The longest Day 1 anywhere in poker concluded over the weekend. The first round of the World Series of Poker Main Event is split into four separate sections held from Thursday to Sunday. After Day 1d concludes the remaining players are combined into Day 2a and 2b, after which everyone left plays on the same day.
In total there were 6,494 players who registered for this year’s main event, contributing to a prize pool of $61 million. First place will be worth around $8.5 million, and everyone who makes the November Nine will leave the event a millionaire. This is the third largest main event field ever assembled, finishing just 400 players behind last year’s total.
With 1,116 players assembled at the tables, Day 1a was officially begun by the Jack Link’s Beef Jerky Sasquatch. After the immortal “Shuffle up and Deal” had been uttered play started in earnest. At the end of the day there were still 821 players remaining.
Everyone who’s anyone can be found among the sea of tables at the main event. Amid the throng were former champions Jerry Yang (2007), Johnny Chan (1987, 1988), and Tom McEvoy (1983). Also present were TV & Film stars Jason Alexander, Brad Garret, and Jennifer Tilly, along with heat-conscious musician Nelly. John Phan picked up two bracelets in one week last year, but he couldn’t manage more than 35 minutes in this year’s big tournament. He was the first notable name to bust from the 2009 main event.
Day 1b was introduced by a more stately figure, in the shape of Doyle Brunson. After beginning play, poker’s patriarch took his seat along with his son Todd. Former champions Chris Moneymaker (2003) and Greg Raymer (2004) were present, along with Bobby’s Room master Barry Greenstein. Other well known faces competing on Day 1b included Erik Seidel, Mike Matusow, David “The Dragon” Pham, and Shaun Deeb.
Poker’s most powerful legal advocate Barney Frank paid the World Series a visit on Day 1c, and joined WSOP commissioner Jeffery Pollack on stage to declare “Shuffle up and Deal”. His visit was quickly eclipsed by the extravagant arrival of Phil Hellmuth. Phil has made a tradition out of over the top main event entrances, having previously crashed a race car into the Rio and dressed up as General Patton.
This year his coming was heralded by scores of models dressed as Roman’s who flanked a red carpet leading into the Rio. Phil then approached the casino dressed as Julius Caesar, borne on a plinth by four centurions. His march through the Rio, entourage in tow, caused a swirl of media and public attention. “We’re just having as much fun as we can have,” he later announced. When pressed for his ideas next year he commented that “I like the idea of being Gambit, having watched ‘X-Men.’”
Phil joined 1,695 other players at the tables on Day 1c and was one of the 1,106 who made it through to Day 2. Among the notables on show were 4-time bracelet winner Daniel Negreanu, and former $50k H.O.R.S.E. and main event champion Scotty Nguyen. Also drawing attention was Jeff Lisandro, undoubtedly the player of this year’s WSOP. His 3-bracelet haul has tied the all-time record, and he’s became the first player to ever win the Stud Triple Crown in one year.
Day 1d was mired in controversy in its early stages. The event reached capacity after 2,809 players were registered, leaving hundreds of disappointed hopefuls crowding the area outside the Amazon room trying to get a seat. Phil Ivey also caused waves when he arrived late. The intention was to move players to the ESPN feature table, but Phil objected and staff agreed to keep him off-camera for the time being. The other players at his table were understandably disgruntled, given that they could have been in line for around $10,000 in sponsorship money each if they had made it onto TV. Phil later revealed that he had been playing for two day’s straight in Bobby’s Room and hadn’t felt up to facing a TV broadcast.
At the end of the final Day 1 of the 2009 main event there were 1,816 players left and one outstanding chip leader. Troy Weber amassed a huge 353,000 stack to easily capture the overall Day 1 chip lead. Among his opponents on Day 1d were main event stars Robert Varkonyi (2002), Peter Eastgate (2008), and Ivan Demidov – 2nd in the ME last year and the only player to make the final table at both the WSOP and WSOPE main events in the same year.
There are still countless hours ahead of any hopeful champions, but some notable names building stacks early include J.C. Tran (139,975), Bertrand ‘Elky’ Grospellier (127,475), and the unstoppable machine that is Jeff Lisandro (146,950).