An estimated 1,300+ players filled the World Series of Poker tournament room for Day 1A. Tournament organizers stood on the no-limit lounge to kick things off just after noon.
"The 2007 World Series of Poker presented by Milwaukee's Best Light has been the best ever and I know this will be the best main event ever," said WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack, ever the pitchman.
Comedian George Wallace, who plays a show on the Las Vegas Strip, opened up the ceremonies in traditional fashion.
"Do me a favor, ladies and gentleman," he said. "Shuffle up and deal."
And with that the sounds of chips clicking, the siren song of poker tournaments, began as players started things off with $50-$100 blinds and $20,000 in chips, both double the starting counts last year.
There was some heavy betting action early at Table 61. "This has the makings of a good table," said one player. "Somebody's coming out of this table as the chip leader."
Nearby at Table 67, seven-time gold bracelet winner Billy Baxter, a fixture at the WSOP since it began, sat with a table full of mostly younger players. One might wonder if many of them even knew who he was.
Across the ropes at Table 49, World Poker Tour co-host Vince Van Patten and former main event final table participant Andy Black, fresh off a final table in the Deuce-to-Seven Lowball tournament that concluded Thursday, were playing only six handed in the early going as a few competitors had yet to show.
There was little discussion going on across the room until an announcement was made about five minutes in that someone had busted.
"Congratulations everyone. You've outlasted one player," said Tournament Director Jack Effel.
The noise level increased for about 30 seconds with the buzz of the news and then returned to normal. After all, there was $10,000 on the line and seriousness prevailed.
Well, at least it did in most quarters. At Table 106, last year's WSOP darling Jeff Madsen was sitting in the seven seat wearing a joker costume.
Madsen and Gavin Smith lost a prop bet with Joe Sebok similar to the bet Sebok and Smith made last year. Sebok had more earnings during the WSOP in certain events and so Madsen had to wear the joker costume on Friday. Smith will wear the same costume on Monday. Last year, Sebok lost the bet to Smith and had to wear various costumes during the main event.
Sebok seemed to enjoy how silly Madsen looked in the costume as he rail birded last year's two-time bracelet winner. Sebok plays on Saturday - in regular clothes for the first time in two years.
"We thought we would have me be the king and they would carry me in, but it was too hard logistically," Sebok said.
WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla said it wouldn't be fair to take the numbers for Day 1A and extrapolate them for the rest of the main event. "It's a meaningless number," he said. "You can't go four times that."
With the mega satellites running in the player pavilion (a.k.a. "the tent") over the next three days, the numbers for Monday could be very good.
Dalla floated around the room announcing the presence of former world champions - 1978 champ Bobby Baldwin at Table 60, 1972 champ Amarillo Slim at Table 116, 1996 winner Huck Seed at Table 84 - to give the winners their due and applause from the crowd. Johnny Chan drew ESPN handheld cameras as he went for his third main Event bracelet. About an hour into the affair 1976 and 1977 winner Doyle Brunson finally showed up to the featured table and received the loudest applause.
Meanwhile, the first timers, like Tuscaloosa, Ala., resident Jerry Brown, were enjoying their first WSOP main event experience. "Nervous," he said of how he felt. "I've got butterflies."
Some pros will go deep, maybe one of them will even win it. But what makes the WSOP so fascinating are the players who got in on a $40 satellite and go deep or the ones who had the courage to put up $10,000 to take their shot. In the coming days, you can expect to hear many stories like these as a select few amateurs make a deep run into the world's biggest poker tournament.