The World Poker Tour is back in action on U. S. soil this week as the bestbet Jacksonville Fall Poker Scramble heads into its final table this afternoon.
The $3500 buy in tournament presented some interesting challenges for the competitors who came out at the start of the weekend. The WPT, continuing to test out a new entry system, allowed players who busted out within the first four levels of Days 1A and 1B the opportunity to re-enter the tournament on the same day. Additionally, if a player either busted out on Day 1A or wasn’t happy with their stack, they could play on Day 1B. This meant that those unfortunate players who weren’t able to get anything going on either day could spend upwards of $14,000 (if they took advantage of their double day re-entries) to play in the tournament in Florida.
The tournament was guaranteed with a $500,000 prize pool and exploded past that point on Day 1A. 214 entries were received on Day 1A, with the likes of Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu and Jason Mercier taking part in the festivities (all three would use their “double shot” on Day 1A and not make it to the end of the evening). Tom Nguyen stepped to the head of the class to lead Day 1A with a monstrous 295,800 in chips.
Day 1B naturally brought out more entries (263), creating a total of 477 entries for the event and blasting past the guarantee by building a prize pool of over $1.5 million. While he was expected to play Day 1B, Hellmuth failed to show up for the action on Saturday due to the losses (estimated by Hellmuth at $80K) he experienced playing the new “fad” among the poker pros, open faced Chinese Poker. Hellmuth’s no-show didn’t affect many in the field as John Racener led at the end of the day with his 250,300 in chips and Negreanu (who used up all four shots he had) sitting down the leaderboard.
With 151 players sitting down to the tables on Sunday, Day 2 became “moving day” as the players looked to making it to the final 27 players for Monday’s action. With only 45 players taking home the minimum payday ($7632) for their efforts, there were some notables who fell short. Matt Stout left the tables in 51st place, while Shaun Deeb (50th), Daniel Buzgon (48th) and Chris Klodnicki (47th) also left with just a nice trip to Florida for their efforts.
Once the bubble burst, other top players that had been nursing short stacks hit the rail in Jacksonville. Brian Hastings and Matthew Waxman took down the min-cash, while Nick Grippo was able to make it to 32nd place for a $9158 payday. At the end of play on Sunday, Joseph Elpayaa held a slim 8000 chip lead over Noah Schwartz to enter Monday’s Day Three activities.
Schwartz would be the dominant force throughout the action yesterday as Elpayaa was unceremoniously dumped from the tournament in 25th place early on. Schwartz’ play throughout the day saw his stack grow to almost two million by the time the final ten players were determined, good enough for fourth place behind Brian Senie (2.7 million), Byron Kaverman (2.4 million) and Hans Winzeler (2.045 million). When the table was down to the final seven (WPT final table bubble), Schwartz would make his move.
Schwartz doubled up through Winzeler to push his stack up to the 4.6 million mark and, once he dismissed Shon Mekyten on the final table bubble, saw his stack become the dominant one for today’s final table:
1. Noah Schwartz, 6.255 million
2. Hans Winzeler, 1.965 million
3. Brian Senie, 1.865 million
4. Lee Markholt, 1.72 million
5. Ryan Hartmann, 1.4 million
6. Byron Kaverman, 1.075 million
Holding more than 43% of the chips in play, Schwartz is in a dominant position to take down his first major live tournament championship. Two players bear watching, however; Markholt is a former WPT champion who is used to the pressures of the final table, while Winzeler, also in the hunt for a major championship, has extensive skill on the felt and is a dangerous player.
The WPT bestbet Jacksonville Fall Poker Scramble will not be a part of the Season XI television package, but it will be streamed live on the WPT website this afternoon beginning at 2:30PM (Eastern Time). Tony Dunst and Jonathan Little will be on hand to call the action, complete with hole cards, until a champion is determined tonight in the event. That champion, once crowned, will earn the right to have his name on the WPT Champions’ Cup and take down the $402,970 first place prize.