1,287 players kicked off the WSOP Main Event, a turnout more like a $3k NLH event rather than the premier event in poker. The field should vary significantly each day, and any estimates of the final number of players remains largely guesswork. It will really be four one-day tournaments, with those surviving the first six levels playing again on Tuesday and Wednesday. Those surviving Day 2A and 2B return Thursday to play Day 3, the first time everyone will sit together on the same day.
The World Series of Poker continues to juxtapose bizarre imagery during the tournament. WSOP Commissioner Jeffery Pollack stands in his pinstriped suit and handkerchief, an elegant statesman of his field. Comedian George Wallace announced the ritualistic "Shuffle up and deal." Wallace may be a fine performer, but his presence made it seem like Kathy Griffin was double booked and unable to attend. The Planters Peanut waltzed through the Amazon Room, a sophomoric image made even more strange as nary a peanut could be found at the table. Top it off with Jeff Madsen in the court jester suit, and you can appreciate where the World Series of Poker stands.
The Media members, zombie-like for the last two weeks as events blurred together, somehow cloned themselves to create a horde to swoop down on the players. Maybe it was the free sandwiches brought for the press, much like water to the cute furry pets in Gremlins. Overnight, there seemed to be three press members per table. The PokerNews staffers had to slalom around newbie gawkers who had been assigned to cover the spectacle yet weren't entirely sure if a straight beat a flush (it doesn't, by the way).
Players started with 20k in chips with six levels lasting two hours each. Blinds started at 25/50 and worked their way to 400/800 with a 100 ante by 2:00AM. An unexpectedly large number of pros decided to give Day 1A a chance. These included Gabe Thaler, Beth Shak, Antonio Esfandiari, Will Durkee, Keith Sexton, Mike Sexton, Lee Markholt, Farzad Bonyadi, CK Hua, Marco Traniello, Richard Brodie, John Spadavecchia, Mark Vos, Josh Arieh, David Woo, John Stolzman, Barry Greenstein, Vince Van Patten, Ram Vaswani, Andy Black, Haralabos Voulgaris, Marcel luske, Alex Bolotin, Tony Ma, Terrence Chan, Billy Baxter, Huck Seed, William Franceschine, Steve Billirakis, Minh Ly, Liz Lieu, Dewey Tomko, Alex Jacob, Jeff Madsen, Victor Ramdin, David Ulliott, Brandon Cantu, Tom Schneider, Eli Elezra, Eric Froehlich, Thomas Wahlroos, Joe Beevers, Chris Bjorin, John D'Agostino, Mel Judah, Joe Tehan, Michael Mizrachi, Julian Gardner, Greg Mueller, Mickey Appleman, and Joe Awada.
Three former Main Event champions drew a great amount of attention. Amarillo Slim and Johnny Chan started only a few tables away from one another, while Doyle Brunson played on the ESPN Feature Table. None of the three made it to the dinner break.
For some pros who had been here since 1 June, they just couldn't get enough poker. CK Hua spent most of his dinner break playing Chinese Poker with the same band of degenerates he's played with for over thirty days.
Players with massive chip stacks early had no guarantee of surviving late. Nestor Martinez was the chip leader then went on a rough slide that included his bustout hand, a four-way all-in. Andy Black was the first player over 100k then fell under 75k as evening progressed. Victor Ramdin was up to 90k at one point only to be busted by Mark Vos after midnight. One player who steadily built his stack through the levels was Julian Gardner (above). The 2002 WSOP Main Event runner-up cashed in the 2003 and 2004 Main Events, and his Final Table in the $2k NLH last year showed he's no flash in the pan. He sat on 196k late in Level 6.
Al King (105k) and Mike Giordano (90k) sat on opposite sides of Table 20, but both sat in the top twenty in chips as Level 6 drew to a close. The Canadian retiree now living in San Diego has only been playing poker for three years. "I'm living the dream life," said King.
Giordano had a donkey as a card protector, but he continually brutalized the players on his end of the table. It was one of those irony card protectors. Both are living the dream that is Day 1 at the Main Event, stacking orange 5k chips and yellow 1k chips into creative designs as more and more are amassed.
Top Twenty in Chips after Day 1A:
Tinten Olivier 270,500
John Dutchak 209,600
Stephen Austin 205,000
Michael Tureniec 203,900
Aurelio Arcano 166,000
Kitai Davidi 164,700
Scott Yeates 163,200
Dane Lomas 161,800
Andrius Tapinas 159,100
Alex Michaels 155,500
Adam Weiss 151,400
Cyrus Farzad 150,000
Adam "Admo" Richardson 149,700
Tuan Lam 148,400
Andras Kovacs 145,900
Matt Shepsky 145,400
Alexander Dietrich 142,400
Jeff Weiss 142,000
Casey Chldress 142,000
Francis Cagney 133,100