The first tournament of the 2023 World Series of Poker has come to an end, and the first gold bracelet of the series was held up high today by peter thai. Thai stood tall at the end of Event #1: $500 Casino Employees Event No-Limit Hold’em after he defeated James Urbanic ($46,690) in heads-up play.
A total of 1,015 entries turned out and generated a prize pool of $426,300.
Paul Blanchette finished in third, while Bruce Jiang was fourth and day 1 chip leader Benson Tam bowed out in fifth place after a double elimination that propelled Thai to the top of the chip counts.
This was the third largest Casino Employees Event in the history of the WSOP and an excellent indicator that this summer will be one of the biggest yet.
Event #1: $500 Casino Employees Final Table Results
|1||peter thai||United States||$75,535|
|2||James Urbanic||United States||$46,690|
|3||Paul Blanchette||United States||$33,051|
|4||Bruce Jiang||United States||$23,738|
|5||Benson Tam||United States||$17,303|
|7||Keith McCormack||United States||$9,617|
|8th||Joe Pavan||United States||$7,337|
|9||Lisa Eckstein||United States||$5,686|
“I never expected to win,” Thai said in his post-win interview with PokerNews. “I came here just wanting to have fun and one thing led to another. It was an unforgettable experience.
Thai’s path wasn’t easy. He entered the table among the chip leaders, but he found a lot of adversity on his path to his gold bracelet.
“I went through a tough final table. I doubled up several people, and it was kind of ridiculous.”
Home is in California, where Thai is a table games dealer at Parkwest 580 at Livermore.
“I’m an avid poker player. I don’t play that often, but I still know how to play. I play more cash games than tournaments. I have a lot of tournament experience, mostly from playing a lot of online sit and goes from my college days.”
Thai is headed back to California after the big win, but he plans to return later in the WSOP to play more events.
“Overall, the experience is unbelievable and I can’t wait to share this with everyone back home.”
Day 2 highlights
Other notables who made Day 2 of this event included PokerNews‘ own Chad Holloway other Jesse Fullenwho both fell short of the final two tables but logged their first cash in the series, nonetheless.
Thai started Day 2 with 391,000 chips, enough for 19th place, but he battled his way through the field and got his hands on all 23,000,000 chips in play. His reward for achieving that goal? A coveted gold WSOP bracelet and the top prize of $75,535.
Lisa Eckstein was the first casualty of the final table, bowing out in ninth place after Tam put her at risk with his queen-jack and caught up to her pocket tens. Joe Pavan hit the rail next after he got it in with pocket sixes and lost when Jiang rivered a set of fours.
Seven-handed play went on for some time as the action tightened up, but eventually, it was Keith McCormack who was out in the seventh when his ace-queen couldn’t beat Jiang’s pocket fives. Sean Balfour was next in sixth after Blanchette beat his ace-six with pocket tens.
The slow pace of the final table evaporated quickly in the endgame with the double-knockout of Tam and Jiang. Tam shoved with a suited jack-nine, but Jiang had pocket queens, and Thai had pocket kings. Thai held on to knock both players out and send the tournament to three-handed play.
Blanchette was out quickly in third when his suited eight-nine couldn’t beat Thai’s flopped pair of kings. Urbanic was the last obstacle for Thai, and the big moment came when Thai held on with king-ten to beat a short-stacked shove with queen-seven.
That wraps up coverage of the opening event of the 2023 WSOP, but be sure to keep it tuned to PokerNews for live updates from the floor of your favorite events throughout the summer.
Las Vegas-based PokerNews Live Reporting Executive, originally from Chicago, IL