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Day 2 of the 2015 World Series of Poker saw the first champion of 2015 crowned. Brandon Barnette is your 2015 Casino Employee’s Event champion, taking home the bracelet and $75,704 in his first-ever live cash.

Meanwhile, 2012 Main Event Champion Greg Merson is deep in the $5,000 NL while Old School Pro Tony Ma leads in the $1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo. Finally, Carlos Mortensen, Jason Somerville and David Peters are among the pros that advanced to Round 2 in the $3,000 NL Shootout.

Brandon Barnette Wins Casino Employees Event and $75,704

Brandon Barnette is the first champion of the 2015 World Series of Poker. On Thursday, he took down the $565 Casino Employees Event for $75,704 and the gold bracelet.

Day 2 of the Employee’s Event started with 51 players returning, all in the money, and looking to make the final table. It took seven levels to reach the final table but when they did, Brian Barnett was chip leader with 745,000. Greg Seiden was lurking right behind with 600,000.

It is rare in a bracelet event that the top two in chips at the start of the final table make it to heads-up play, but that is what happened in this event. Heads-up play between Brandon Barnette and Greg Seiden started with Barnette holding a nearly 3 to 1 chip lead. However, that lead shifted in a massive pot that nearly cost Barnette the bracelet.

At the river, the board read 8h-Ah-10d-Qs-As and Seiden checked to Barnette. Barnette had fired on every street of this hand and moved all-in on the river. After tanking for a bit, Seiden makes the call showing Kc-Qd for two pair. Barnette showed 6h-4h for a busted flush draw. Seiden doubled-up and had 3.2 million of the 3.5 million chips in play.

At this point most would think, “game over” for Barnette, but a couple of fortunate hands allowed him to get back into the game. Right after become crippled, he twice moved all-in with the worst hand and both times binked to move up to 800,000. A couple hands later, it was Seiden moving in with the inferior hand but Barnette’s hand held to bring the two back to even.

After some back and forth play, Barnette’s aggression started to take over and he regained the chip lead and had a 2:1 chip lead when the final hand commenced. Seiden opened to 140,000 and Barnette shoved from the big blind. Seiden made the call and found out the bad news.

Barnette turned over pocket eights and had Seiden’s pocket fours crushed. The flop 10c-2s-Kh and the turn Ks missed both players. The river 8s gave Barnette a full house and his first career WSOP bracelet.

Brandon Barnette becomes the latest in a long line of Casino Employee Champions, winning the gold bracelet and $75,704. This is not just his first career bracelet victory but also the first live cash in his career. Congratulations.

Carl Westcott Leads Final 20 in $5,000 NL – Merson and Sands Lurk

Day 2 of the $5,000 NL Hold’em Event kicked off on Thursday with 171 players looking to make their way to the first open-field final table of the 2015 WSOP. By the end of the day, two players would crack 1 million in chips and a former Main Event champion is looking for his third career bracelet.

The first order of business on Thursday was to burst the money bubble and with only 45 players receiving a payday, it would take almost seven full levels before payouts began. In a rare occurrence in a preliminary event, this event didn’t have a “hand-for-hand” period at the bubble as a double elimination took the field into the money.

With 47 players remaining, Sebastian Saffari fell and it was announced hand-for-hand would start at the conclusion of the hand. However, during that final hand, Rong Li and Zachary Gruneberg became ensnared in a huge hand. Gruneberg had less than 20 big blinds, woke up with pocket jacks and shoved. Unfortunately, Li woke up with aces, called and those aces held to make Gruneberg the bubble boy.

The last two levels of the day saw the field cut from 45 to 20. Some of the more prominent players eliminated in the money were Justin Schwartz (38th), Bryan Piccioli (33rd), Brian Hastings (29th), Jeremy Ausmus (27th), Andy Frankenberger (25th) and Jesse Martin (21st).

Carl Westcott leads the final 20 into Day 3 action with 1.066 million in chips. Artur Koren is the only other player to finish above 1 million and will start the final day with 1.062 million.

Greg Merson is currently sitting third in chips with 800,000. The 2012 Main Event Champion is looking for his third career bracelet. David “Doc” Sands sits fourth with 704,000.

