Season XII of the World Poker Tour kicked off Friday with Day 1a of the bwin WPT Merit Cyprus Classic. Set in the poker tournament room of the spectacular five-star Merit Crystal Cove Hotel and Casino, the event promises to be six days of intriguing and gruelling poker. There are two starting days of the five-day tournament, and each player is allowed a single re-entry. The buy-in is $4,400 with a $1,000,000 guarantee on the event, making things extra exciting.
Russia's Alexey Rybin topped the leader board at the end of the day with a stack of 216,500. Ryben busted Sergey Rybachenko on the last hand of the day for a monster 70,00-chip pot. The three closest players behind Rybin are Mikhael Shevchuk with 145,000, Ercan Olgun with 145,000 and Rami Shouman with 144,800. England’s Sam Trickett also made it through to Day 2 with 77,400 in chips.
Day 1a saw a total of 137 entries by the end of registration. Dominated by Turkish and Russian players, as well as a good turn out from the Lebanese, the field would go on to play 10 one-hour levels.
Some players started the day fairly cautiously with their starting stack of 30,000, but others were looking to play big early. There were a flurry of preflop three- and four-bets as many looked to exploit that early caution, and we expect to see a mixture of styles and violent clashes over the next several days of the event.
The aggressive play of Rami Shouman from Lebanon, for example, certainly paid dividends early on. He was the chip leader with over 100,000 in chips when an ill-timed river bluff against Roger Hairabedian, who had been leading the action all the way in this particular hand, saw him fall back amongst the pack, and give Hairabedian in turn the chip lead. That didn’t seem to deter Shouman’s playing style, though, as he continued to play a lot of pots and put his opponents to the test. He ended the day with 144,800.
Dominik Nitsche certainly enjoyed the day, as he was very chatty and chipper in his interview with PokerNews' Laura Cornelius. The always-smiling German pro chipped up early in the day, but slipped back towards the end before exiting the tournament with half an hour left in the last level.
Kelly Kim, a 2008 World Series of Poker November Niner, just didn't seem to find his footing all day. All in for his last 5,000 in chips, Kelly ran pocket tens into the pocket kings of Igor Dorozhkin and made an early exit.
The bigger stars in the field seemed to hold off on their entries to make a late arrival. First, Trickett joined the action a couple of levels before the end of registration after playing the PartyPoker Big Game last night. He described the cash game to one of our reporters as, "One of the worst of my life."
It didn’t seem to be going Trickett’s way in the tournament either, but then a timely double up all in with the against Bernard Latouf’s on a flop of . The turn was the and the river the to give Trickett the win.
After Trickett entered Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi, a regular to many events in Cyprus. In typical Mizrachi fashion, he began tormenting the table with pressure moments after taking his seat. He eventually lost a big flip with the against an all-in player’s to knock him down to a meager 14,000-chip stack. The Grinder was eliminated shortly thereafter, but we're sure he'll be back for Day 1b to fire a second bullet.
Just before the close of play for the day, last year’s winner Marvin Rettenmaier joined those eliminated on the rail. Rettenmaier maneuvered his way through most of the day, but fell towards the end at the hands of Jacques Torbey.
Day 1b kicks off at 1 p.m. local time on Saturday, and rumor has it Daniel "Jungleman" Cates will be joining the action while Rettenmaier, Nitsche, Mizrachi, and others are expected to re-enter. The Pokernews Live Reporting Team will be back for more live reporting action, so be sure to stay tuned right here to these pages.
Photo courtesy of the World Poker Tour.