Albert Knafo storms over Day 1 of WPT Rolling Thunder Main Event

Terrance Reid
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Posted on: April 2, 2023 5:30 am EDT

It was a packed house for the season opener of season XXI of the WPT Main Tour. Here in Northern California, the $3,500 Main Event saw 474 entrants sit down to their 50,000 chip starting stacks in the Thunder Valley Resort Casino.

After eight levels of play, players have bagged up their chips for the night. Sitting atop the leaderboard is Albert Knafo with 425,000 chips, good for 283 big blinds. The LA-based Knafo most recently cashed in the 2022 WPT World Championship and looks to continue that success at this week’s Main Event. Here’s your leaderboard heading into Day 2 tomorrow.

WPT Rolling Thunder Main Event top 10 chip counts

PlacePlayerChip countBig blinds
1Albert Knafu425,000283
2Andrew Esposito377,000251
3Eric Wong343,000229
4James Turner338,500226
5Derrick Geliberte302,500202
6Vu Nguyen301,000201
7Bilguun Odgerel274,500183
8Dan Sarazin269,000179
9Taylor Black266,000177
10Ed Miller245,000163
Top 10 chip counts after eight Day 1 levels

As we highlighted in our earlier article, the atmosphere was fun and exciting to start the day. Players quickly got to work in the very deep structure with 60-minute levels to build their stack. Plenty of big names made their way to the season opener and were welcomed by WPT President Adam Pliska.

Adam Pliska, Matt Savage, and Ben Erwin at Introductions
Adam Pliska, Matt Savage, and Ben Erwin at Introductions

A ClubWPT qualifier survives Day 1

Of special interest is one particular player, qualifier Ray Stadelman, winner of a LearnWPT promotional event on ClubWPT. Playing the biggest buy-in of his life, Stadelman navigated the table to bag 60,000 chips and moves on to tomorrow with 40 bigs in play. From Kentucky, Stadelman is in town with his wife, Robbie to cheer him on.

Club WPT Qualifier Ray Stadelman moves on to Day 2

WPT Champions Club members in the mix

WPT Champions Club members hopped in the mix early as well. Among those finding bags were Brian Altman (107,500), Andy Frankenberger (102,500), Eric Afriat (86,500), Tyler Patterson (76,500), David “ODB” Baker (75,500), WPT Ambassador Tony Dunst, (57,5000), and Anthony Zinno (49,000). Other notables with names on bags include Solve for Why’s Conrad Simpson (215,000), Angela Jordison (201,000), Michael Wang (191,500), Nick Pupillo (184,500), and Allen Kessler (38,000).

Day 2 schedule

Players can still buy into the event all the way to the start of level 11 tomorrow, at approximately 2:15 pm. With unlimited reentries, the total entrants and the prize pool are sure to keep growing.

Restart for Day 2 begins at 12 pm with players coming back to blinds of 1,000/1,500 with a 1,500 big blind ante. For Day 2 seat assignments, check out the local room’s blog here.

Photos credit: WPT/Joe Giron