That's the number everyone wanted to hear about. 1,287 players were registered to play on Day 1a. Rumors began to circulate around the Rio about the final numbers. I heard anywhere from 4,500 to 6,500 quoted among dealers, players, staff, and media reps. Regardless of the actual number, the 2007 WSOP has taken a hit courtesy of the UIGEA.
Even though more players qualified for the WSOP main event through PokerStars than in 2006, they numbers will be lower. They won't get anywhere close to dominating the field like they have in the previous two years where you couldn't look around the room on Day 1 without seeing an average of two players at every table wearing PokerStars gear. However, PokerStars still had the most internet qualifiers in the room on Day 1a.
The good news about the low numbers was that players did not have to sit in the Poker Sauna to play in the main event. That might change on Day 1b or Day 1c, when more then 2,000 players are expected on both days. Editor's Note: As of 3am PDT, Day 1b and Day 1c has 1,500 or so players registered.
During the last two years, Day 1a was a madhouse. This year was hectic at times, yet it seemed more subdued than in previous years. I expected Day 1 to be a raging inferno filled with frenetic energy, but the mood resembled more like any event that ran two weeks ago than the biggest and most prestigious tournament in the world. It was the Main Event on Valium, whored out to the highest bidder.
From the moment Jeffrey Pollack invited a Miller suit to come up and shill Beast Lite moments before cards went in the air, I knew that the main event was doomed. "Drink beer!" she squealed. That was followed up by George Wallace uttering the famous words, "Shuffle up and deal!"
George Fuckin' Wallace? The comedian? Are you shitting me? I have nothing against George Wallace. He's funny but why the fuck was he given the honor of starting up Day 1a of the WSOP. Why? Because he works the Flamingo which is a Harrah's property. That trumps two-time WSOP bracelet winner Tom "Donkey Bomber" Schneider. Or how about Johnny Fuckin' Chan. Or even Spiderman? Why didn't they get Matt Damon to drag his ass down to the Rio. Mike McD from Rounders should be saying "Shuffle up and deal!" not a Strip comedian who tells the same lame jokes night after night to sun burnt tourists from Kenosha.
So who is going to be announcing tomorrow's start up? Will it be the chick who plays Cleopatra at Caesar's Palace or will the portly lady with a lisp that works the seafood buffet at the Rio?
That was the first travesty of the day. The biggest was the stories about checks bouncing from Harrah's that were paid out to players in earlier events. That's a shame. Those two stories would loom all day long as new stories developed.
Day 1a started fifteen minutes late. Players began with 20K in chips and levels were two hours. I was teamed up with Change100 and we had four junior reporters. We had to cover the tournament tables in the cash game section, which would be the first to break. The first thing on the agenda was to identify the biggest names in our section and find the famous celebrities and random C-listers in the room.
Janet Jones, aka Mrs. Gretzky, was in the mix. I'm shocked that she was playing since she was mentioned of being part of a gambling ring last year. At any rate, she looked a little older from when I used to wank-off to her when she pranced around in tights during the 1986 flick American Anthem. She had a bit of botox work done since then ad squeezed out a couple of offspring for The Great One. Here's what Change100 wrote for PokerNews...
"Dressed in a tight white tee, light-wash jeans and carrying an enormous quilted silver lame purse, Jones looks relaxed and focused in her seat at Table 157, her opponents likely oblivious to her fame and notoriety."That's all she could talk about was her purse. She chugged the cock of the greatest hockey player of all time and all she could talk about was her purse? Chicks, man.
Janet Jones didn't play too well. She donked off her chips and hit the rail early. There was a funny moment when she her original table broke and she had to move. As she passed Devilfish's table, he stopped in the middle of a big hand to watch her walk by as his jaw dropped. The Littlefish in Devilfish's pants liked what he saw.
By the way, according to Lance at The Poker Biz, Wayne Gretzky himself is rumored to play in the Main Event. There were rumors that Jah Rule played on Day 1a. I never saw him, but it was a certified rumor. We did confirm seeing Irv and Chris Gotti from Murders Inc. Amy got a pic of Chris Gotti's baller watch. Penguins hockey player Max Talbot was in the field along with Everybody Loves Raymond stars Ray Romano and Brad Garrett. Romano and Garrett had a last longer where the loser would donate $2,000 to the Maximum Hope Foundation.
I rarely get geeked out by meeting celebrities, but I was giddy to see Kirk Acevedo (actor from Band of Brothers who played Joe Toye) playing in the event.
