WSOP Circuit Main Event at Caesars Indiana - Day 1 Recap
© 2005 Jason Kirk  

The $10,000 buy-in Main Event kicked off just after noon today at the inaugural WSOP Circuit event held at Caesars Indiana. The newly-renovated poker room here in Elizabeth, IN, has played host to a record-setting two weeks of the Circuit. The first event had the largest field of any Circuit event to this point in time, surpassing the first event in Tunica in August, and the Ladies Event had the largest field in the history of the LIPS (Ladies International Poker Series) Tour. The $1000 Mega Satellite held on Saturday evening was also the largest ever held at a Circuit stop. After two weeks of disappointing showings at Harrah's Las Vegas, the WSOP Circuit seems to be back on track.

At 128 players, the field in the Main Event was not nearly as large as some of the others, but the quality of the competition was definitely a cut above. With only 9 places being paid, every player will have to fight the entire way to receive a payday from this Circuit event. Plenty of quality player were present when the cards got in the air. Kathy Liebert, who may be have one of the hottest streaks going in poker right now, started off the day at the same table as Erik Seidel, Scott Fischman, and Liz Lieu. Table 140 was a reprise of the Tunica WSOP Circuit Main Event final table - Gregg Merkow, John Juanda, and Bryant King were all seated together at the first table of the tournament. Tunica WSOP Circuit final table player Marc Aubin also drew a tough table, facing off against former WSOP Main Event champion Carlos Mortensen and WSOP Circuit champion Gavin Smith. Another Tunica WSOP final table player, Damon “The Mexican” Ramirez, drew a table with Amnon Filippi and former University of Louisville basketball coach (and Caesars Indiana poker room host) Denny Crum. Professional player Dan Heimiller and Men “The Master” Nguyen were seated together, as were Glyn Banks and Alan Goehring. Among some of the other recognizable Circuit regulars were Mark “Big Daddy From Cincinnati” Hanna, Michael Borovetz, Frank Kassela, Glyn Banks, Don Mullis, and Johnny “Chicken Man” Clements.

Only a few professionals faced elimination in the early going. Liz Lieu couldn’t find an opening at the tough table she faced; every time she made a move at the pot she faced a big bet from another player who either held a big pair or a set. She exited the tournament fairly early. Carlos Mortensen was crippled early on by Marc Aubin when Aubin flopped the nut straight and let Mortensen bet into him with trip aces. Mortensen managed to build his stack back up to about 5000 before leaving the tournament. Scott Fischman was unable to build any serious momentum and was gone during the third level.

One of the more interesting exchanges of the day involved Damon “The Mexican” Ramirez and local player Walter Shearer. Shearer took an early pot off Ramirez hitting trips with 6-5 suited, and afterward declared to him that he was “the best player you’ve never heard of.” Ramirez then asked Shearer what he would think if he told Shearer he would bust him by the end of the day. A rivalry developed between the two from that point onward. Finally, with Ramirez holding a small stack and Shearer on the larger stack, Ramirez got all of his chips in with 6-3 suited, holding two pair after the flop, against Shearer’s top pair with a jack kicker holding K-J offsuit. The river brought Ramirez a full house and chopped Shearer’s stack to a fraction of its former size. Finally, Ramirez flopped the nut flush and got Shearer’s chips in on an open-ended straight draw; he had followed through on his earlier prediction.

As the day drew on, the fortunes of the best-known professional players took a turn for the worse. Kathy Liebert survived several all-in moves (with Q-T, K-9, and A-6), but she was eventually knocked out when her table added Chris “Jesus” Ferguson; she held a pair of nines against A-K of diamonds and hit her set on the river with the same card that gave her opponent the nut flush. Erik Seidel was eliminated from the same table within minutes when his A-A was cracked by his opponent’s flopped set of kings. Less than ten minutes later, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson was eliminated from the same table when his A-K flopped top pair but ran into a flopped set of jacks. John Phan also exited around this time, leaving Men “The Master” Nguyen as one of the only remaining name professional players.

The day finished out with approximately 52 players remaining. Among those still in contention are Damon “The Mexican” Ramirez, Marc Aubin, and Herbert Montalbano. Many poker fans will not recognize Montalbano’s name, but this top-notch player finished 29th in last season’s WPT Championship and built his stack in this tournament at the same table as Kathy Liebert, Erik Seidel, Chris Ferguson, and Liz Lieu. He’s a dangerous player who’s definitely “the real deal.” Competition will resume at noon on Monday, October 31, and play down to the final 27 players before breaking for the day. A full recap will be available here as soon as the action is complete.

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