Bankoff Leading the 2006 U.S. Poker Championships

5 October 2006

Day Three of the 2006 United States Poker Championships concluded at 10:30 p.m. EST Wednesday night after the field was narrowed to 81 players. The event began with a professional-laden group of 261.

One of the most prestigious non-tour titles in poker and a prize pool totaling more than $2.5 million up for grabs at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, N.J. First place pays a hefty sum of $878,500.

Leading the pack is Atlantic City regular Eric Bankoff, who cashed twice in the 2006 Borgata Poker Open, including a 32nd place finish in the $10,000 World Poker Tour Main Event. Bankoff has an immense stack of more than $200,000.

Chasing Bankoff is a slew of strong professional players led by Joe Sebok, recently highlighted on ESPN for donning ridiculous costumes at the 2006 World Series of Poker Main Event after losing a bet to Gavin Smith.

Sebok has made a name for himself on the tournament circuit in the past two years by cashing in six WSOP and three WPT events. He is also the son of tournament regular and high-stakes professional Barry Greenstein. Sebok's chip count is $175,000 going into Day Four.

Other remaining notables are WSOP bracelet winners Scott Fischman and Brandon Cantu. Fischman was the youngest player to win two WSOP gold bracelets until the 2006 series when Eric "E-Dog" Froelich and Jeff Madsen broke his record.

Cantu won the immense 2006 WSOP No-Limit Hold'em Event #1, earning nearly $800,000 and defeating the fourth-largest live tournament field of all-time.

Both Cantu and Fischman are short on chips, but their big-tournament experience should help their lasting power in this slow-structured event.

Sitting in the middle of the pack are Alex Jacob and Bernard Lee. Jacob has final table experience in both WSOP and WPT events, but a major title still eludes this aggressive young player. Lee, made famous during ESPN's 2005 WSOP Main Event coverage for using a picture of his family as a card protector, is a strong tournament competitor and a poker columnist for ESPN and the Boston Herald.

Carrying the flag for the women players is fan-favorite Joanne "J.J." Liu. Given her extensive tournament resume and off-putting eccentric table attire, Liu is down to $48,000 in chips, but not out of a championship tournament that favors experience.

Near the bottom of the pile is 25-year old Paul Waskica, the second-place finisher to Jamie Gold in this year's WSOP Main Event. Given his tiny stack, Wasicka will need to make some moves early if he wants to survive in this tough field. He is the first player from the famed 2006 Main Event final table to make some noise in another big-time event.

Day Four play of the 2006 U.S. Poker Championship will begin today at 1 p.m. The tournament will continue until the final table is set.


Mucking McLane

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