Action is scheduled to resume at 2 p.m. on Friday and should continue until the final table is reached.

Tony Ma Leads After Day 1 of $1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo

The Noon event on Thursday was the $1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo, the first non-Hold’em event of 2015. This year’s $1,500 O8 drew a field of 918 players, 11.39% off the 1,036 of last year. Despite the small drop in attendance, the field was stacked with top named pros and Omaha specialists looking to take the title.

This event will pay 117 players with a min-cash worth $2,354. The winner will take home $251,022 and the gold bracelet. Players who won’t be competing for the first Omaha bracelet after Day 1 include Phil Hellmuth, Allen Kessler, Jimmy Fricke, Greg Raymer, and Mike Leah.

Day 1 action concluded with 358 players still remaining and an “Old School” pro in the lead. Two-time bracelet winner Tony Ma will head into Day 2 as the chip leader with 57,800. Tony Paur is one of the Seven Hotties we’re following during the 2015 WSOP and is second in chips after Day 1.

Other players advancing to Day 2 include, John Monnette, Jeff Shulman, Jeff Madsen, Allen Cunningham, Miami John Cernutto, Max Pescatori, Maria Ho, Robert Mizrachi, Scott Clements and Bart Hanson.

Action will resume in this event at 2 p.m. today but is subject to change due to the Colossus.

Round 2 of $3,000 NL Shootout Will Be Pro Heavy

The $3,000 NL Hold’em Shootout was Thursday’s 4 p.m. event and represents the easiest path to a WSOP bracelet. Win three Sit & Go’s and you have a WSOP bracelet. After Round 1, you’re in the money. After Round 2, you’re at the final table. Win the final table and you’re a WSOP champion.

A field of 308 runners showed up on Thursday, down 20.83% from the 308 in the same event in 2014. Round 1 on Thursday played mostly eight-handed and was stacked with big name player looking to score their first cash of the 2015 WSOP.

Some of the players that failed to advance to Day 2 play were Jennifer Tilly, Dan Smith, Dominik Nitsche, Annete Obrestad, Sorel Mizzi, Phil Laak, Mike Leah, Sam Trickett, Erick Lindgren, Jason Mercier and Jesse Sylvia.

The 2014 defending champion, Kory Kilpatrick, made a valiant attempt to repeat but was the ultimate bubble boy as he was the last player eliminated on the last table of Round 1.

A total of 40 players will advance to Round 2 later today and the remaining field is stacked with pros. Among those that advanced to Day 2 were Joe Cada, Ryan D’Angelo, Leo Wolpert, Jason Somerville, Carlos Mortensen, David Peters, Jake Balsiger, Doug Polk, Loni Harwood and Andrey Pateychuk. Actor and regular WSOP attendee James Woods also advanced to Day 2.

Round 2 on Friday will feature four-handed play with the winner of each table earning a spot at the final table. Action is scheduled to resume later today at 2 p.m.

It’s All About the Colossus on Friday

The event that will shatter the all-time attendance record for live tournament poker kicks off on Friday. The $565 Colossus Event with a $5 million guarantee will kick off at 10 am PST on Friday with the first of two flights.

WSOP officials made an important change on Thursday to the event that will affect all players. They have added another level to each flight, meaning that players will play 11 levels on Day 1 instead of 10. This will push the ending of Flight A to 6:30 p.m. both starting days.

This means, that Flights B and D will now start at 7 pm PST instead of 6 pm. For those that are in the late waves, your start time will also get pushed back an hour. You can find all the details regarding these changes at

The Colossus will be the only new event on Friday and Saturday due to capacity issues. Expect delays if you haven’t registered already. If you’re a spectator, expect a circus type atmosphere at the Rio.

Stay tuned to PokerUpdate as we will bring you updates on all the major happenings at the 2015 World Series of Poker.

James Guill

James Guill began his poker career in 2006, spending two years traveling the US tournament circuit. Since 2008, he has covered the game extensively for some of the biggest names in the industry. When not writing about the latest poker news, he can be found hunting for antique treasures in Central Virginia.