The L.A. Poker Classic at Commerce Casino is one of the players’ favorite stops on the tournament circuit. Not only do many professional players live in Los Angeles or Las Vegas, the latter of which is generally a four-hour drive away, but the casino often spreads very high-limit games on the vast casino floor.
Poker thrives at Commerce, as evidenced by the large fields in the preliminary events and the number of cash games in full swing on the casino floor at all times of the day and night, at all levels and variations on the game. And when the $10,000 buy-in World Poker Tour main event of the LAPC rolls around, players (and fans) are ready.
This year, the LAPC main event began on Saturday, February 23. The tournament staff chose not to divide Day 1 into two flights, so all 665 players showed up on the first day to compete. The entire upstairs ballroom-turned-tournament room was filled with players, and several tables downstairs in the cash game area started the day as well. With such a massive field, the prize pool amassed was $6,374,400. The top 63 players would be paid, and the ultimate champion would receive a cool $1,596,100.
The first day, as with any tournament beginning with such a large field, saw numerous pros and amateurs being eliminated. Notables in the field included more names than even the tournament reporters could count, and the list included players like Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, Barry Greenstein, Johnny Chan, Freddy Deeb, David Singer, David Benyamine, Daniel Negreanu, and Erik Seidel. Even Hollywood celebrities Montel Williams and Jennifer Tilly were in attendance.
Almost all of the previous LAPC champions were also in the crowd with the lone exception of the 2003 winner Gus Hansen. The other four – 2004 champ and new face of the WPT Antonio Esfandiari, 2005 winner Michael Mizrachi, 2006 victor Alan Goehring, and 2007 reigning champ Eric Hershler – all played and remained in the field at the end of Day 1.
When play wrapped for the day, there were some recognizable players at the top of the leader board. David Singer topped them all with 137,400 in chips, but close behind were Esfandiari, Anna Wroblewski, and Theo Tran.
Day 2 started out with numerous eliminations in the first level and continued for the remainder of the six levels of play. The majority of the field was sent home (or to the cash games downstairs), and less than 140 players would be coming back the next day.
Some of the players eliminated were Carlos Mortensen, Max Pescatori, Johnny Chan, Paul Wasicka, Barry Greenstein, David Williams, John Juanda, Bill Edler, Erick Lindgren, Montel Williams, and Men Nguyen. Chip leaders at the end of the day were Danny Fuhs, Kyle Burnside, Phil Ivey, Antonio Esfandiari, Jennifer Tilly, and Haralabos Voulgaris.
The third day of LAPC action would ease its way to the money bubble, but when the field reached 68 players, it practically came to a standstill. One of the casualties during this time, however, was Esfandiari, who took a beating on Day 3 and busted only a few places from the money. Several amateur players were accused of stalling with small stacks as the money bubble approached, and ultimately Theo Tran had enough. The floor staff began to see the frustration of many pros and decided to begin hand-for-hand play earlier than they planned.
Finally, the money bubble burst, and the bubble player was one of the most obvious stalling players who upset Tran in the first place. By this time, it was close to the end of the day, so play wrapped with 58 players left. Several of the previous day’s chip leaders remained at the top of the board – Kyle Burnside, Phil Ivey, and Jennifer Tilly, with David Singer rising back to the top from his Day 1 chip lead.
Day 4 started off with a bang, with eighteen players leaving the tournament in the first level alone. However, play then slowed considerably as they struggled to reach the final eighteen who would proceed to the next day.
Two notable casualties of the fourth day were previous LAPC champions Alan Goehring and Eric Hershler. And as some players were sent home, others like Hellmuth and Ivey climbed above the million-chip mark with Nam Le soon joining them. The end of the day saw Ivey at the top, followed by Blair Hinkle, Hellmuth, and Le. Other pros still in the field included Quinn Do, Jennifer Tilly, Theo Tran, and David Singer.
The fifth day of LAPC action would begin with eighteen players and finish with only the final six who would take their seats under the lights and cameras of the World Poker Tour production set to compete for the WPT championship title. Predictably, it was a long day of tumultuous and exhausting play.
One player who wasted no time making a move with his short stack was David Singer. He was the 18th place finisher, courtesy of Hellmuth, during only the second hand of the day. And Jennifer Tilly, who fought admirably to mount a comeback, was eliminated in 12th place, again at the hands of Hellmuth.
Second in chips coming into the day, Blair Hinkle was the 11th place finisher, showing that anything can happen in a tournament with rising blinds and antes, exhausted players, and an all-around tense situation. With the final ten players seated at one table, it took some time for another player to depart. In order, it was eventually Mike Watson in 10th, Jeff Schwimmer in 9th, and Theo Tran in 8th who brought it closer to the TV six.
Action slowed to a grinding near-halt as the players became more intense, media and tournament staff tired, and the clock ran on. As it neared midnight, Wei Kai Chang made his stand but was challenged by Hellmuth with a better hand. Chang left in 7th place, and poker is left with a star-studded table. The players and chip counts are as follows:
| Seat 1 || Quinn Do || 1,450,000 |
|Seat 2|| Nam Le ||1,180,000|
| Seat 3 ||Phil Hellmuth||2,380,000|
| Seat 4 || Phil Ivey ||4,100,000|
| Seat 5 ||Charles Moore||1,510,000|
| Seat 6 ||Scott Montgomery||2,680,000|
And the final six are set to return for what would undoubtedly be one of the best in WPT history. The payouts, according to the World Poker Tour website, are as follows:
Stay tuned for a full final table report at the conclusion of the L.A. Poker Classic main event.