Festa, Phelps And Fantastic First Days
October 21, 2021
The first day of play at the Festa Al Lago World Poker Tour Championship saw 153 people plunk down $15,400 each for a shot at a WPT title. Of those 153, many notables could be found like Scotty Nguyen, David Singer, Gavin Smith, Raymond Davis, Chris Ferguson, Tom Dwan, Phil Ivey, Jennifer Harman, Justin Bonomo, and Erik Seidel.

Normally such a distinguished field of poker professionals would get all the attention in the Bellagio's Fontana Lounge, but yesterday even stars like Daniel Negreanu and Doyle Brunson were overshadowed by a lone swimmer who decided to walk the room while deciding if he was going to play Day 1b. The swimmer, of course, was Olympic hero and poker fan Michael Phelps, who was considering entering the event after successfully reaching the final table in a $1,500 buy-in event at Caesar's Palace the day before. Phelp's was escorted around the room by Phil Hellmuth, who seemed significantly more into the job of host than that of Day 1a player, as his stack continued to dwindle due to lack of attention.

Phelps may have been the big distraction of Day 1a, but after his departure, focus quickly returned to the tournament, and the poker media began to realize that quite an interesting situation was beginning to develop. Remarkably, almost all of the biggest stacks in the field seemed to be controlled by well known players by the end of play on Day 1a.

Pros who finished the day in the top 25 of the 101 remaining players include Doyle Brunson, Allen Cunningham, Chau Giang, Michael DeMichele, and Daniel Negreanu. Pros that made the top 10 include Johnny Chan, Jason Mercier, and PokerRoad founder Joe Sebok. Pros in the top 5 include Andrew Robl, Jennifer Tilly, and "The Magician" Antonio Esfandiari, who ended day at the top of them all with 313,000 in tournament chips.

Day 1b begins today at the Bellagio, with a whole new group taking to the felt including, possibly, Mr. Phelps (he'll be the one wearing goggles instead of sunglasses). Check out for chip counts, photos, Amanda Leatherman videos and live updates from friend of PokerRoad BJ Nemeth.

Story by Mark Anderson
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