BACK TO WORK: BELLAGIO CHALLENGE CUP DAY 1

[More photos are now in the 2005 WSOP Photo Gallery. Complete World Series of poker tournament results can be found at Poker Player Newspaper.]

Well we had a quick two day break before we headed back to work covering tournaments for Las Vegas and Poker Blog and Poker Player Newspaper. Flip Chip, the Poker Prof and I headed over to the Bellagio for the first day of the Bellagio Challenge Cup. It’s a four day event with a $10,000 buy in. Only 97 players signed building a prize pool of $940,900; but there were plenty of top names flinging chips around in the infamous Bellagio poker room. The winner is slated to take away $364,200.

Levels in the Bellagio Challenge Cup are 90 minutes long and every player gets $10K in chips. I spotted Mimi Tran, Allen Cunningham, Melissa Hayden, John Juanda, John Phan, Scotty Nguyen, T.J. Cloutier, Tobey Maguire, Scott Bigler, John D’Agostino, Phil Ivey, Hassan Habib, Bob Stupak, Cyndy Violette, Erik Seidel, Jean Gaspard, and Jeff Shulman.

At the end of Day 1, 41 players remain in the field. I spoke to Scotty Nguyen. He told me he had $120K in chips and thinks he’s about 3rd place. Tobey Maguire has $42,150 and made it to day two. Notable bustouts include John Juanda and Capt. Tom Franklin. On our way out, we spotted Phil Ivey shooting craps with John D’Agostino. He was up about $300K.

The coolest thing about covering tournaments at the Bellagio is the food comps. Unlike the cheap bastards at the Rio/Harrah’s junta, the powers to be treat members of the media very well at the Bellagio. When the action was complete, we quickly got three food comps and headed over to Noodles for some excellent Asian cuisine. The Poker Prof and I shared the jellyfish and cucumbers salad as an appetizer. The jellyfish made me queasy, but I had to try it once. The cucumbers were spicy. I ordered the Sesame Chicken and my portion was larger than expected. For desert I snagged the green tea ice cream, which was made from scratch on site. The Poker Prof ordered the mango pudding and it looked good.

I’ll be back tomorrow with some more in depth coverage of the big tournament every one else seems to be ignoring. Additional tournament photos are in continue reading.