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[caption width="640"] 2015 Colossus champ Cord Garcia was among the 5,000 entries on Thursday.[/caption] While the 2016 World Series of Poker officially got underway Wednesday with the start of the Casino Employees event, things really started on Thursday with the opening of the first open event, the $565 buy-in Colossus II. After drawing a record field last year, the 2016 version of the event was expected to be even bigger and while neither the Day 1A or Day 1B flight sold out, over 5,000 players, including defending champion Cord Garcia, made their way into the event, with just over 200 surviving. Employees Event Winner CJ Sand Dedicates Win to His Mom [caption width="640"] CJ Sand made his second-ever WSOP cash with a win in the Employees Event. (WSOP photo)[/caption] The first WSOP bracelet of 2016 went to CJ Sand, a sportsbook employee from Caesars Palace. Sand beat out Hippodrome Head of Poker, Kerryjane Craigie heads up for the title to win the bracelet and $75,157. Day 2 began with 23 players still in contention for the bracelet and it tookjust six hours to reach the final table. Once there Sand had the second biggest stack behind Kerryjane Craigie, setting up the eventual heads up battle between the two. Spencer Bennett, who began the day as chip leader, was active early, busting Robert Ostler in ninth and Tom Ratanakul in sixth after Craigie busted Tiankang Xing in eighth and Michael Coombs sent Nicholas Sliwinski out in seventh. But with five players remaining, Sand became the story, eliminating the remaining four players for the victory. The hand that propelled him to the top of the chip counts for good came with just five players remaining. From under the gun, Brian Mikesh opened to 80,000 and Sand defended his big blind. The flop came [poker card="jd"][poker card="td"][poker card="8d"] and Sand check-called Mikesh’s bet of 60,000. The turn was the [poker card="9h"] and Sand checked again. Mikesh bet 135,000 and Sand raised to 310,000. Mikesh responds by moving all in and Sand called immediately. Mikesh tabled [poker card="kd"][poker card="qd"] for a flopped king-high flush but Sand tabled [poker card="9d"][poker card="7d"] for a flopped straight flush. The river was the [poker card="6c"] and Mikesh was eliminated in fifth while Sand’s stack grew to 2,150,000 - well over half of the chips in play. Sand then eliminated Bennett and Michael Coombs to reach heads-up with Craigie. Sand held a nearly 3.5-1 chip lead when heads-up play began and needed just 40 minutes to eliminate Craigie. After the win Sand reflected on the person that introduced him to the game of poker – his mom. "My mom first taught me how to play poker when I was 13 years old, so this is 30 years in the making,” said Sand, 45. "Poker is one of the best memories I have of her. Poker is in my veins and now I have this -- all because of her." Both Sand and Craigie each had only one previous WSOP cash to their credit and both came from the 2015 WSOP when they both finished in the money in Colossus. Final Table Payouts CJ Sand $75,157 Kerryjane Craigie $46,420 Michael Coombs $32,249 Spencer Bennett $22,753 Brian Mikesh $16,308 Tom Ratanakul $11,877 Nicholas Sliwinski $8,792 Tiankang Xing $6,616 Robert Ostler $5,063 Colossus II Opens Up With Two Flights, Over 5,000 Players The first open event of the summer began Thursday with two opening flights of Colossus II. Last summer the $565 buy-in event drew a record 22,374 players. Thanks to the popularity of the 2015 event, the WSOP added another starting day and two more starting flights to this year’s schedule. The first flight got under way at 10 AM PT and once registration closed there were 3,249 players in the field. Finishing the flight on top of the chip counts was David Polop with 513,000. Only 108 players survived the 18 levels. Justin Zakin, Max Silver and Alex ‘lynskey99’ Lynskey all finished with top ten stacks. Dan O’Brien, Maria Ho, Rep Porter and former WPT500 winner Craig Varnell also advanced to Day 2 from Day 1A. O’Brien was happy with the changes to the Colossus structure, which included shortening levels on Day 1 and having some players cash on Day 1. More Colossus Starting Flights on Friday Call it poker’s version of Groundhog Day as Friday will feel an awful lot like Thursday at the WSOP. Two more Colossus II starting flights are the only events on the schedule and as the weekend draws closer the field sizes are only expected to increase.
