I came into the Rio early this morning to make sure I could secure a seat in Media Row. It was 9:45 a.m. local time and the room was quiet. There were no dealers, no floor people, and only one security guard. In one corner, a few cash games were being played and workers were setting up the tables with the proper amount of chairs and “swag” that each player would get. The swag this year was a snack bag of beef jerky and a seat cushion. I kicked back and sipped on my coffee, taking in the scene, knowing in less than two hours the room would be filled to capacity with players eager to make their mark on the poker world.
The players were allowed in about 15 minutes before noon and the quiet faded into the loud chatter of people talking excitedly with their new best friends (or enemies depending on how you look at it) and the clatter of shuffling chips. Surprisingly, Jack Effel and Jeffrey Pollack took the stage right on time and the event started with little fanfare. There was no marching band, no Wayne Newton, just a quiet shuffle up and deal from the Jacks Links’ mascot, Sasquatch, that Effel had to repeat.
It was a smaller than expected crowd, causing some members of the media, WSOP staff, and media to worry if the numbers for this year’s event were going to decrease dramatically. The Amazon Room, save five to ten tables for cash games, was full and there was only 11 tables going on in Brasilia. This meant there was slightly over 1,000 players playing today. I don't think there is anything to worry about though as traditionally the last two days are close to sold out at 2,500+ which means we're looking at 7,000+ if the first two days have 1,000 apiece.
I made my first walk through with “The Official Gorilla of the 2009 WSOP.” I snagged about 20 photos including the gorilla's purchaser, Beth Shak, Jeffrey Pollack (who held a sign proclaiming it the official gorilla), Jack Effel, and even Norman Chad. I received my usual strange looks and laughs and explained the story at least 10 times. It's a little embarrassing but it's all in good fun so I don't mind it too much.
At one table, I saw a crazy hand go down that proved that even amateurs are capable of making great plays. I picked up the action on the river with about 5,000 in the pot and the board reading . The player in the big blind led out for 4,000. An early position player made it 8,000 to go. The button made it 20,000 to go. The big blind took five minutes to make his decision, glancing back at his cards numerous times. I caught his hand briefly (and since he revealed what he had after the hand, I'm ok with saying what it was). It was for the ace high flush. He finally folded, convinced his flush was no good. The early position player didn't take as long and much to the table's surprise turned over for a flopped full house. It was a great fold, however, as the button turned over for flopped quads. Some good poker there, I have to admit I was impressed (more so by the guy that folded the full house as the flush fold is standard there in my opinion).
It's now easier than ever to make a dinner break. Instead of the customary five levels they usually play on Day 1, they are only playing four levels. A number of players were curious and/or complaining about it so I went and asked why this decision was made. I was told it was because they wanted to make sure that they didn't come close to making the money on Day 2 since they almost had a problem with that last year. It'll mean longer days after Day 2 though, so the players better buckle in for a long, grueling tournament if they make it that far. Of course if they do make it that far it means they've cashed, so I'm sure it'll just be a minor inconvenience.
I've always wondered exactly how random a table breaking is. Why? Because I see the following happen way too much: Jason Alexander's table is broken up. He moves to a “random” table. Said random table contains Brad Garrett two to his left. I've seen these “random” moves happen all the time. I'm going to go out on a limb (even though the floor and ESPN swear it's purely coincidental) and say it's intentional. Conspiracy theorists rejoice!
What are the odds of this happening? First, a player with quads lost to a player who had a straight flush. Then about an hour later, a player holding on a board actually lost. That's right, he had a straight flush but his opponent had for a royal flush. The RNG is rigged!
Players are about to go on the dinner break. I'll be back at the end of the day with the rest of the highlights from Day 1A.