some attendance numbers only in the 30s. That hasn't been the case with the championship event.
The Bellagio got 129 players for Day 1A (47 remained at the end of the day) and 175 on Day 1B (with around 90 remaining at the end of play). Nieznanski said 200 or more were expected on Thursday for a total turnout of more than 500.