The 44th annual World Series of Poker began on Wednesday in Las Vegas, and already it's lining up as a strong showing by poker players with local ties.
And that's even before the Weekly's resident poker expert (ahem, that would be me) gets there later this week.
The first four events (out of 62) have resulted in three Tucson-connected rounders cashing, with University of Arizona graduate Lee Gaines leading the charge. Gaines, who supplemented his time at the UA a few years back by cleaning up in online poker under the moniker 'Bill Ivey,' earned $7,850 for placing 28th in a $1,500 buy-in 6-handed no-limit hold'em tournament that finishes up today.
It's the fourth career WSOP cash for Gaines, who is originally from Cottonwood.
The first event of the series saw Tony Phan cash in the Casino Employees $500 NL hold'em event, while previous WSOP bracelet winner Sean Getzwiller cashed in a $1,500 NLHE event that drew more than 3,100 players.
Getzwiller is also among at least four locals who are still alive in what WSOP officials have dubbed the Millionaire Maker, a $1,500 NLHE tourney that collected a whopping 6,343 entrants (most ever to enter a tourney on a single day) on Saturday. The event had guaranteed $1 million to the winner, regardless of the turnout, but because of so many participants the winner will get just short of $1.2 million.
That tournament resumes Sunday afternoon with almost 1,500 players remaining. The top 648 will get paid.
Locals are also faring well in the side events at the WSOP, as local real estate agent Andy Fitzpatrick finished 8th in one of the daily 'deepstack' events for a $3,800 payout. These daily tournaments at the Rio cost between $135 and $235 and can lead to a haul of more than $40,000 for first place. It's also where yours truly plans to participate the most during my upcoming visit.