The World Poker Tour returned to action on Friday, August 4, with the Season XVI WPT Choctaw Main Event from Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, Oklahoma. Following a 12-level Day 1a that featured WPT Champions Club members, local grinders, and all types of players in between, Daniel Lowery (pictured) bagged the chip lead with a stack of 347,200 in chips.
There were 340 entries on Day 1a of this $2 million guaranteed WPT Choctaw Main Event, with 89 players advancing to Day 2.
Lowery entered WPT Choctaw as no stranger to success, but there’s a void on his résumé he’ll be looking to fill. Lowery boasts more than $1 million in career live tournament earnings, but he has yet to cash in a WPT Main Tour event. Lowery does have a second-place finish in last year’s WPTDeepStacks Oklahoma event at Downstream Casino & Resort for $33,265, and we’ll see if he can make an even bigger splash at Choctaw Casino Resort after having started so well.
Lowery was battling with AJ Nimer at the end of the day for the chip lead. Thanks to Nimer losing a few pots, Lowery finished in the top spot on the leaderboard. Nimer was right there behind him, though, with a stack of 345,700 in chips to finish play.
Joining Lowery and Nimer at the top of the counts to end Day 1a were Giuseppe Pantaleo and Darren Elias. Pantaleo finished with 328,100, while Elias, a three-time WPT champion, bagged up 302,800.
For Elias, he could’ve easily been out of the tournament in the second-to-last level if it wasn’t for a fortunate river card that saved him against Upeshka De Silva.
With the blinds at 600-1,200 with a 200 ante, Elias raised from middle position before De Silva reraised to 7,800 on the button. Elias four-bet to 23,500, and De Silva came right back with a five-bet to 52,700. Elias six-bet shoved for 127,600, and De Silva snapped him off with the . Elias had the and was looking for a bit of help.
The flop gave Elias a flush draw, but he remained behind the aces of De Silva. The turn didn’t change much, but the on the river delivered Elias with a winning set of fours.
“That’s going in the group chat,” said De Silva after the hand.
“Make sure I’m in it,” added Elias.
After the day was over, WPT.com caught up with Elias to ask him about this hand.
“Early in these things, I’m willing to gamble a little bit,” Elias said about the hand against De Silva. ”He’s one of the only players in the tournament that I’d probably do that against. He’s real capable and never seems to have anything, but that time he had it and I got lucky. Not my proudest moment, but you gotta get lucky sometimes.”
Also having a successful day on the flight was James Mackey, WPT Choctaw’s defending champion. Mackey bagged up 204,800 in chips in what was a slow-and-steady day for him.
“My day went great,” Mackey said after play was over for the day. “I ended with 204,800, which actually is really close to what I ended Day 1 with last year. I made some hands towards the end and got really lucky when I busted a guy second-to-last hand. He made trips and I made a straight — and what can I say, I like Choctaw.”
Last season, Mackey bagged a stack of 199,700 to head to Day 2. As it would turn out, Mackey went on to defeat the field of 1,066 entries and win a first-place prize of $666,758.
Among those eliminated on Day 1a were WPT Champions Club member and commentator Tony Dunst, WSOP Main Event champion Scott Blumstein, two-time WPT winner Aaron Mermelstein, DJ MacKinnon, and Dan Heimiller.
With unlimited reentry allowed until the start of Day 2 at 12 p.m. CT on Sunday, it’s likely these players will return to action.
Day 1b of the Season XVI WPT Choctaw $3,700 Main Event kicks off on Saturday, August 5, at 12 p.m. from Choctaw Casino Resort. Another 12, one-hour levels are scheduled, and you can find all of your WPT Choctaw Main Event coverage right here on WPT.com.
Photography by Joe Giron of PokerPhotoArchive.com.
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