World Poker Tour Travels West for L.A. Poker Classic

Art Papazyan will look to capture his third WPT title of Season XVI in the L.A. Poker Classic. (WPT photo)

The World Poker Tour heads to the West Coast to start the closing portion of Season XVI. The first tournament on the list is the prestigious L.A. Poker Classic hosted inside the Commerce Casino. One of the few $10,000 buy-in events on the WPT schedule, the schedule mainstay features a $1 million guaranteed first place prize for 2018.

LAPC opens on Saturday, February 24 and, as is tradition, is a freezeout event. The final table takes place on Thursday, March 1 and airs via live stream on PokerGO.

Can Anyone Overtake Art Papazyan for Player of the Year?

Season XVI storylines entering the event are not hard to find. At the top of the list is current Player of the Year leader Art Papazyan. The Los Angeles local opened his WPT season by winning the Legends of Poker event at the Bicycle Casino, a few miles from Commerce, by beating Phil Hellmuth heads up. Papazyan built on that run by winning WPT Maryland a few weeks later and carries 2,400 points with him into LAPC.

The lead for Papazyan shrinks with every event he doesn’t cash and Eric Afriat is the first player to levy a serious challenge against Papazyan. Afriat followed up his WPT Montreal final table by winning the WPT Winter Poker Open at the Borgata two weeks ago. The 1,700 points sitting next to Afriat’s name leave him needing one more final table to come close to or pass Papazyan.

It remains to be seen how seriously the real estate professional is about playing a full schedule in order to win WPT Player of the Year.

Coming off of his controversial win in Fallsview, Mike Leah is a favorite to be in attendance and brings 1,050 points with him to California.

Tradition of Prestige

The recent trend at LAPC is for players who are under the radar by the national viewing audience standard to earn their formal breakout. Anthony Zinno’s win in Season XIII launched him into stardom as he went on to win that season’s Player of the Year honors.

German Dietrich Fast earned his original seven-figure score in Season XIV by defeating a final table of former WPT POY Mike Shariati, Farid Jattin, Sam Soverel, and Anthony Spinella.

Finally, California’s own Daniel Strelitz took down the first major title of his career last season.

All three players earned over $1 million by overcoming respective fields of 538, 515, and 521. A similar attendance figure is expected in 2018.

Season XVI Hits the Homestretch

Immediately following LAPC, the World Poker Tour travels to Northern California for WPT Rolling Thunder. Only two North American Main Tour events remain on the schedule once the WPT leaves the West Coast.

Papazyan’s lead is safe for now but that could change by the end of the month. The best players move to Los Angeles in one week to take their shot at $1 million and joining the likes of Gus Hansen and Michael Mizrachi as L.A. Poker Classic Champions.