WCOOP Event #20: With Day 1 in the books, the Shark is in the hunt

No-limit hold'em is like the first girl you ever loved, the one you still think fondly of several years after you broke up with her. Poker players may drift from no-limit hold'em to pot-limit omaha or to badugi or to mixed games -- the other women that follow the original sweetheart -- but there will always be a place for no-limit hold'em in the minds of tournament poker players around the world. That's why thirteen of the thirty-three WCOOP events are some form of no-limit hold'em.

Event #20, as it turns out, was one of those thirteen events. Nothing fancy, nothing unusual, just straight, full-ring no-limit hold'em without any re-buys or add-ons. PokerStars was so confident of the game's appeal that the guarantee for Event #20 - $1,050 No-Limit Hold'em was an incredible $3,000,000.

There's only one problem when you solicit that many players to play in a single online tournament -- it tends to last for far longer than any human being should stare at a computer in a single sitting. PokerStars solved that issue this year by denoting several of the WCOOP events as two-day events. Event #20 fell into that category.

So today, once the players all settled into their seats, everyone knew that we would not be playing any later than about 5am EST. Given the finish times of some of the single-day WCOOP events, that guarantee only served as a bonus to encourage people to register. It worked; 3,467 players signed up to play, creating a prize pool of $3,467,000 that easily exceeded the $3,000,000 guarantee. Once all of the calculations were made, 540 players were guaranteed at least $1,733,59 each, with whoever finishes first place prize taking down $468,045.

The Team PokerStars Pros were out in force again. Twenty-eight of them were scattered among the 386 tables that started this tournament. Perhaps the most notable of those that started was Barry "barryg1" Greenstein. Greenstein was up until 7:15am EST playing in Event #18 - $215 H.O.R.S.E., just missing out on the final table when he finished in ninth place. Greenstein also played in Event #19 - $25,500 High-Roller Heads-Up No-Limit Hold'em, making for a very, very busy and tiring day for "the Bear".

The starting stacks were extremely deep -- 15,000 chips with initial blinds of 25 and 50 -- but that didn't stop players from mixing it up early, with thirty players eliminated in the first half of Level 1. Joe Hachem and Barry Greenstein were two early beneficiaries of this style of play, with each one chipping up to around 20,000 before the first hour of play was completed. Those amounts were nowhere near the top 100 in the chip counts, but a two-day tournament isn't a sprint. On the other end of the spectrum, Chad Brown and John Duthie were early victims, with each going out before 100 players had been eliminated.

Greenstein looked poised for another good day when he moved into the top ten of the chip counts by hitting a flush against Panny3:

But of course, as physics teachers across the world will patiently explain (if you left them), for every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction. Lee Nelson, Orel Hershiser, Bill Chen and
Isabelle Mercier all busted while Greenstein and Hachem were climbing through the counts.

Noah "Exclusive" Boeken also started out hot, almost matching Greenstein chip for chip as the two sought to claim the title to highest chip count of the Team PokerStars Pros. Both went over 60,000 in chips right around the same time, about three hours into the tournament. Hachem was struggling to keep pace when Katja Thater made her first move of the day. Thater finished in 48th place in Event #18, the same $215 H.O.R.S.E. tournament in which Greenstein took ninth. The two were competing again.

That wasn't the only competition. By the time we were four hours into the tournament, four Team PokerStars Pros were still alive in Event #19. Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier, Gavin Griffin, Vanessa "LadyMaverick" Rousso, and Victor Ramdin all advanced to the round of 16. Grospellier and Griffin would eventually face off in the semifinals, with Grospellier advancing to the title match and falling to the champion, stevesbets. He also advanced to Day 2 of this event -- an excellent day at the office for Grospellier.

Team PokerStars Pro Humberto Brenes had a charmed day. At least twice, he found himself all in and needing help on the river to stave off elimination. He got that help both times and otherwise seemed to run much better than average in the races he took. That's not to say that Brenes didn't also display a fantastic mix of patience and aggression -- he certainly did. But everyone knows that, in order to go deep in a huge field, you have to get a little lucky. Brenes certainly was luck's beneficiary a few times.

The money bubble approached as play moved into Level 13. By that time, only seven of the twenty-eight Team PokerStars Pros who started the day were still alive: Brenes, Hachem, Grospellier, Noah "Exclusive" Boeken, Andre "Aakkari" Akkari, Maria "Maridu" Mayrinck and Marcin "Goral" Horecki. Greenstein had gone out in 803rd place after running into aces; Thater's demise came when she put Big Slick to work against an opponent and also ran into aces.

Once the money bubble burst, the eliminations came lightning-quick. 100 players were eliminated in just half an hour as the short stacks looked to double or go to bed. Horecki was one of those players, going out in 513th place. Hachem and Boeken seemed poised for deep runs as each flirted with the top 100 in chip counts, but both would fall. Boeken exited in 350th place when he, too, ran into aces after flopping top pair in a limped pot. Hachem at least mixed it up a little bit when he was eliminated in 240th place by running his pocket jacks into diatty's pocket kings.

Mayrinck, Brenes and Grospellier all cracked the final 100. Grospellier was all in at one point with Qc-Tc against pocket sixes, but spiked a ten on the river to stay alive. He then hit two more double-ups in quick succession to build a playable stack, which he quickly put to work. Mayrinck wasn't as fortunate, going from 900,000 chips to out in 72nd place in the span of two hands after her flopped set lost to a flopped straight and she ran ace-jack into ace-queen.

When the forty-three survivors of Day 1 re-take their seats at 16:30pm EST later today, the action will re-start at Level 23, with blinds of 12,500 / 25,000 and an ante of 2,500. Brenes and Grospellier will be among the survivors, with Brenes looking to bludgeon his opponents with his top-five chip stack. The average chip count is 1,209,418. These players top out the counts:

1. I'am_Sound 3,073,340
2. BJKing 2,851,329
3. QuasiFiction 2,839,907
4. diatty 2,494,279
5. Team PokerStars Pro Humberto "Humberto B." Brenes 2,285,850
6. VuaXiTo 2,217,819
7. Ryan45 2,020,589
8. JSchnett 1,971,915
9. Numbass 1,914,718
10. golfsoc 1,826,196

Team PokerStars Pros:

Humberto "Humbero B." Brenes 2,285,850
Bertrand "Elky" Grospellier 843,805

As always, you can join the PokerStars team for live updates via the Event #20 Live Blog. There will also be a live stream of this tournament's conclusion tomorrow brought to you by Lee Nelson, Gavin Griffin, Vanessa Rousso, and John Duthie. All other things WCOOP-related can be found at the WCOOP home page.

Dave Behr
@PokerStars in WCOOP