The Return is a grandiose name for any poker event, but when The Borgata announced the first live major festival of the year, attaching a $3 million guarantee to the Main Event justified that tournament title. That prizepool drew top players from all over the country to the East Coast poker mecca of Atlantic City this week and Day 1a of The Return’s Main Event saw a total of 562 entries across the opening day of the tournament.

GPI Players of the Year in the Building

Two big names who decided to pony up the $5,300 entry fee for Day 1a included both the male and female Players of the Year according to the Global Poker Index via The Hendon Mob. Attempting to follow in the footsteps of successful players at the Borgata this week in thriving on Day 1a were both Stephen Song and Cherish Andrews, the respective best of the best in terms of male and female players. Could either of them get near to what Ryan Dodd pulled out of the Mystery Bounty event yesterday?

As it happens, both would find a bag for Day 2. Song bagged a whopping 323,000 chips, ending the day among those at the upper limits of the leaderboard, but Andrews made the cut too, with a healthy stack of 135,500 heading into the second day of action. With the average stack around 128,000, both stacks represent a very decent day at the ‘office’ for the two uber-successful professionals.

After 10 levels of action, just 153 players survived, with less than a third of the field getting a day off before playing down to the money at least on Day 2. The aforementioned Ryan Dodd also made the cut, bagging up a 13th-placed stack of 161,000 just a day after winning over $340,000 thanks to his incredible bounty pull in Atlantic City.

Adler Heads Talented Top Ten

With some of the biggest names rising highest on the day, it is Adam Adler who bagged biggest on Day 1a, amassing a pile of 366,500 as the order came around the cardroom to bag up for the night. He is followed on the official leaderboard by Dusti Smith (355,500), Stephen Song (323,000) and WSOP Player of the Year from 2022, Dan Zack (305,500).

Those are the only four players over 300,000 chips, but some more sharks are swimming in the water close behind the leaders. Jesse Lonis (281,000) already has a WSOP bracelet to his name and is remarkably consistent in cashing deep in major tournaments, and Nick Plama (266,600) and Frank Funaro (249,500) aren’t far behind both in terms of chips and recent success.

Elsewhere in the top ten chipcounts, PokerGO high roller crusher Adam Hendrix (222,500) is followed by controversial figure Martin Zamani (215,000), who needed no frog poison to leap up the leaderboard. Tom Wheaton (211,000) rounds out the top ten.

Other Luminaries Light Up Leaderboard

“Plenty of big names survived, but we lost some stars of the felt too.”

There are dozens of other big names already high in the chipcounts and looking toward Day 2 of this $3 million guaranteed event. Greg Himmelbrand (172,000), Paulina Loeliger (171,000), Ryan Dodd (161,000), Alex Foxen (158,500) and Jacob Ferro (153,000) all made the top 15 players – and thus the top 10% of the field – while Chance Kornuth (132,500) and Chris Brewer (132,000) hover ominously in the top 20.

Former double WSOP bracelet winners Michael Wang (85,0000 and Daniel Lazrus (80,000) both sit in a fine position to make a run to the money, while the former WSOP Main Event winner of a decade ago, Ryan Riess, bagged up 72,500 on the day. Other WSOP gold holders such as David Jackson (53,000) and Justin Saliba (40,000) have no need to consider re-entry either.

Plenty of big names survived, but we lost some stars of the felt too. Another former WSOP Main Event winner, Joe McKeehen, did not fare as well as Riess and will be looking towards playing on Day 1b, while Shankar Pillai and Conrad Simpson are weighing up their options from the rail too. Given the incredible guarantee, it’s hard to see any of those names not jumping back into the action on Thursday.

Borgata 2023 The Return Main Event Day 1a Top 10 Chipcounts:

Position Player Country Chips
1st Adam Adler U.S.A. 366,500
2nd Dusti Smith U.S.A. 355,500
3rd Stephen Song U.S.A. 323,000
4th Dan Zack U.S.A. 305,500
5th Jesse Lonis U.S.A. 281,000
6th Nick Palma U.S.A. 266,600
7th Frank Funaro U.S.A. 249,500
8th Adam Hendrix U.S.A. 222,500
9th Martin Zamani U.S.A. 215,000
10th Tom Wheaton U.S.A. 211,000




Joe Ellison

Joseph is a dedicated journalist and horse racing fanatic who has been writing about sports and casinos for over a decade. He has worked with some of the UK's top bookmakers and provides Premier League soccer tips on a regular basis. You'll likely find him watching horse racing or rugby when he isn't writing about sport.

Back To Top
Back To Top