Prior to the start of the Horseshoe Hammond Circuit event, a player referred to the stop as the “Super Bowl” of the Circuit tour.  While that name is probably better reserved for May’s WSOP National Championship presented by Southern Comfort 100 Proof, the sentiment remains valid—this tournament is one of the biggest Circuit stops of the year and players always have high hopes that they can leave the Chicagoland area with a big score.

Last year, this stop set a record for the largest Circuit Main Event ever with 1,615 players and a nearly $2.4 million prize pool.  This year’s Main Event is on pace to match or pass that number after 8365 players turned up Friday for the first of two starting days of play in the $1,675 buy-in tournament.

The Day 1A field was packed with notables not just from the Circuit, but the poker world at large. Gold bracelet winners Gavin Smith, Owais Ahmed, Adam Friedman, and Blair Hinkle as well as Mohsin Charania, Matt Affleck, Brian Hastings, and Nick Grippo are just some of the recognizable names in the field.

At the end of the opening day of action, there were 170 survivors and a name several people are familiar with leading the pack.  Canadian poker pro Mike Leah jumped out to a fast start in Level 2 and rode that big stack all the way through to the end of play.  Leah bagged up 276,100 chips from a starting stack of 20,000.

The great start bodes well for Leah not just in terms of his Main Event chances, but his shot at the Casino Champion title at Horseshoe Hammond.  Leah was the early frontrunner in that contest, but now sits in a tie for second place behind the current leader, Ari Engel.

Engel was one of the more than 500 Day 1A casualties along with Affleck, Smith, Friedman, Charania, Hinkle, Kathy Liebert, La Sengphet, Allen Kessler, Isaac Baron, Amanda Musumeci, Faraz Jaka, and recent Horseshoe Southern Indiana Main Event winner Dan Heimiller.

Thankfully for these guys, there is another shot at the Hammond final table Saturday when Day 1B play gets underway. Cards are in the air at 12pm CT and play should last until around 1am.  Should players choose to, they can even register as late as before the start of play on Day 2 and take their seats in the event on Sunday.

Here are the top ten chip counts from the end of Day 1A.  Full chip counts are available on the WSOP Circuit Blog, along with coverage on the players in the event. Live updates from the floor are available on WSOP.com as well:

1. Mike Leah – 276,000
2. Kenneth Felten – 267,500
3. Jackson Kimball – 266,000
4. Mukul Pahuja – 261,400
5. Ashly Butler – 255,800
6. Anthony Bizzoni – 254,000
7. Sheryl Snedden – 246,100
8. Flip Jabbour – 215,000
9. Nick Grippo – 205,800
10. Kennii Nguyen – 203,000