The WPT Rolling Thunder attracted 440 runners over the weekend, up from last year’s 421, and after Day 2, just 64 remain — with Chris Hinchcliffe and his stack of 723,000 leading the way.
Man to Beat
The event takes place at the Thunder Valley casino in Lincoln, California, just outside of Sacramento. Hinchcliffe is primed for his second big California score of the year, after taking down the $350 Kickoff Event at the LA Poker Classic, where he bested a 3,956-entry field for $142,715.
Germany’s Rayo Kniep, a software engineer for Google, currently sits second in chips with 567,000.
“I’m a lucky player,” Kniep told WPT Rolling Thunder officials. “Running up a ton of chips and playing with people that I know from television. That’s why you play poker. If you have a good time, enjoy it. I can’t help myself. I’m running so good so I have such a good time.”
Another player still alive is Jeff Fielder, who last year won the WPTDeepStacks Championship at Thunder Valley Casino Resort, good for $220,616. While Fielder has experience at the venue, he faces an uphill battle as one of the shorter stacks with 60,000.
Others still in contention for the $295,128 first-place prize include Joe McKeehen (494,000), 2016 Aussie Millions champ Ari Engel (150,000), and Olivier Busquet (55,000).
Among those to fall on Day 2 were defending WPT Rolling Thunder champ Mike Del Vecchio, hometown hero JC Tran, Allen Kessler, Darren Elias, and former WPT Players of the Year Andy Frankenberger, Matt Salsberg, and Benjamin Zamani.
Frankenberger, who in January placed third in the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open for $244,342, fell early on Day 2. His demise came in Level 9 (400/800/100) when Mike Harvey moved all in for 27,000 with the K♦Q♦ and Frankenberger called off for 15,000 holding the A♥J♦ in the big blind.
The K♣Q♥8♠ flop gave Harvey the lead with two pair, but Frankenberger picked up a gutshot Broadway draw. Unfortunately for him, the 8♥ turn was a blank as was the 2♣ river.
Another player to fall, albeit at the end of the day, was 2015 WSOP Main Event third-place finisher Neil Blumenfield. In Level 16 (2,000/4,000/500), he got his last 70,000 all in on the turn with the board reading 8♣8♥4♦Q♣.
Blumenfield held the J♣10♣ for straight and flush draws, which he needed to hit to overcome the Q♦5♦ of Ping Liu. The 8♠ river missed Blumenfield, and he took his leave in the penultimate level of the night.
Day 3 of the tournament will get underway at Noon PT on Monday. With only 55 spots getting paid a minimum of $6,000, nine players will need to leave empty handed before the money is made.
Top Ten Day 3 Chip Counts
1 Chris Hinchliffe 723,000
2 Ray Kniep 567,000
3 Django Young 500,000
4 Joe McKeehen 494,000
5 Sam Panzica 460,000
6 Glenn Larson 413,500
7 Ian Steinman 340,000
8 Ping Liu 322,000
9 Pat Lyons 281,500
10 John Richards 265,000