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Have you ever played an online multi-table tournament and just wished that being the chip leader after the first hour guaranteed a pay day? Or how about a live tournament that spans a few days – wouldn’t it be nice to know that coming out of day two with the chip lead guarantees you at least a few thousand dollars? All this and more is made possible at the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star event, held in San Jose California from March 10th to March 14th.

The tournament gets its name from the fact that notable pros have been chosen to be ‘Shooting Stars’, players that have $5,000 bounties on their heads. Bust a Shooting Star, win $5,000 – simple as 1, 2, 3! You also win a t-shirt with that particular Shooting Star’s picture. If any of the Shooting Stars win the event, they will win their own bounty and keep their own T-shirt.

As alluded to in the first paragraph, this tournament is also unique because it awards chip leaders extra money as bonus prizes. The chip leaders on Day 1a, Day 1b, and Day 2 all win $10,000, whether or not they actually end up placing ‘in the money’ or not!

The tournament had a $10,000 buy-in and attracted 376 players. This generated an impressive a $1 million first prize.

After Day 1, Brandon Cantu had already doubled his buy-in in prize money. First he busted Bill Edler, which earned him his first $5,000 bounty. His second bounty came by eliminating John Juanda (in a race situation, nonetheless), giving him more chips to go along with another $5,000 and, of course, a John Juanda t-shirt. The second half of Cantu’s total $20,000 was awarded to him because he was able to bust another player during the last five minutes of play and gain enough chips to be the Day 1a chip leader.

24 Shooting Stars played Day 1a and only five remained at the end of the day. Here were the Day 1a chip leaders and then the stacks of the five remaining Shooting Stars:

1) Brandon Cantu – 242,300
2) Thanh Che – 215,700
3) Paul Britto – 188,500
4) Chanh Pham – 159,900
5) Zack Felder – 150,500

8 ) J.C. Tran – 115,600
16) Layne Flack – 63,100
30) Miami John Cernuto – 34,600
40) Kathy Liebert – 18,500
46) Men Nguyen – 6,200

The Shooting Stars fared a bit better on Day 1b with Ted Forrest (last years Bay 101 Shooting Star winner) leading the way by finishing with a top ten chip stack by the time the day was over. 11 total Shooting Stars survived the day. A funny situation occurred when Mike Matusow was moved to the table his agent was sitting at! Joe Hachem decided to make it interesting by offering Matusow’s agent, Mike Belsky, an additional $1,000 (on top of the $5,000 bounty) for busting his client. This additional bounty was never collected and Matusow managed to survive Day 1b, albeit with a stack well below average.

Day 1b’s biggest bounty collector was John Phan, who managed to bust both Kristy Gazes and Eli Elezra for $5,000 each. Blair Hinkle, a young online professional, ended up the day’s chip leader, outlasting Clonie Gowen to win the $10,000 bonus.

Here were the top five chip counts from Day 1b:

1) Blair Hinkle: 170,800
2) Clonie Gowen: 163,300
3) Paul Wasicka: 140,600
4) Ralph Perry: 136,900
5) Thahn Phung: 135,600

Here were the additional 11 Shooting Stars moving on to Day 2:

9) Ted Forrest – 118,600
25) Isabelle Mercier – 61,200
31) Joe Hachem – 52,600
35) Phil Laak – 47,000
41) Erick Lindgren – 42,700
45) Jennifer Harman – 40,800
49) Barry Greenstein – 38,900
57) Mike Matusow – 33,500
60) Cyndy Violette – 29,300
73) Allen Cunningham – 19,700
91) Scotty Nguyen – 7,200

Everyone’s purpose on Day 2 was to build a chip stack and end the day in the top 36. It was Shooting Star Isabelle Mercier’s bust that ended a long day of cards: she got it all in versus the chip leader, her flush against Mike Baker’s set of tens. Baker ended up rivering a full house to knock Mercier out, which meant he kept his chip lead and won a bonus of $10,000 for ending the day as chip leader. He also won Mercier’s bounty, and after Mercier left briefly to privately anguish over her bad beat, she came back to congratulate Baker and autograph his t-shirt.

Here were the top five chip stacks after Day 2:

1) Mike Baker – 952,500
2) Dan Morris – 701,000
3) Jason Gray – 528,000
4) John Phan – 495,000
5) Noah Jefferson – 396,000
6) Clonie Gowen – 326,500

Five Shooting Stars remained after Day 2, and all of them had below-average stacks:

15) J.C. Tran – 183,500
16) Jennifer Harman – 164,500
25) Joe Hachem – 100,000
29) Layne Flack – 89,000
32) Ted Forrest – 64,500

Day 3 saw Brandon Cantu come back and regain his chip lead. He had finished Day 1a with the chip lead but lost it and became an average stack after Day 2. On Day 3 he picked up his fourth bounty of the tournament, this time Joe Hachem. They got it all in on the turn, Hachem with top pair and Cantu with middle pair; Cantu rivered his kicker, however, and he raked in the chips while Hachem busied himself by yelling in agony, “No! Every time!” Cantu increased his chip stack further as the night went on, at one point winning an incredible 17 hands in a row. This was due to relentless aggression, and the streak lasted for 30 minutes.

Day 3 featured 6-max tables, and the dealers kept dealing until it was down to the final 6. Cantu (who else?) busted the final table bubble by eliminating J.C. Tran in a cooler that gave Tran a set of kings and Cantu a set of aces. Tran’s bust meant Cantu had won his fifth bounty of the tournament.

Here’s how the final table will look:

Seat 1: Noah Jefferson – 842,000
Seat 2: John Phan – 374,000
Seat 3: Brandon Cantu – 3,323,000
Seat 4: Steve Sung – 474,000
Seat 5: Jennifer Harman – 541,000
Seat 6: Michael Baker – 1,964,000

Day 4 takes place tomorrow, and someone will be taking home $1 million (or, in Cantu’s case, even more). Be sure to return to the FTR Blogs on Saturday because dthorne04 will be writing a report on what is sure to be a great final table!