Marty Derbyshire wpt benz

Season XVII of the World Poker Tour kicked off at the Gardens Casino in Southern California this past weekend, offering players a little more incentive than usual.

The Gardens Casino added $250,000 in cash and prizes to the $5,000 buy-in WPT Gardens Main Event prize pool.

In fact, the event is running July 21 to 26 with two starting days. Plus, the Gardens Casino is adding $200,000 in cash and a Mercedes-Benz SLC Roadster to the prize pool in an effort to draw big numbers.

A Mercedes-Benz SLC Roadster trophy

The Mercedes-Benz SLC Roadster is being offered up as a first-place trophy. The WPT Gardens Main Event winner will still have his or her name etched on the traditional WPT Champions Cup as well.

The Gardens Casino also ran a series of mega satellites leading up to the Main Event with plans to award as many as 40 seats into the tournament.

Further incentives to enter the first event of the WPT’s 17th season include the use of a new and upgraded structure that includes 40,000 starting chips and a big blind ante.

Saturday’s Season XVII WPT Gardens Poker Festival Main Event Day 1a drew a whopping 209 entries as result.

At the start of the fourth level on Sunday’s Day 1b, another 175 had entered. However, those numbers are expected to climb significantly. Registration is open until part way through Monday’s Day 2. Plus, players are allowed two entries per starting flight, and two more on Day 2, for a maximum of six.

Brandon Lai had the clubhouse lead on Saturday night after bagging 204,000 in chips on Day 1a. Approximately 100 players survived that first flight with well-known poker pro Ari Engel just behind Lai with 201,700 in chips.

High roller Jake Schindler, who finished third in the Season XV WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic, also bagged big. Plus, Kitty Kuo, who finished runner-up in last season’s WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic, is among the leaders as well.

Glendale’s Art Papazyan in the hunt

Season XV WPT L.A. Poker Classic winner Daniel Strelitz is also in the mix. Plus, after winning two WPT titles in Season XVI and earning the Hublot WPT Player of the Year title, Glendale’s Art Papazyan has a contending stack heading into Monday’s Day 2.

The WPT Gardens Main Event will play down to a champion at a final table set to begin Thursday, July 26 at 4 p.m. local time. has live coverage of the event.

There are also several other big events as a part of the WPT Gardens Poker Festival surrounding the Main Event.

A $25,500 High Roller will run Tuesday, July 24. The event is rake-free for pre-registered players. Plus, it will feature a shot clock.

On Monday, July 23, the Gardens is hosting a pair of step satellites for the event, beginning with a $275 buy-in. Additionally, a $2,200 8-Game Mix tournament will go off Wednesday, July 25.

The Gardens Casino

Previously known as Hawaiian Gardens, the Gardens Casino cardroom is located in the Los Angeles County city of Hawaiian Gardens.

The cardroom opened in 1997. It later saw a $90 million renovation in 2016, expanding the facility to 200,000 square feet.

Where the Gardens Casino stands on the issue of online poker in California these days is unclear. However, Hawaiian Gardens was a member of The California Online Poker Association (COPA) before it dissolved in 2012. COPA was a coalition of Indian tribes and California cardrooms lobbying to legalize online poker in California.

Season XVII on the WPT will include 12 feature events, starting with the action at the Gardens Casino.

Editorial credit: PREJU SURESH /

Marty Derbyshire
Marty Derbyshire - Martin Derbyshire is a veteran of the world of poker and gambling, having worked as a reporter, producer, and editor in the industry for more than a decade. He has traveled the globe interviewing high-profile personalities and contributes to a number of publications, including,, and