The Added Perks of Playing in the WPT Choctaw Championship on Day 1b

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WPT Choctaw Championship

Someone is going to win a ton of money on May 30 when the World Poker Tour (WPT) Choctaw Championship concludes. And no doubt the $3,800 entry fee isn’t just some pocket change. But there’s more to this major poker tournament than just the money involved.

On the Day 1b dinner break — around 5:30 p.m. local time in Durant, Oklahoma — the players were invited to a special players party at Choctaw Casino & Resort, which included free pizza and bowling, and it’s one of the many perks to entering the tournament.

Day 1b, the second of two opening flights, kicked off at 11 a.m. Saturday in what has become one of the World Poker Tour’s most popular and prestigious annual events. There were 293 players registered on Day 1a, and that number has significantly grown since.

WPT Choctaw Championship
Poker players at the WPT Choctaw Championship take a break from poker to eat pizza and bowl.

But we’ll save the detailed poker discussion for the following section. For now, we’re taking a break from the stress of playing for life changing money to go bowling and eat some pizza. The players were joined on the dinner break by WPT staff, including longtime commentator Vince Van Patten, and were treated to some slices from the Papa John’s at the nearby food court inside the Choctaw Casino.

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Three-Time WPT Champ Eric Afriat Leads By A Lot

It wasn’t all about bowling and pizza on Day 1b. There was plenty of entertainment on the felt as well as registration closed at the start of Level 9, two hours following the dinner break, and that means payouts are now available.

When registration closed, the field had reached 603 entrants across two Day 1 starting flights — 310 on Day 1b — and the top 76 will be paid with a min-cash valued at $7,000. The eventual winner, which will occur in Las Vegas at the final table on May 30, will take home $361,600. All six players at the final table are guaranteed at least $75,000.

At the conclusion of Saturday’s 10-level session, a familiar face — Eric Afriat — held the lead with 816,500 (327 big blinds). And no one is even close. Ray Qartomy, another WPT champion, bagged the second largest stack at 393,500, while Curt Kohlberg finished Day 1a in the chip lead at 505,000, well below Afriat’s stack.

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Eric Afriat
Eric Afriat

Afriat is a three-time WPT champion, and if he were to go on to win the WPT Choctaw Championship, he would join Darren Elias in a first place tie with the most Main Tour wins all-time.

Although Afriat is a skilled and accomplished pro who knows how to play a big stack, the challenge of becoming a four-time World Poker Tour champion is anything but a lock, especially against the stiff competition he’ll facing going forward. A plethora of big name pros bagged large stacks on Day 1b, including Qartomy. The defending champion, Jared Jaffee, advanced to Day 2 but with a short stack, as did Allen Kessler.

There were also many familiar pros who couldn’t find a bag and exited the tournament, such as Kenna James, Craig Varnell, and Jake Daniels. Day 2 is set to begin at 11 a.m. local time in Oklahoma on Sunday. On Day 3 — Monday — the field will dwindle down to the final table of six before taking a three-week break to prepare for the Las Vegas portion of the event.

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*Images courtesy of the World Poker Tour/Enrique Malfavon.

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