Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Best of Ryan McLane
Cantu leads impressive field at the Festa Al Lago Main Event17 October 2006
By Ryan McLane
Brandon Cantu leads a star-studded field after the first day at the fourth-annual Festa Al Lago Main Event.
Still alive at the $10,000 World Poker Tour event are legends Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Erik Seidel and Dan Harrington while young guns Phil Ivey, Jeff Madsen, Patrik Antonius, Alex Jacob, Tuan Le, Michael Mizrachi and Erick Lindgren all lurk near the top of the leader board.
The 433-entries represent the third largest total for the WPT in Season Five. The Las Vegas location, the prestige of the Bellagio Poker Room, the 20,000 chip starting stack and the $1,000,000 first place prize proved the right combination to draw the stars. Currently, 207 competitors remain. Given the blinds-to-chip-stack ratio, players still have plenty of time to drum up some excitement.
Cantu, the 2006 WSOP Event # 1 Champion, is the chip leader, grabbing a massive 130,000-chip stack on Day One. He is one of three players already over the 100,000 chip mark. Joining him are amateurs Matt Wolfe and tournament regular Abraham Gray.
The 25-year old poker phenom burst onto the poker scene at the WSOP this summer after spending a couple of years flying under the radar in low-limit cash games. And even though his tournament resume is short, he is quickly becoming a player to fear, defining the go-big –or-go home mantra by amassing big stacks early on in tournaments.
Also in the hunt is Juan Carlos Mortensen, a ruthless tournament player who furthered his name at the WSOP this summer by making three final tables. Mortensen is arguably the best player of this century's World Champions, having proven his metal in several large tournaments since he won the WSOP Main Event in 2001. He won this event and $1 million in 2004.
Rounding out the dangerous top-15 is poker phenom Madsen, model-turned poker stud Antonius, and WPT Champion Alan Goehring. All three are at their best when they have chips and they have plenty.
Resting comfortably around the average-stack mark are talented players Victor Ramdin, Jacob, Chris Bigler, Lindgren, Mizrachi and Allen Cunningham. Also in this group is the deadly Ivey. Although Ivey has never won a WPT event, he is tied for the record in final table appearances and seems poised for a big finish soon. Several players have sprinted to an early lead, but the big-tournament experience of these current middle-of-the-road competitors should lead to one or more of them making a big move on Day Two.