The $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Championship main event of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) started last Thursday at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas as the first of four day one sessions took place.
The first major surprise of the tournament was that poker legend Doyle Brunson DID take a seat at event #58, even though he had stated he would not be playing just a few days before when citing a lack of enthusiasm and frustration for his withdrawal.
However, Day 1A did not go well for the 77-year-old 10-time WSOP bracelet winner after he had started proceedings with the honour of shuffling up and dealing the first hand of the event.
Brunson wished all 897 entrants in the Amazon and Pavilion Rooms the best of luck, but the two-time WSOP main event champ made an early exit from the feature table, although he was met with a standing ovation by the gathered railbirds.
Could this be Brunson’s final main event at the WSOP? Or maybe even his last visit to the series? Only time will tell, but this was his second successive WSOP without a cash finish, so – following on from his earlier comments – it does seem likely that we have seen the last of this living legend at the world’s biggest poker tournament.
Vegas-based Fred Berger – who played on Day 1A – tops the overall chip leaderboard on 209,500, to be followed by Day 1B entrant Ben Lamb, of Tulsa, on 188,925, while Day 1D’s Mory Little, of Charlotte, sits on 179,450 and California’s Kevin Song holds 163,325 from Day 1C.
The main event has attracted 6,865 in total entrants to be just 454 down on last year’s 7,319 and a massive reduction of 1,908 on the record 8,773-strong field of 2006.
Still, last night’s Day 1D attracted 2,802 players to make this year’s event the third largest in WSOP history, overcoming the fields of 2007 to 2009, when the tournament registered 6,358, 6,844 and 6,494 competitors respectively.
Not so long ago, many commentators thought the WSOP main event would witness fewer than 5,000 entrants, but that figure has been blown out of the water as the near-7,000 field has created a prize pool of $64,531,000 and a top prize of $8,711,956. A total of 693 players will be paid.
Ty Stewart – the WSOP executive director – was definitely thrilled by the turnout, stating that he now hopes “that one and for all, people stop underestimating poker – it’s a beautiful game”.
However, it should also be noted that this summer’s WSOP – following in the wake of April 15’s ‘Black Friday’, when online poker sites PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker were shut down by the USA Department of Justice (DoJ) – has seen a healthy 3.7% increase in numbers on last year’s 72,966 through the 58 events to create a record 75,672 entries.
Back to Day 1A, though, and it took just 26 minutes for the first elimination to arrive, with almost 100 participants hitting the rail as the first two levels were played.
In total, 337 players failed to make today’s Day 2A of the main event to leave us with 560 survivors. Vegas-based pro Fred Berger – who lifted the 2002 $3,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em event for $197,400 – ended the opening day on top with 209,500 chips.
The 2010 WSOP Circuit main event champ was followed by Shane Sigsbee (182,600), of Texas, while Kyle Burnside (159,050), of Massachusetts, Frenchman Cedric Annen (155,400) and Colorado’s Michael Bena (150,350) completed the top five on Day 1A.
Other big-name pros to make today’s Day 2A – where they will be joined by the Day 1C survivors to create a 2,031-strong field– with better-than-average chip stacks include Annette Obrestad, Filippo Candio, Lex Veldhuis, Soi Nguyen, Olivier Busquet and David Diaz, while Sammy Farha, Billy Baxter and Matt Glantz might be down in chips but can never be counted out.
Comedian Jason Alexander – most famous for his role as George Costanza on hit sitcom series Seinfeld – also made it through the opening day’s levels to sit on 63,150 chips.
Alexander enjoys the main event but has so far failed to cash, although he showed some wonderful poker skills to remain in contention after facing the likes of Vanessa Selbst, Kevin McBride, Benny Spindler, Barry Shulman, Glantz and Obrestad.
While savouring the atmosphere of the main event, the 51-year-old from Newark in New Jersey maintained that he always tries “to be respectful” of the fact the poker pros involved are there to make a living – unlike him – although he also emphasised that he’s in Vegas “to do as well” as he can.
But, of course, some well-known faces joined Brunson on the sidelines, including former main event winners Jerry Yang (from 2007) and Greg Raymer (from 2004). The leaves just China’s Johnny Chan – the main event winner from 1987 and 1988 – as the only former champ to make it to Day 2.
Additionally, Selbst and Chris Oliver – who have both enjoyed good times at this WSOP – also made swift exits, as did players such as John Hennigan, Antoine Saout, Josh Arieh, Brett Richey, Chris Klodnicki, McLean Karr, Scott Montgomer, Faraz Jaka, Jeffrey Papola, Vinny Vinh, Evelyn Ng, Matt Affleck, Tom Schneider and Ari Engel.
Top 10 Day 1A chip leaders at the $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Championship:
1. Fred Berger (USA) – 209,500
2. Shane Sigsbee (USA) – 182,600
3. Kyle Burnside (USA) – 159,050
4. Cedric Annen (France) – 155,400
5. Michael Bena (USA) – 150,350
6. Lynne Mitchnick (USA) – 145,675
7. Juan Perez (Argentina) – 143,425
8. David Diaz (USA) – 139,150
9. Christopher MacFarland (USA) – 135,350
10. Philipp Gruissem (Germany) – 133,050