The 2008 World Series begun in Las Vegas yesterday in an uncharacteristically low-key fashion. A marching band from the University of Las Vegas may have paraded through the Amazon room, performing a rousing rendition of “Viva Las Vegas”, but once all the horn blowing had finished it was not long before Doyle Brunson uttered the immortal words: “Shuffle Up and Deal!”

And with that the $10,000 Pot Limit Hold ’em event was underway. Only 352 players sat down at the felt, but every table was crammed with recognizable names. At the end of play it was well-known pro Eli Elezra at the head of the pack with 302,900 chips. Prodigious internet whizz Amit “amak316” Makhija was close behind him on 251,100 chips. Snapping at their heels are a cavalcade of world class professionals, including Nenad Medic, Patrick Antonius, Tony LiCastro and Phil “Unabomber” Laak.

Being a World Champion was apparently of no help yesterday, with former title-holders Tom McEvoy, Berry Johnston, Chris Moneymaker, Jamie Gold, Doyle Bruson and Greg Raymer all busting out. Champ of 2000 Chris Ferguson was more successful, sitting on a comfortable 101,700 in chips at the end of play. All time bracelet-leader Phil Hellmuth was conspicuously missing, with rumors floating around that he was limbering up for today’s big field, low buy-in event.

With play due to resume later today, the chip leaders are:

Eli Elezra 302,900
Amit Makhija 251,100
Nenad Medic 240,200
Patrik Antonius 236,300
Justin Newton 233,000
Mike Sowers 216,700
Anthony Licastro 211,000
Nikolay Evdakov 206,200
David Bach 204,100
Vivek Rajkumar 194,000

For those with less cash to burn, the $1,500 No Limit Hold ’em event got underway earlier. More than 3000 people had registered for the event when the desks closed last night, prompting some to claim that it may break WSOP field size records (for a non-main event tournament). It is likely to be one of the most popular bracelet events of the coming months, being the only contest outside of the main-event to have multiple day ones.

In other WSOP news, Phil Ivey is reportedly offering odds of 1.8-1 on him picking up a sixth bracelet… no word yet on whether he’s had any takers.

The most talked-about hand of yesterday must have been this oddity from the 10k PL HE event, featuring German pro Jon von Halle and American stalwart Kathy Liebert: On the river, Liebert checked to Halle who promptly followed suit. Halle then flipped his cards to reveal the absolute nuts – a straight flush. Checking the nuts on the river as the last player to act is now against the rules, a move designed to prevent collusion. However, Halle protested that he had misread his hand, and got away with only a warning.

The cards seem to be thoroughly in the air in this year’s World Series, with players dropping like flies and the rumor mill already churning out some great stories. It looks set to be another great year for poker at the Rio.