Several former champions were in Day 1a including Doyle Brunson (who arrived an hour late), Bobby Baldwin, Johnny Chan, and Amarillo Slim. Brunson sat at the final table and busted early along with Chan. Baldwin went late into the night. Tom Sexton gave me a few interesting bits about Baldwin and I posted it on the live updates. He showed Baldwin what I wrote at Poker News:
Bobby "The Owl" Baldwin, the 1978 WSOP Champion, is among the players in the field on Day 1a. Soon after he won the main event, Steve Wynn offered him a job as an executive at the Golden Nugget. Within a year, he was promoted to President of the entire property.Baldwin dug it so much that he agreed to do an interview with PokerNews' own Tiffany Michelle. It was one of the best interviews that PokerNews did during the entire WSOP. You can check it out here:
Wynn saw the special qualities that Baldwin possessed. He got a degree in business at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater and as a young player, he routinely beat the biggest sharks in Las Vegas. When Wynn began a new project, he anointed Baldwin to be the person to spearhead the Mirage from the ground up. The Mirage became the standard for the modern Las Vegas as the entire world saw Steve Wynn's vision carried out by Baldwin.
When it was time to start up the Bellagio, Wynn quickly tapped Baldwin to head up that operation. He was promoted to President and CEO. These days, Bobby's Room is a popular attraction in the Bellagio poker room. That's where the biggest cash games in the world take place and feature legends such as Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, and Jen Harman.
Baldwin has since joined the ranks of the MGM Mirage where he is in charge of the Project City Center. It happens to be a $7.4 Billion construction project that will once again change the face of the Las Vegas Strip.
Baldwin has plenty of gambling stories. Books could be written about his famous golf matches at Shadow Creek. In fact, Baldwin is sporting a Shadow Creek hat while he plays in Day 1a. His stack is around 23,000. Too bad that not many of the younger players out there know about one of the true legends of Las Vegas. Bobby Baldwin is in a class by himself. He's a member of the Poker Hall of Fame, but he's a sure bet to make the Las Vegas Hall of Fame for movers and shakers.
Click here to view the Bobby Baldwin interview via RSS or Bloglines
Baldwin said several gems such as, "It's important for the game to have heritage and a foundation."
I wish that Pollack heard him say that before he got George Wallace to start Day 1a. Anyway, Baldwin talked about several topics such as the best player in poker, "Chip Reese is the finest in the world. Out of all around players, he's the best."
When he asked to give advice to you players, Baldwin mentioned, "It's great to have hopes, dreams, and aspirations. But you have to get better everyday. Everyone else is getting better. There's always more to learn about poker. Also, make certain that you can take a punch. You will lose big pots. You will lose everyday for a month sometimes. You have to have the confidence that your game will prevail in the end."
That was such amazing advice that he gave up on the spot during his break. That's why he's a true gentleman and we were lucky to have him on.
And my favorite quote from Bobby Baldwin?
"Even if you are the best player in the world, you still have to contend with Lady Luck. She can be a bitch sometimes."
At 3:01pm, I heard something I never thought I'd hear.
"Seat open! 4-8 Hold'em."
Yes, lass than three hours into the biggest poker tournament in the world, the cash games had started up and most people who walked into the Amazon Ballroom were tricked into thinking the main event was raging. When in fact that quadrant had filled up with satellite and cash game players.
Around that time, the staff announced that the first player with a Royal Flush would get a free massage. The players started booing. They wanted cash.
Speaking of free massages, Brad Garrett gave everyone at his table free massages. That was fodder for ESPN's camera along with Eric Molina's early bust out.
I wrote this for PokerNews after dinner break...
The unfortunate souls are praying for that miracle hand which will get them back into contention. Every time a dealer screams, "Seat open!" Another player cringes because they know that their fate can be sealed on the very next hand.As much as the room was not as crowded, the tension was still there. The remaining players didn't care about the numbers. All they want to do is advance to Day 2 and regroup.
By 3:00am, there were 500 players left on 50 tables. Over 787 were eliminated. By 3:30am, only 470 players were remaining. By the time Day 1a ended at 3:52am, there were around 445 players remaining.
Head over to PokerNews.com for official end of Day 1a chipcounts.
Day 1a Top 10 Chipcounts:
Tinten Olivier 270,500
John Dutchak 209,600
Stephen Austin 205,000
Michael Tureniec 203,900
Aurelio Arcano 166,000
Kitai Davidi 164,700
Scott Yeates 163,200
Dane Lomas 161,800
Andrius Tapinas 159,100
Alex Michaels 155,500
Adam Weiss 151,400
Bouncin Round the Room on Day 1a...