Join PocketFives throughout the month of December as we bring you the PocketFives 12 Days of Christmas to help keep you in the spirit of giving. We've covered the favorite holiday traditions, favorite holiday eats, most memorable gifts, and even the top holiday movies from those within the poker world. Now, we're going to hear some of the favorite places to spend the holiday season. In the poker world, it’s no secret that the holiday season is one of the best times to be in Las Vegas, and that’s where WPT champion and WSOP bracelet winner David Williams loves to be. "I would say Las Vegas," Williams said. "You get the WPT Five Diamond, which is one of the best tournaments of the year, and it’s truffle season, so all the top Vegas restaurants have white truffles available on their menus. My mother moved here, so I also get to spend it with my mother and daughter, so no other choice." As you can imagine, family was a big theme no matter the location. Williams mentioned it, so did others, including Felipe 'mojave14' Ramos. "My favorite place to be was always with family in Brazil, but not every time is it possible to be with them, even though I have traveled across the world so many times just to be with there, even last minute," Ramos said. "But now, I am starting my own family and also have to think about my fiancés family. This year's Christmas I will be spending in Las Vegas with Natalie, and my favorite place to be is now with her. I wish I could have every one of my family and friends together at the same place, at least for this time of the year. Life is such a rush and we miss a lot these precious time, so I am trying to build my life and family, but also can't forget my roots." Arguably poker's greatest ambassador, Mike Sexton, also makes the case for Las Vegas where he lives, but he knows the value of showing his son a winter wonderland during this time of year, too. "I love being home for Christmas, but a couple years ago we wanted our son to experience a ‘White Christmas’ so we went to Park City, Utah, and it was truly fantastic," Sexton said. The hustle and bustle of the holidays can be known to drive people crazy. You’re trying to decorate, make every party or plan your own, buy gifts for friends and family, and do it all while living your regular day-to-day life. Vince Van Patten, longtime commentator for the World Poker Tour, likes to take it easy this time of year, at home. "I love staying home in L.A., hanging with the family, swimming in cold water, and seeing some of the best movies of the year during this time," Van Patten said. "I like to slow down and be thankful." Whereas Van Patten may be slowing down, Dan O'Brien loves the city that never sleeps. "New York City," O'Brien said. "It has a special buzz around Christmas and my family has a tradition of enjoying dinner and a play every year. Great spot to be." Ronnie Bardah, a World Series of Poker bracelet winner who was once the victim of one of the most incredible bluffs of all time by a former Miss Finland, stays true and says the holidays are best spent back where it all began. "The holidays are best spent in the hood you grew up in, where childhood memories were created," Bardah said. "Growing up Jewish, we celebrated Hanukkah on Christmas Day and mom would try to keep the Jewish tradition in the house. I love Christmas, and if I could choose, I would always spend it in Boston! Walking around malls, singing Christmas music, and throwing snowballs at punk kids. These days, New Year’s is always somewhere new. This year, though, I’ll be in Vegas bringing it in with Papa Smurf!" Lynn Gilmartin, anchor of the World Poker Tour, is also on board for her favorite place being home. For her, that's Down Under in Australia, but it's doesn't mean it's going to be cold. "My favorite place to be is at home in Melbourne with my family and friends," Gilmartin said. "It's summertime in Australia, so the holidays revolve around barbecues and the beach. I love it and couldn't imagine having a cold Christmas!" Do you have a favorite place to spend the holidays? Let us know by commenting on this article or tweet to us at @PocketFives. Happy Holidays! *Photo courtesy of PokerStarsLIVE.