Level 7: 250-500, 75 ante
By BJ Nemeth
Here's a look back at some of the highlights from Day 1 of the WPT L.A. Poker Classic. (The full list of official chip counts and the seat draw for Day 2 can be found by clicking here.)
Photo of Jerry Buss graciously provided by photographer Melissa Hayden.
Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss (pictured above) died of natural causes earlier this week, and before play began, Mike Sexton gave a moving tribute to the man, highlighting his connections to the poker world.
While Buss was one of the most popular owners of a major sports team (bringing 10 NBA championships to Los Angeles), he often preferred his time in the poker world. There were times that Buss sat at a poker table while he watched his Lakers play in the NBA Finals.
Buss was a 2010 inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame, but he was no slouch in the poker world either, with several notable accomplishments on his resume.
Buss final tabled the first-ever WPT Celebrity Invitational back in Season I, finishing second behind Layne Flack. Sexton told a story that whenever Buss saw Flack, he would point him out to his friends and say, "That's the guy that I made famous." Sexton also said that to this day, the episode with Jerry Buss remains one of the highest rated in the WPT's 11-year history.
WPT Commentator and Poker Hall of Famer Mike Sexton (center) gave a fantastic eulogy for Jerry Buss before play began.
Sexton is flanked by his fellow commentator Vince Van Patten, WPT Anchor Kimberly Lansing, WPT Raw Deal Analyst Tony Dunst, and Royal Flush Girls Jeannie Duffy, Brittany Bell, Ivy Teves, and Danielle Ruiz.
At the end of Mike Sexton's eulogy, the entire room stood up for a moment of silence in honor of Jerry Buss.
Frank Mariani (pictured) was Jerry Buss's business partner for more than five decades, and they both shared a passion for poker. Mariani played in the WPT L.A. Poker Classic to honor his longtime friend.
As he often does, Mike Sexton (standing) wandered thru the field to welcome the players, and he pointed out last year's WPT L.A. Poker Classic champion Sean Jazayeri (seated) just as Jazayeri was scooping in a pot.
No player in WPT history has ever successfully defended their title, but Jazayeri is off to a good start, heading into Day 2 among the top 15% of the field with 62,625 in chips.
Dwyte Pilgrim (right) plays a pot on Day 1 while Xi Yang (left) observes the action. Pilgrim is one of the most popular members of the WPT Champions Club, while Yang was part of the first WPT event ever held in China, which took place last year.
When the cards went in the air at the start of the day, there were fewer than 400 players in the field, but by the end of the day that number had grown to 505. Registration remains open until the start of Day 2, so expect that number to grow even further.
Michael "Squeaky" Winnett was a memorable part of the first WPT event ever held in Florida (Season IX's WPT Seminole Hard Rock Showdown) as his high-energy antics and constant table talk made him a favorite of the TV cameras and a thorn in the side of Tournament Director Matt Savage.
Winnett's latest obsession seems to be "The Poker Bible," a book he was reading and talking about for most of the day. It didn't seem to hurt him, as he finished the day with an above-average chip stack.
Mike Sexton (left) talks to WPT Champions Club member Carlos Mortensen, one of only two players to win three WPT titles, and the only player in history to win both the WPT World Championship and the WSOP Main Event.
Mortensen was short-stacked early, but Sexton reminds the table that Mortensen doesn't need a lot of chips early to win titles. Mortensen did bounce back, and survived the day with an average stack.
Joe Hachem is another former WSOP Main Event champion who also has a WPT title on his resume, and with a strong start on Day 2, he may be looking for his second this week. Hachem finished the day fourth in chips with 116,700.
When play ended shortly after 8:00 pm, Kamaleddin Abdolrahimi (pictured) was the big stack in the room with a little more than 140,000 in chips. His name may be tough for English-speakers to pronounce, but Abdolrahimi also answers to the nickname, "Dr. J."
Like many of the Southern California poker players, Maria Ho (standing) is a big fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, and she offered her condolences to Frank Mariani late in the day.
Mariani played thru an emotional day to finish with roughly a starting stack, while Ho finished the day 12th in chips with 96,725.
With 505 players entering on Day 1, and registration open until the start of Day 2, the $10,000 buy-in WPT L.A. Poker Classic looks like it will have the largest prizepool so far in Season XI.
There were 369 survivors from Day 1, and here's a look at the top of the leaderboard. On Day 2, the blinds will begin at 250-500 with a 75 ante.
1. Kamaleddin Abdolrahimi - 140,000 (280 bb)
2. Wartan Jalnakrian - 131,075 (262 bb)
3. Joel Micka - 121,900 (243 bb)
4. Joe Hachem - 116,700 (233 bb)
5. David Peters - 113,300 (226 bb)
Players who register before the start of Day 2 will begin with a fresh stack of 30,000, worth 60 big blinds.
Day 2 begins Sunday at 12:00 noon PT. Stay tuned to WPT.com for live coverage and chip counts throughout the day.