Sometimes, one simple moment can sum up an entire experience. The World Series of Poker does it each year, and the 2009 Series was no different. That moment was the launch of Day 1B, as Doyle Brunson gave the “shuffle up and deal” command and kicked off the second of four starting days of the $10K NLHE Main Event.
Brunson has become the one figure that consistently and positively represents poker. His willingness to discuss the “old” days of backroom games and an unpopular way of life gives today’s players a sense of how far the game has come, and his continued presence on the tournament circuit and in the biggest cash games in the world shows that skill is the overriding factor to longevity in poker. But it also shows what a true passion for the game looks like, as age nor frustration with its ups and downs can keep the true players away. Even more, he is a genuinely nice person, always willing to sign autographs, take photos with fans, encourage new players, and roll with the nuances of the game that have developed over the years. He has shown himself to be a savvy businessman as well.
The name “Doyle” has become synonymous with the word “legend,” and his face and personality is the most recognizable one in the global world of poker. Doyle Brunson is poker.
It has become customary that Brunson kick off one of the starting days of the WSOP Main Event each year, and he is always willing to do the honors of speaking to the crowds and giving the go-ahead to start the day. His day in 2009 was Saturday, July 4, and his Texas twang gave inspiration to the players as it does every year. Thus began Day 1B of the 2009 WSOP.
But the excitement of having Brunson introduce and participate in the day was soon overtaken by the fact that the attendance was down, and notably so. Only the Amazon Room was needed for the players on hand, and the Brasilia and Miranda rooms sat empty for hours before the dealers were instructed to pack up and leave. When the final calculations were done, there were only 873 players in the field. While Day 1A’s registration number was somewhat lower than in 2008, Day 2B’s tally was significant. The 2008 number for Day 1B was 1,158, and the 2009 total was 873.
Regardless of the number, play proceeded, and one player - as must be the case - was ousted within the first five minutes of taking his $10,000 seat. Kim Sherlin decided to move all-in with two pair on the turn, and Dave D’Alesandro flipped over the flopped straight. Sherlin was ousted before he even got comfortable in the Main Event.
Notable players who were less likely to do such a thing were scattered throughout the room, with Doyle Brunson’s table being the most popular, by far, for the railbirds. The other Brunson players were there as well, with Todd and Pam in attendance at the tables as well. Other names in the room included Erik Seidel, Mike Caro, Barry Greenstein, Luca Pagano, Kara Scott, Billy Argyros, Eddie Sabat, Rolf Slotboom, Burt Boutin, Joe Sebok, Alex Kravchenko, Shaun Deeb, David Pham, Dustin Woolf, Mike Matusow, Juha Helppi, Hoyt Corkins, Bill Edler, and Vicky Coren.
Former world champions in the field, aside from Brunson, included Chris Moneymaker, Greg Raymer, Jim Bechtel, Chris Ferguson, “Amarillo” Slim Preston, and Carlos Mortensen. Moneymaker had the roughest day of them all, however, when he was crippled and finally committed with his last 8K in chips holding pocket tens. Joe Villacci woke up with pocket aces and called, and the board came to end Moneymaker’s run at another title.
Of the non-poker celebrity contingent, only two recognizable faces stood out in the field. One was professional boxer Ronald “Winky” Wright, and the other was French actor and singer Patrick Bruel. While the latter would go on to finish his day, Wright saw to his demise at one of the ESPN featured tables.
Doyle Brunson made it to the dinner break but found himself all-in shortly after, again at an ESPN featured table. His pocket threes met up with the 6-5 of another player, and the board came 9-7-3-4-A. Brunson’s set lost to the turned straight and led him out of the tournament with a standing ovation from his fellow players and fans. Todd and Pam Brunson went on to finish the day with chips.
The player to climb the leaderboard the quickest through the day was Jesse Rios, as he became the first competitor of the day to soar past the 100K mark, and he managed to maintain to finish the day in ninth place. Out of the total of 655 players who completed the four levels of the day, Brandon Demes bagged 137,075 chips and took the top spot on the leaderboard, followed by Andrew Gaw and his stack of 126,100. Nick Maimone, Samer Rahman, and Max Casal rounded out the top five.
All of the 655 survivors would take a few days of rest before returning on Tuesday, July 7, to meet with those remaining from Day 1A to play through the first Day 2 of the 2009 WSOP.