The first official day of action at the World Series of Poker got underway on Friday, May 28. Excitement was in the air as the entire Convention Center of the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino was reserved only for poker players, fans, vendors, and media, and there was no shortage of smiles as everyone populated the hallways and ballrooms for the first time in 2010.
Action kicked off with the $500 Casino Employees No-Limit Hold’em tournament at noon, followed by the immensely popular $50,000 Poker Player’s Championship 8-Game tournament at 5pm. While the Rio wasn’t anywhere near reaching capacity for players or fans, the media was out in full force for the latter event, and everyone was acutely aware that capacity would be reached on Saturday with the first $1,000 NLHE tournament on tap. Most enjoyed the fairly tranquil nature of Day 1. And here’s how it played inside the tournament ropes.
Event 1: Day 1, $500 Casino Employees NLHE
The first event, restricted to casino employees who can prove that they work in the industry, is a hit-or-miss event. Many want to play, but irregular but much-needed work hours often get in the way. And if the recession hits anyone, it’s those who grind out a living in casinos. Whatever the reasons, the registration numbers were significantly lower in 2010 than the prior year. The 2009 WSOP casino employees event brought 866 players to the tables for a $389,700 prize pool. This year?
Prize pool: $324,450
The numbers were still solid enough to allow 72 players to be paid for their efforts, with $914 being the minimum payout and $71,424 reserved for the winner
As play progressed through the day, it was apparent that the money bubble would burst before action ended for the day. And it did. It happened late into the evening when Dan Miller and Patrick Silvey went to see a flop. Silvey pushed all-in, and Miller called for his tournament life with . Silvey showed and was behind…until the came on the turn. The changed nothing, and the set of aces eliminated Miller in 73rd place. As he did the walk of shame out of the tournament area, the rest of the players, along with their friends and family on the rail, cheered the money.
The night finally ended before 1am with 53 players remaining. The most notable player in the field was likely Bellagio’s tournament director, Jack McClelland, who was still in action with 15K in chips at the end of the night. Estimates by the live reporting team showed Kent Washington to be the chip leader with 168,300 chips, followed by Jonathan Kotula bagging up 108,700.
Play resumes on Saturday, May 29, at 2:30pm and will play until there is a winner.
Event 2: Day 1, $50,000 Poker Player’s Championship (8-Game Mixed)
This was the tournament talked up since its announcement, as it was set to replace last year’s $50,000 Championship HORSE event. Though the price was the same, a few games were added, making it a compilation of Deuce to 7 triple draw, limit Holdem, Omaha-8, razz, stud, stud-8, no limit Holdem, and pot limit Omaha. It was still going to be a five-day tournament, one with breaks after each 90-minute level and ample space on the tournament floor for players and media. The difference from the prior year was that the tournament was being played early in the series (as compared to being Event 49 last year) and was going to be taped by ESPN cameras and the final table aired later in the year, and in order to make it audience-friendly, the final table was set to be all no-limit hold’em.
The 2009 event had only 95 players but a massive $4,560,000 prize pool, and it was David Bach who won the $1,276,806 first place prize. Bach returned this year to defend his title and make a quick speech welcoming the players and speaking of what an honor it was to win the Chip Reese trophy. The introduction ceremony also included a video tribute to Reese and some touching words from his long-time friend Doyle Brunson.
Play got underway with some of the biggest names in poker at the tables. The rail was full of poker fans trying to catch a glimpse of Brunson and others like Scotty Nguyen, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, Jennifer Harman, Phil Ivey, and Andy Bloch. Some of the later arrivals included Tom Dwan, Howard Lederer, and Chris Ferguson. All in all, the field blew past last year’s numbers with the following:
Prize pool: $5,568,000
The top sixteen players were going to make something back for their investment, with the minimum being $98,330 and the maximum, as set aside for the winner, of $1,559,046.
Though most players realize there is a lot of play for the money in this tournament, some get anxious with their chips and bust out on the first day. Dan Shak took the honor of being the first to go, after he got all of his chips in during PLO with on a board. But Dan Kelly called with , and the turn of and river of gave Kelly the win. Shak left the building, $50,000 shorter than when he walked in and before the dinner break even came at the end of Level 2.
Others to leave the field early were Marc Karam, Tom Dwan, Greg Mueller, and Andrew Brown. Late in the evening, Brian Townsend was also eliminated, along with Mike Matusow, Daniel Alaei, John Hansen, Roman Yitzaki, and Alexander Kostritsyn.
Just past 2:30am, it was decided that six more hands would be played before wrapping up for the night. And at approximately 3:00am, play wrapped with 105 players remaining. The chip leader was reported to be Erik Sagstrom with 329,100 chips, and David Oppenheim was close behind with 313,800.
Day 2 of five in this event gets players back to the tables at 3:00pm on Saturday, May 29.