California man leads after first day of WSOP Main Event

Gary Sewell of Duarte, California, finished as chip leader at the conclusion of Day 1A of the World Series of Poker’s $10,000 buy-in No-limit Texas Hold ’em World Championship.

Sewell bagged 312,500 chips when play in the Main Event was completed late Saturday at the Rio Convention Center. Alvaro Lopez of Tucson, Arizona, was in second place with 306,200 followed by Scott Neuman of Rawlins, Wyoming.

The first of three starting flights for the Main Event drew 764 entrants, a slight increase over last year (741), and saw 567 players survive. The Main Event continues at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Rio with Day 1B and runs through July 18.

Only two players during the “November Nine” era of the WSOP that dates back to 2008 have led after their starting flight and gone on to win the Main Event: Joe Cada (2009) and Martin Jacobson (2014).

Professional poker player Matthew Ashton of Liverpool, England, was in fifth place with 212,600 chips and thrived at one of the toughest starting tables in recent Main Event history.

In addition to Ashton, the winner of the $50,000 Poker Players Championship in 2013, table No. 441 in the purple section featured two-time bracelet winner Greg Mueller, top poker pros James Akenhead and Andy Black, along with “Jeopardy!” Tournament of Champions winner Alex Jacob, a former pro with more than $2.6 million in live tournament winnings.

Professional poker players Dan Shak (ninth place), Adam Friedman (15th place) and Michael Gathy (21st place) all got off to strong starts and will have the next two days off before resuming play Tuesday for Day 2A/2B.

HAVE A DAY, DAN — Professional poker player Dan Smith figured prominently Saturday in two events outside the Main Event.

The Las Vegas resident finished third in the $25,000 buy-in High Roller Pot-limit Omaha event during the afternoon then ended play in the $111,111 buy-in High Roller for One Drop No-limit Hold ’em with a sizable chip lead after late-registering.

Smith was sitting on 22.5 million chips, almost eight million more than his closest competitor (Brian Green) when action was halted early Sunday with 13 players still competing for the $4,981,775 first prize.

England’s Jack Salter currently sits in third place followed by reigning Main Event champion Joe McKeehen. Also alive are Germany’s Fedor Holz, two-time bracelet winner Adrian Mateos, bracelet winner Scott Seiver, bracelet winner Nick Petrangelo, and inaugural Big One for One Drop winner Antonio Esfandiari, who was nearly knocked out of the tournament on the money bubble.

LADIES NEAR WINNER — Wendy Freedman of Las Vegas leads the final nine players in the $1,000 buy-in Ladies No-limit Hold ’em Championship.

Freedman, an “aspiring beekeeper” according to her bio, is a longtime tournament grinder. She captured a WSOP Circuit ring in 2013 and has cashed in 28 circuit or WSOP events.

Las Vegas resident Amanda Baker, a WSOP Circuit ring winner in 2007, is in second place. Also at the final table is professional poker player Amanda Musumeci, who won a WSOP Circuit event in 2012 and has $836,455 in lifetime WSOP and Circuit earnings.

DUNST AVOIDS RAW DEAL — Professional poker player Tony Dunst won the $1,000 buy-in No-limit Hold ’em event early Sunday for his first career bracelet.

The Las Vegas resident, known for his commentary during broadcasts of the World Poker Tour and sartorial splendor, earned $339,254 for the victory. Jason Rivkin of Cliffside Park, New Jersey, was second.

“I ran really good at the right place at the right time,” Dunst told “It’s awesome that it happened at the World Series in the very last preliminary event of the summer in this huge field. I just ran the purest, and it means today, and the last couple of days, were my days.”

QUOTABLE — “I think it would be good business. I think it would be great for the city of Las Vegas, and I also think it would be good for the NFL. It’s a big business, and people always talk about gambling, but you can do that anywhere. I think if the guys, they’re here, they’d be professionals. I think it would definitely be good. So, I’ll definitely put in a good word to Mark Davis.” — former NFL defensive lineman Richard Seymour on the possibility of the Oakland Raiders relocating to Las Vegas.

Contact reporter David Schoen at or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ

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