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Poker News | World Series of Poker | WSOP2008 | WSOP 2008 Tournaments

$50K HORSE Day 1 – All the Buzz

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The Amazon Room at the Rio Convention Center had been buzzing since the day before. When the floor staff began removing tables and chairs from the room to create a spacious playing area for the $50K HORSE participants, the buzz began. And as starting time of the event approached on Day 1, the excitement was palpable.

It was obvious at the media center, as reporters who just flew in to cover this event struggled to get their media passes and find places to work in this suddenly bustling media area. The ESPN crews were scattered throughout the HORSE tournament area, setting up interviews with players who arrived early for the event. PokerNews, the official live updates reporters at the WSOP, organized their expanded crew to best provide coverage of every table. And all of the reporters had cameras in hand to capture the faces that would grace the tables of the $50K HORSE event.

The rail around the area of the “orange” section of the room, where the tables were set for this event, was full an hour before the start of the tournament. Not only had fans gathered to see just about every one of their favorite pros in one place, but other players came by to get a glimpse of what the big poker money – true high stakes poker – looked like. With the fans stacked two-persons deep along the outside and the media and Harrah’s staff buzzing on the inside of the ropes, it was quite the spectacle of a prestigious event.

Finally, a bit after the 5pm starting time, tournament director Jack Effel took to the microphone to welcome everyone. Jeffrey Pollack then said a few words about the $50K HORSE event and its inaugural tournament winner David “Chip” Reese, noting that his death in late 2007 inspired the creation of a 2008 HORSE winner’s trophy in his honor that will be presented to the winner. The last person to say a few words was Freddy Deeb, the defending champion, who mentioned again how much Chip loved the mixed games, and he said the magic words, “Shuffle up and deal!”

The players found their way to their seats, and once the friendly greetings and jokes were out of the way, it was serious business. This was tournament poker at its highest level, and the competitors who chose to put up – or be backed for or sponsored in – $50,000 for one shot at what many see as the most meaningful championship event in poker. It was time to get down to business. With 100K in tournament chips, they sat to play all of the limit games in HORSE – hold’em, Omaha/8, razz, stud, and stud/8 – in the form of eight hands per game and 90-minute levels. Players received a 20-minute break after each level and a 1-hour dinner break after the second level. Only five levels would be played on Day 1 to keep the competitors fresh for the long haul of a 5-day event.

The final tally of players was 148, which was the exact number of last year’s event. And while the prize pool announced was the same $7,104,000 as the 2007 tournament, the payout structure had varied a bit to provide a more even payout for the top 16 finishers. The 2008 prize structure was set as follows:

1st place - $1,989,120
2nd place - $1,243,200
3rd place - $781,440
4th place - $568,320
5th place - $444,000
6th place - $355,200
7th place - $284,160
8th place - $230,880
9th & 10th places - $177,600
11th & 12th places - $159,840
13th & 14th places - $142,080
15th & 16th places - $124,320

In any other tournament, it would be appropriate to write a list of notable players, but that is certainly not the case in the $50K HORSE. Brunson, Harman, Antonius, Hansen, Deeb…all of them were in the Rio for this event. And for the most part, the only stand-out exception was Sammy Farha.

The first elimination didn’t take place until after the dinner break, and his name was Jamie Pickering. The Australian who took second to Vanessa Selbst in an earlier 2008 WSOP Omaha event was crippled by David Benyamine and officially ousted by Michael Mizrachi. And Aaron Katz became the second one gone from this event, courtesy of Stephen Wolff.

Phil Hellmuth was the next to go, after he had complained for the better part of the evening that he wasn’t getting any playable hands. During a stud/8 round, he put the last of his chips in against Bruno Fitoussi and Rafi Amit, and he was ousted from the tournament, much to the dismay of some of the railbirds who were hoping for more Phil face time.

By the end of the night, several others had joined the list of only eight players who didn’t survive Day 1: David Williams, Bari Sklar, Amnon Filippi, Shunjiro Uchida, and Philippe Rouas. And the chip leader at the end of it all was young player and 2007 WSOP bracelet winner James Mackey, with Chris Reslock and Pat Pezzin closing in. Chris Bjorin was the critically low stack going into Day 2.

One day and eight players down, four days and 140 players to go!

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