The Season XVI WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open Championship kicked off on Friday with Day 1a of the $3,500 buy-in event from Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. The event brought to the table a juicy $2 million guaranteed prize pool, and thanks to 464 entries on Day 1a that guarantee was almost reached. A second starting flight is scheduled for Saturday, and if Day 1a was any indication, this tournament is going to produce an absolutely huge prize pool.
Day 1a came to an end with 176 players surviving. Leading them all was Brad Albrinck (pictured) with a stack of 236,800.
Albrinck moved to more than 200,000 in chips towards the end of the day when he won a flip with the against an all-in opponent’s . From there, Albrinck did what he needed to in order to secure the top stack in the room.
Albrinck’s poker career has seen him win more than $1 million from live poker tournaments, according to his profile on HendonMob.com. The largest score of his career to date is worth $275,877. What’s more is that Albrinck has had prior success in the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open Championship, just not at Seminole Hard Rock. Back in Season XII, when the event was held at Seminole Casino Coconut Creek, Albrinck finished 45th in the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open.
Joining Albrinck with more than 200,000 in chips to end Day 1a were Darryll Fish (223,000), Dantonio Brown (220,100), Isaac Haxton (213,300), and Niovel Chirino Alvarez (207,900).
Brown can be known for his second-place finish in last year’s WPTDeepStacks Hollywood Main Event. From a field of 1,509 entries, Brown took second to Michael Graffeo for $178,209.
Haxton, who finished fourth in chips on the day and has nearly $16 million in live tournament earnings, has yet to earn a World Poker Tour title. Haxton spoke with WPT.com after Day 1a.
“I don’t travel to a tournament stop if there aren’t a few tournaments with a $25K buy-in or higher, but if I’m there, I’m going to play the main event,” Haxton said when asked why he lacks main event cashes in recent years. “I guess I’m in a bit of a main event dry spell recently.”
That doesn’t mean he hasn’t come close to winning a WPT title, though. Back in Season V, Haxton finished runner-up to Ryan Daut in the WPT PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. It was a breakout performance for the young star and he won $861,789.
“I have a lot of cashes in my career but I don’t have that many wins in anything,” Haxton said. “Winning something is always sweet and I wouldn’t mind getting a WPT title. That would be fun.”
Elsewhere on the leaderboard to end Day 1a, Andre Akkari and Byron Kaverman finished with 159,100 and 157,200, respectively, and Rainer Kempe bagged 145,700.
WPT Champions Club members Matas Cimbolas (141,000), Darren Elias (114,600), Tyler Patterson (104,400), and Stefan Schillhabel (92,000) also made it through. Schillhabel is coming off a win in the $50,000 Super High Roller prior to the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open Championship and was the subject of a feature interview on Day 1a.
Of those who did not make it out of Day 1a were WPT commentator Tony Dunst, Jason Mercier, Erik Seidel, and the winner of the largest WPT Main Tour event in history, Eric Afriat. All is not lost for these big names, though, as they have the option to return for Day 1b on Saturday.
Speaking of Day 1b, Saturday, January 20, is the day and Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, will once again be the place. The action kicks off at 12 p.m. local time, and another wall-bursting field of players is expected to be in competition.
As always, keep it locked right here to WPT.com for continued coverage.
Photography by Joe Giron / PokerPhotoArchive.com
Looking to win your way to a World Poker Tour event for your shot at becoming a WPT champion? Play for your chance on ClubWPT.com, where eligible VIP Members can play for over $100,000 in cash and prizes each month, including seats to WPT events, no purchase necessary.