2024 World Series of Poker underway, first bracelet winners crowned

World Series of Poker - WSOP 2024
World Series of Poker – WSOP 2024 – Photo by WSOP / Pokernews

The 2024 World Series of Poker is officially underway at the Horseshoe and Paris Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Some of the highly sought-after gold bracelets have already been awarded while other headline tournaments have kicked off with big numbers.

Let’s have a look at who started well into the annual summer camp of all card lovers.

World Series of Poker – WSOP  2024 first winners

Dong Feng wins WSOP Tournament of Champions
Dong Feng – Photo by WSOP

The very first player to lift the WSOP gold bracelet for a winner shot was Dong Meng at the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles a few days prior to the start of the WSOP. He won the WSOP Tournament of Champions on the tail end of the WSOP Circuit stop and came out on top of a 559-entry strong field of players who qualified prior.

All but one of the nine finalists hailed from the US with Brazil’s  Ramon Kropmanns (6th for $35,000) as the only exception. Meng won his second WSOP gold bracelet after last year’s victory in the $1,000 Flip & Go Event and collected a payday of $200,000 on top of the efforts, a welcome boost to the bankroll for the summer grind in Sin City.

The festivities in Las Vegas kicked off on Tuesday, May 28 and on the third day of the festival, the first two winners were crowned in Event #1: $5,000 Champions Reunion as well as Event #2: $500 Casino Employees No-Limit Hold’em. Several other tournaments are also at least one step closer to determining a winner as well.

Asher Conniff’s Comeback Brings Main Event Redemption

Asher Conniff wins WSOP 2024 bracelet
Asher Conniff – Photo by WSOP / Pokernews

A new event on the WSOP schedule was the $5,000 Champions Reunion, which produced a prize pool of $2,047,800 thanks to 493 entries. Among them were also several former Main Event champions, who all competed with a bounty on their head in the form of a Main Event entry for the 2024 edition.

The top 74 spots were paid and none other than Ren Lin ended up as the bubble boy after he was sent to the rail by Brian Rast. Fellow countryman Yingiu Li was more fortunate and collected the min-cash worth $9,141, which was also reserved for the likes of Edward Yam, Yuzu Wang and Yilong Wang.

With big names such as Daniel Negreanu, Maria Ho, reigning WSOP Main Event champion Daniel Weinman, Robert Mizrachi, Greg Merson and Dan Harrington on the rail, another player from China narrowly missed the final three tables. Xiaohu Liu bowed out in 28th place for $12,919, soon after followed by Daniel Zack and Qui Nguyen. The 2023 Poker Players Championship winner and WSOP Hall of Fame Inductee Rast finished in 17th place for $15,471.

Christina Gollins was the last woman in the field and she was knocked out in the final stages of Day 2 in 13th place for $18,910, Chris Hunichen received the same amount. Only ten players returned for the conclusion and it was an international final table with six different countries represented. Asia’s hopes were on Yuzhou Yin from China, who made it to the podium and earned $188,342 for third place.

Heads-up play saw Halil Tasyurek from Turkey with a commanding five-to-one lead over 2023 WSOP Main Event finalist Asher Conniff. However, Tasyurek could not close it out and instead had to settle for $272,305 while Conniff won his first gold bracelet along with $408,468.

Poker Dealer Jose Garcia Wins Employees Event

Jose Garcia wins WSOP 2024 bracelet
Jose Garcia – Photo by WSOP / Pokernews

One of the bargain tournaments on the entire 2024 WSOP schedule in Las Vegas was the $500 Casino Employees, which saw a boost compared to previous editions. A total of 1,189 entries generated a prize pool of $499,380 and most of those to finish in the money hailed from either the United States or Canada with very few exceptions. No player listed from Asia apparently cashed as the top 179 finishers earned at least $1,002.

The two-day tournament was supposed to play down all the way to a winner but that was not possible after all. Canada’s Caleb O’Donnell was the chip leader after Day 1 and finished in 36th place followed by Venezuela’s Juan Latuff, which left only non-American still in contention. The UK’s Lukas Robinson, a young and aspiring online poker streamer, reached the final table and finished in ninth place for $6,317.

Christopher Keem, a professional dealer who previously dealt the WSOP Main Event final table, was the next casualty for $8,171. Day 2 ended with four players left and an unscheduled third day quickly determined a winner. Jose Garcia was among the chip leaders ever since the final three tables and ultimately defeated Richard Rothmeier in heads-up for the $79,134 top prize and WSOP gold bracelet.

Negreanu Runs Deep; Funayama Among Final Eight in $500 WSOP Kickoff

The third tournament of summer camp came with another bargain price tag and first large field of the series. A total of 3,485 entries emerged in Event #3: $500 WSOP Kickoff No-Limit Hold’em Freezeout and they have been whittled down all the way to just eight hopefuls after two tournament days. Among those dreaming of the $175,578 top prize is also Japan’s Yoshinori Funayama, who is fifth in chips with 15 big blinds.

Sean Ragozzini, Photo Credit - WSOP/ PokerNews
Sean Ragozzini, Photo Credit – WSOP/ PokerNews

Aussie Sean Ragozzini finished in 100th place for $1,483 while former WSOP Main Event champion Ryan Riess bowed out in 63rd place for $2,679. Day 1 chip leader and $25k Fantasy Challenge draftee Qiang Xu from China made it 37th place for $4,596 while fellow countryman Yu Li made the pay jump to $5,601. A third Chinese player reached the final three tables in Zhiyuan Xu, who cashed for $6,886.