One herb friendly member of the media told me a funny story about how he went outside on a break and there was a WSOP player smoking a joint. He took a few hits and they started talking about The Grateful Dead. The next thing he knew, the guy handed him a second joint. Yeah, I was jealous. Hitting doobies behind the Poker Sauna. Only in Las Vegas.
I heard from one of our guys that Spiderman snuck into the ladies room to piss on one of the breaks since the line to the men's room was too long.
Spectators were all over the Rio specifically camped out in the hallways. One guy asked me for a chip count on his cousin. When I asked him what he looked like, the guy honestly said, "He's wearing sunglasses and a Boston Red Sox hat." Thanks for narrowing it down a bit, Sully.
I got a few Clonie Gowan rumors... from Full Tilt forcing her to dye her hair back to blonde to that FT dropped her. We really don't know and I think this is a case for Michalski to crack.
Dewey Tomko was seated next to Alex Jacob to start the day. Alex Jacob wasn't even born when Tomko lost heads up to Jack Straus in 1982 during the WSOP main event. I thought that was an interesting comparison from both the new school of poker and the old school.
One of the weirdest moments of the day was watching two-time WSOP bracelet winner Jeff Madsen play in a jester's costume. He lost a three-way pro bet with Gavin Smith and Joe Sebok and had to dress up.
I bumped into Michalski outside by the Poker Sauna. He told me that Hemingway said, "You can never write enough about the weather." My next post on Poker News was about the weather. By the way, it was so hot outside that when I went to Change100's car for a smoke break, I took a leak and by the time my piss hit the pavement, it evaporated. Talk about one hot fucking day.
The other big story of the day was about Vinnie Vinh's stack. He was bought into the main event and never showed up. His friends tried to get him a refund because they said he was in the hospital as his stack was blinded off. I dunno if that was a code word for "rehab" but they eventually got TD Jack Effel to make a decision. Vinh would get a refund or chose to play a different day if he was well enough. His empty chair refused to comment to reporters.
I tried to spend break time in the media room, but it was jam packed with reps from all over the world. The newbies took up space from the folks who had been there from Event #1 and there was an air of tension in the room.
"This is awfully crowded," mentioned Benjo. "The scene had changed from three days ago. As you would say, 'we're gonna need a bigger boat.' By the way, the new media rules is huge bullshit."
Benjo gave me the run down on some French players in Day 1a such as 1997 WSOP bracelet winner Claude Cohen. Jan Boubli and ElkY were both playing. They represent the old and new guard. Boubli is the Godfather of French poker while ElkY is part of the new generation of online wizards.
I managed to bump into Feldman from ESPN and Scurvy Dog who is writing for Poker Room. I chatted with Steve Rosenbloom who was the only real writer in the entire building. I was honored when he sought my advice on something. Former beat writer from the Chicago Tribune following the Bulls during their halcyon days was asking me for advice. I was floored.
I ran into the Geek and he helped me out later in the night with some hands. Grubby magically appeared and told me about the slot machine he was going to be on. The Poker Grub is officially big time. I never saw my brother but he hung out with Michalski at the Hooker Bar for a bit. I wish I wasn't so busy. I'd have more time to hang out with friends.
Around 2:20am, Steve Horton told me this gem, "Newhouse posted that several players owe him money and he's going to try and collect this week. Over the last half hour, Newhizzle has been picking on Dustin "Neverwin" Woolf, still in this event, grumbling that Neverwin owes him money. He's even kicked a plastic chip rack in Neverwin's general direction. Newhizzle has not yet been escorted out - right now he's pacing back and forth along the rail like a mountain lion."
Everyone owes everyone at the WSOP. And how many people owe Newhizzle? He's got both Brandi Hawbaker and now Neverwin on his shit list. How about Frankie O'Dell or Eskimo? Poker Geek said that the floor staff warned Newhizzle not to stalk Neverwin for the rest of the tournament. Newhizzle is supposedly owed over 200K from Neverwin. I hope he got at least a hand job out of that one.
By 3:30am, the hookers started trickling into the Amazon Room. I forgot it was a Friday in Las Vegas.
Don't forget to check out LasVegasVegas for Flipchip's WSOP photos and there's the Poker Prof's cool 2007 WSOP Info page.
And come back at the Tao of Poker for daily recaps and head over at PokerNews for live coverage and updates including chipcounts.
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