The Main Event kicked off with excitement and confusion. With so many qualifiers towing friends and loved ones with them, the Rio was packed with more bodies than you'd find at a porn convention. The confusion came when the numbers started rolling in. By 9:00AM, 8,431 players had registered for the Main Event, and more lined the halls outside of the Amazon Poker Room. By 10:00PM, the number stood at 8,610 and grew with every passing hour. $1,000 SNG's were running as soon as they could be filled, with the satellite director seating players until she was told to stop.
WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack introduced James Garner to kick off the Main Event, and cards were in the air a little past noon. Alternates would be seated for only the second time in the history of the Main Event (2004 being the first time). To level the playing field, alternates were sat in groups of ten at a complete table. Each player had below average chips for the room but with $10k in front of them, they were fine after an hour or two of waiting. Maurice Hawkins hails from Hollywood, Florida, home of fellow pro Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi. He paid his $10k and was at the 6th alternate table. It didn't seem to bother him too much, as he ran his stack up to $30k in chips before the dinner break.
Gus Hansen started slowly built momentum through the hours. Closing on midnight, he had slipped back down to $7k when his aces were cracked by trip jacks. Juan Carlos Mortensen towers are always lovely on the eyes, unless you're sitting at the table with him. He was building and building through the day. Mike Sexton had a strong stack of chips, some at the expense of Dan Harrington. Harrington has done more in the last year to advance the play of entrants in the WSOP than any single person, as his Harrington on Holdem series of books are now mandatory reading for everyone serious about poker.
Hoyt Corkins had a strong day, sitting on $52k before giving back a few chips around midnight. Other strong stacks included Mark Vos, Layne Flack, David Pham, Joe Tehan, and Andy Black. Other top pros pushing through Day 1A include Terrence Chan and Roland De Wolfe.
Some top names in addition to Harrington didn't make it through Day 1. Notable bust outs: William Chen, Chip Jett, Erica Schoenberg, Tony G, Young Phan, Juha Helppi, David Benyamine, Paul "Eskimo" Clark, Jim McManus, Amir Vahedi, Lee Watkinson, and Clonie Gowen. Matt Matros left with around 1,100 players remaining. Each Day 1 ends with 900 players left regardless of the time or levels.
For celebrities, it looked like Celebrity Poker Meltdown was the newest pilot making its way into the fall television season. Tobey Maguire led the parade of celebrities out of Day 1A. He got short stacked then overplayed the marginal . Maguire raised to $600 but was re-raised to $1,600. He called and saw the flop of , Maguire checked, his opponent bet $1,200 into the $3,200 pot, and Maguire called. The turn came , and Maguire pushed his remaining $2,000 and was called instantly by . The actor of Spiderman fame caught on the river for two pair, but he needed a king to beat the flopped set. Norm MacDonald was among the chip leaders at one time, but he was eliminated on a tough hand by Mark Vos. Other well known players outside of the poker world included Mekhi Phifer from the series ER and boxer Antonio Tarver.
Events #1-39 were an important part of poker history, but for Harrah's and everyone in the room it must seem like a distant series of dress rehearsals before today's Broadway premiere. And everyone who survives today hopes they have a curtain call with destiny when this drama closes.