Daniel Negreanu at WSOP 2024
Daniel Negreanu at WSOP 2024 – Photo by WSOP / Pokernews

By then, all eyes were on six-time bracelet winner Daniel Negreanu. The Canadian was steadily building his growing tower until it all came to a crashing end. He flipped with ace-king suited against the pocket tens of Shawn Smith and couldn’t get there, then lost the last chips in the next hand to finish in 16th place for $8,541. Tamas Lendvai and Jason Wheeler were among the notables to fall after and second day concluded with eight contenders still in the mix.

The UK’s Daniel Willis leads with 47 big blinds while the most experienced finalist on paper is two-time WSOP bracelet winner Michael Wang, who is third in chips. All eight have locked up $22,022 and the winner will be crowned on the PokerGO live stream platform.

Jamie Kerstetter Chases Bracelet in Event #4 $1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo

Two days of tournament action are also completed in Event #4: $1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better (8-Handed), which has whittled down a field of 928 entries to just 22 survivors. Only three countries are represented among those including the US, Canada and Jorge Ufano for Spain.

Anson Tsang - Photo by WSOP / Pokernews
Anson Tsang – Photo by WSOP / Pokernews

The top 140 finishers earned a slice of the $1,238,880 prize pool and that included Yingui Li as well as Yan Shing “Anson” Tsang, both of which fell just outside of the top 100 spots for $3,003 each. Hang Xu collected $4,311 for 51st place and was the best-positioned Asian player while Aussie Ashish Gupta finished in 29th place for $6,740. All 22 survivors have locked up $8,129 for their efforts with $209,350 reserved for the eventual champion.

Poker pro and commentator Jamie Kerstetter is among the shortest stacks still in contention with other notables such as Eric Baldwin, Ben Yu, Jason Stockfish and John Cernuto all chasing the gold bracelet as well. James Chen sits in third place but is not the PLO bracelet winner from Taiwan, but fellow namesake and Omaha specialist Chen from the US.

Pete Chen Bags Big for Bounty Hunt; No Asian Fortune in Heads-Up Championship

Several other tournaments have already kicked off and Natural8 ambassador Pete Chen can be found in his natural habitat. He has grinded every day since arriving in Las Vegas with mixed results so far but he finds himself in pole position in a bracelet event. The Taiwanese poker pro topped the leaderboard after Day 1a in Event #5: $1,000 Mystery Millions No-Limit Hold’em, which drew a staggering 2,246 entries.

Only 118 players reported their chip counts and Chen topped the leaderboard by quite some margin with 3,150,000. Third in chips is Akinobu Maede from Japan with 2,080,000 while Zhao Xin (1,395,000) can also be found in the top ten after Day 1a as well. Akira Hashimoto and 2023 WSOP Europe bracelet winner Wing Po Liu made it through, too, as did Lei Yu and Thailand’s Punnat Punsri.

In Event #6: $25,000 Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em Championship, an initial field of 64 entries has been whittled down to 16 survivors after two heads-up rounds. Several Asian players entered but none of them survived both duels to bow out without anything to show for.

Lingling Zeng at WSOP 2024
Lingling Zeng – Photo by WSOP / Pokernews

Ren Lin was knocked out in the first round by Ben Tollerene, as was Linglin Zeng against Matthew Wantman. James Chen ended up second-best to Darius Samual while Masato Yokosawa defeated Eric Wasserson only to then bow out versus Patrick Kennedy in the second round.

PokerGO owner Cary Katz will be up against Russia’s rising star Artur Martirosian in the money round, while old school heads-up legend John Smith takes on Weston Mizumoto. Other big names in contention are Kane Kalas, Faraz Jaka, Sam Soverel, and aforementioned Wantman. Reaching the quarter finals will come with a payday of at least $86,000 while the final four will lock up $180,000.

The eventual winner takes home $500,000 and the runner-up gets $300,000, which isn’t too shabby either.

One of the most versatile challenges of the summer are the two Dealer’s Choice (6-Handed) tournaments and the $1,500 edition in Event #7 has wrapped up Day 1. There were 530 entries for a prize pool of $707,550 and some 126 players bagged up chips overnight. Naoya Kihara is among the short stacks fighting for survival with 26,000 along with Tomoharu Mori (28,500) while Yueqi “Rich” Zhu sits in the middle of the pack with 96,000.

Yingui Li had another decent day at the office and advanced with 135,000, good enough for 30th place on the leaderboard. Only one Asian player ran better and that was Jeffrey Lo, who is tenth with 197,500. It comes as no surprise as all-time COOP winner Benny Glaser bagged up heaps with 261,500, trailing only Jacob Hamed (262,500) and Michael Wagner (272,000).

This tournament will pay the top 80 spots for at least $3,017 and the winner gets a top prize of $138,296 as well as the WSOP gold bracelet. But the conclusion of this event is two days away on June 1, 2024, late at night Las Vegas time. New tournaments to kick off on Friday, May 31, are Event #8: $5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha (8-Handed) and Event #9: $1,500 Limit Hold’em (8-Handed).

*Article by Christian Zetzsche

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Tricia David

Tricia David has long experience as a recreational poker player and has been covering poker events since 2010 for numerous outfits in Asia. She spent one year working part time with Poker Portal Asia then became editor and lead writer for all event coverage of the Philippine Poker Tour (PPT). Under the PPT, she overlooked content for their website, and produced live updates on all their events. In addition, she served as the live and online events website content writer for the Asian Poker Tour. Currently, she does live events reporting in Asia for online news site Somuchpoker and is also one of their news contributors.

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