Level 9: 400-800, 100 ante
By BJ Nemeth
The last time the World Poker Tour had an event in Jacksonville, Florida, Lisa Hamilton final tabled it, finishing third to earn $112,657. The WPT is back in Jacksonville, and Hamilton is back in action trying to improve on that finish by a spot or two.
Mike Sexton welcomes the players to the new bestbet Poker Room in Jacksonville, Florida, joined by Vince Van Patten and Royal Flush Girls Tugba Ercan, Brittany Bell, Jeannie Duffy, and Angelique Velez.
The first elimination came less than 10 minutes into the day, as James Hoeppner got it all in preflop with KK -- only to run into Mark Shoichet's AA. Hoeppner actually flopped a king to take the lead, only to see an ace hit the turn.
Vince Van Patten (pictured) and Mike Sexton have been together in the WPT Commentating Booth since the World Poker Tour began ten years ago, and both players were in action on Day 1A. Not counting the WPT Celebrity Invitational, this is just the second WPT event that Van Patten has played.
Joe Serock (right), who finished third in the last two WPT events on American soil, takes a shot at three final tables in a row here at the WPT Jacksonville bestbet Open. Royal Flush Girls Angelique Velez (left) and Brittany Bell check out the action.
Jonathan Little (right) showed up on time, but watched as Will Failla (left) registered in Level 3 and busted two players in his first six hands to catapult into the chip lead.
Greg Lee earned his entry into this event by winning a tournament on ClubWPT.com. In the last WPT event, ClubWPT qualifier Butch Valure finished 20th, earning $25,056.
The most dramatic hand of the day was a four-way preflop all-in situation with pocket aces against kings against queens against -- sevens?
Matt Marafioti (center, seat 2) was the short stack, and the first to move all in with 77. Eli Berg (right, seat 4) moved all in over the top with KK, and David Paredes (not pictured, seat 5) and the player in seat 9 both called. Then Raj Vohra (center, seat 1) reraised to 33,000. Paredes folded, and seat 9 called all in with QQ. Vohra, of course, had AA.
The board came 65272, and Marafioti pumped his fist in the air when he turned a set of sevens to win the main pot and quintuple up. The pocket aces held up for Vohra to win all the side pots, eliminating Eli Berg and the player in seat 9 in the process.
It is a Florida WPT tradition to offer a bonus prize to the under-21 player who goes deepest in the event. (Florida is the only U.S. state on the World Poker Tour that allows 18-20 year olds to enter the tournaments.) The under-21 prize for this event is a customized surfboard, suitable for use as a trophy or as an actual surfboard.
Robert Gorodetsky appeared to be the only 18-20 year old in the field on Day 1A, so he's got a clear shot at the surfboard trophy unless another under-21 year old enters on Day 1B. But Gorodetsky may have his eyes on a larger prize, finishing the day fourth in chips with 139,600.
Several people pointed out that one table seemed to require a shaved head in order to take a seat. From left to right, Daniel Buzon, Phil Collins, and James Dempsey chat with WPT Live Updates Hostess Jessica Welman.
When Poker Hall of Famer Mike Sexton is involved in a big pot, it shouldn't be a surprise that the WPT cameras do their best to capture the action. Unfortunately, this hand didn't work out too well for Sexton, as he lost a pot worth 53,000 on a failed river bluff with a missed flush draw.
A short while later, Mike Sexton rebuilt his stack when he moved all in preflop with 99, and got called by another player's 88. The best hand held up for Sexton to recover back to nearly a starting stack.
When Jason Koon was crippled down to 2,600 in chips early in the day, he began something of a comeback to build up to about 8,000. His friend Darryll Fish (pictured) made him a bet (with odds) that he couldn't finish the day with 60,000 or more. Koon was actually nearing the 50,000 mark late in the day when Fish took matters into his own hands and won two pots against Koon -- simultaneously eliminating Koon and winning their side bet.
Koon can try again on Day 1B, while Fish finished third in chips with 140,800.
Darren Elias was the clear chipleader at the end of the day, with 213,600 -- the only player to cross the 200,000 mark.
Day 1A began with 125 players, and 65 survived to Day 2. Here's a look at the top 5 chipleaders from Day 1A:
1. Darren Elias - 213,600
2. David Paredes - 170,300
3. Darryll Fish - 140,800
4. Robert Gorodetsky - 139,600
5. Will Failla - 132,600
Day 1B begins at 12:00 noon ET. Players who played on Day 1A have the option of re-entering to try to improve their chip count, and registration remains open until the start of Level 5 (about 4:30 pm ET). Stay tuned to WPT.com for continuing live coverage of all the action.
Level 6: 200-400, 50 ante
Photo: Raj Vohra (seat 1, standing) and Eli Berg (seat 4) watch as Matt Marafioti (seat 2) raises his arm as he spikes a set of sevens on the turn.
There is a four- or five-way all-in situation developing at Matt Marafioti's table in the last hand of Level 5.
The player in seat 9 (early position) and Raj Vohra (middle position) have already entered the pot when Matt Marafioti moves all in from middle position for 3,225. Eli Berg moves all in over the top from the cutoff for 12,825.
David Paredes calls from the button, the player in seat 9 calls, and Vohra five- or six-bets it to 33,000. By this point, a large crowd has gathered around the table as Paredes tanks his decision.
A woman standing near Marafioti suggestively says, "You're getting a happy ending after this." Marafioti laughs and says, "I can never wear these short-shorts again."
Eventually, Paredes folds, and the player in seat 9 calls all in for 32,175.
Before anybody shows their cards, the dealer sorts out the chips and the side pots to make sure everything is squared away. Here are the players' cards in descending order of chip counts:
Raj Vohra: AA
Seat 9: QQ
Eli Berg: KK
Matt Marafioti: 77
The flop comes 652, which doesn't affect much other than giving Marafioti a backdoor straight draw.
The turn card is -- the 7!
The crowd cheers as Marafioti raises his hand in the air, taking the lead for the main pot with a set of sevens. The woman next to Marafioti says, "I'm not even making you pay, and you've just lost your load." Marafioti says, "You're gonna get me in trouble. I have a girlfriend, and she's gonna read all this in the updates."
While Marafioti leads for the main pot, Vohra's pocket aces still lead for the side pots, which are worth a lot more than the main pot.
The river card pairs the board with the 2, and Matt Marafioti wins the main pot to quintuple up with a full house, sevens full of deuces. Raj Vohra scoops all of the side pots with his pocket aces, eliminating Eli Berg and the player in seat 9.
Matt Marafioti - 17,000
Raj Vohra - 93,000
Eli Berg - Eliminated