Girish Reknar Leads Day 1a of WPT Gardens Poker Championship

The first of two starting flights in the World Poker Tour (WPT) $5,250 buy-in Gardens Poker Championship in southern California wrapped up on Sunday evening after ten levels of play with just 54 players remaining. Leading the star-studded field that includes multiple WPT champions is Los Angeles native Girish Reknar with a stack of 459,500.

Day 1a drew 162 players as WPT made its return to Gardens Casino, one of the biggest poker rooms in the country. Those who advanced to Day 2 included WPT champions Adam Weinraub, Joshua Pollock, Anthony Zinno, Matthew Wantman and Frank Stepuchin, who took down the 2019 $10,000 WPT Gardens Poker Championship for $548,825.

Others who bagged in Day 1a include southern California pro Gal Yifrach, seven-time WPT final tablist David “The Dragon” Pham and high-stakes investor Dan Shak.

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Big Personalities at Gardens

It was an exciting morning inside the Gardens Casino as a handful of big personalities made their way to the tournament area and quickly made their presence known.

Stepuchin, who PokerNews spoke with earlier in the day, received a personal introduction from Gardens Casino Tournament Manager Cavin Quintanilla over the tournament area speakers, while Buckner wasted no time shouting at a player on the other side of the table.

“You play poker so bad!” Buckner yelled in one of the early levels.

Steven Buckner
Steven Buckner

Buckner was after his first WPT title after two runner-up finishes in 2022, first in the WPT Choctaw Main Event and then in the Five Diamond World Poker Classic. Unfortunately for “Cuz,” he was eliminated in the final level of the day when he check-raised all-in with queen-nine on a nine-high flop, only to be called by the ace-nine of Jim Collopy, according to WPT live updates.

A different WPT star who knows a thing or two about close calls, six-time final tablist Ray Qartomy, was another character in the Gardens Casino on Sunday. He and Stepuchin, who both made the 2019 WPT Gardens Poker Championship final table, once again shared a table for the early part of the day. At one point, Qartomy chased “Frank the Tank” around the table as the two played an impromptu game of casino football.

Qartomy, who is after his first WPT title despite a lengthy resume, as highlighted in this WPT feature, was eliminated when his four-five was dominated by the ace-five of his opponent.

Ray Qartomy
Ray Qartomy

Others who fell on Day 1a include WPT ambassador Brad Owen, southern California high-stakes regular Bill Klein and WPT Rolling Thunder final tablist Albert Tapia.

The 54 players who survived Day 1a will return for Day 2 on May 23. Before that, Day 1b will take place on May 22 and will follow a similar structure of the first starting flight with ten 60-minute levels and a 90-minute dinner break after Level 6.

PokerNews is here in southern California and will continue bringing you stories from the WPT Gardens Poker Championship.

*Images courtesy of WPT.

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