There were a few big stories that I kept tabs on during Day 1d...
1. Phil HellmuthPhil Hellmuth was supposed to be sitting at one of the tables I covered. He wasn't there when Senator Al D'Amato said, "Shuffle up and deal!" I didn't expect him for a while and wondered what kind of entrance he'd make. At the 2005 WSOP, Hellmuth showed up with a body guard. He had been practicing his grand entrance the day before when he wrecked the Ultimate Bet racecar with his mug sitting on the hood. Some conspiracy theorists will say that it was rigged. Others will say it was an accident and Hellmuth lost control. That's for you to decide.
2. Jamie Gold busting
3. Where the fuck was Vinnie Vinh?
4. The official numbers
I heard rumors that Hellmuth was going to drive the actual car down the hallway of the Rio. When he couldn't, he purposely wrecked his car to generate buzz. But the most rumor I heard was that he was supposed to drive up to the entrance to the convention center, step out wearing a helmut and be escorted inside by eleven scantily clad women. Since he crashed his car by accident, he was forced to take a limo instead.
Snake told me that he was coming at 1:30pm. I grabbed Filipe and told him to snap some photos. Head over to PokerNews to see what he shot. Unfortunately, Hellmuth was even late for his scheduled late arrival.
Hellmuth didn't show up to 2:20pm. I stood outside on the steps in the 155 degree heat as Hellmuth emerged from his limo. Eleven stripper/model types greeted him. They each symbolized one of the eleven bracelets he's won. Even the girls were labeled by specific bracelets. It was total ridiculous and hysterical at the same time. I was fortunate to catch every step that Hellmuth took once he entered the convention center.
Hellmuth paused for a few photos as the ESPN camera crew taped his every move. He signed autographs as fans swarmed around him. The mob of media, ESPN guys, fans, and agents, managers, Harrah's suits, and PR people slowly made its way down the corridor and into the Amazon Ballroom.
Hellmuth entered with his entourage trailing behind him. He took his seat and shook hands with the gentleman next to him.
"This is fuckin' ridiculous," joked Nolan Dalla.
If there was ever a true Hellmuthian moment, that was one of them. Just when I thought the day would be boring, my first 2.5 hours was consumed with Phil Hellmuth.
"He's hurting. With whiplash," mentioned super agent Brian Balsbaugh. "But you know what He told me? 'I've won tournaments when I was hurt before. I've won bracelets under more pain.'"
Hellmuth could dodge bullets, but he couldn't dodge a light pole. Sore or not sore. Rigged or not rigged. It didn't matter. Hellmuth wouldn't make it to the dinner break and eventually busted out at 6:41pm. When Nolan Dalla announced his elimination to the crowd, players actually cheered against Hellmuth.
Hellmuth wasn't the only former champion to bust out. Jamie Gold ended his reign as the world champion. He took a few hits early and slipped to under 10K by dinner break. He couldn't build a stack and busted out when his Qs-9s could not beat A-7. As what happened with Hellmuth, Gold was jeered when his elimination was announced shortly after the dinner break.
In so many ways, Gold can now relax and focus on playing poker instead of being a marked man. He'll always be known as a controversial world champion, but in a few years, we'll forget about Crispin Leyser and Jamie Gold will be a distant memory, or just one of the faces you see hung up on tapestries surrounding the Amazon Ballroom.
He'll return to sweat his mother Jane who advanced to Day 2.
When I rushed out to get a good spot for Hellmuth, I spotted Vinnie Vinh standing around the registration area. He was waiting for Jimmy Sommerfeld. I saw the two talking again in the hallway and shortly after than Vinh was playing in the WSOP main event. Everyone in the room kept an eye on him, players, media, floor people, friends... waiting for him to explode but also hoping he could make a run and change his frenetic life around. One by one the relentless media stopped by his table and gawked, giggled, pointed, and jeerred like he was a side attraction at a carnival. The freak show with the baby with lobster claws for hands or the Siamese Twins or the lunatic drug addicted degenerate gambler one step away from his deathbed yet one turn of the card away from winning $8.25M.
America is a country of fuck ups. Lots of them. And we're suckers for dramatic stories. Perhaps it's the boost in self-esteem that people have when the relish in other people's misfortunes. Or maybe it's the morbid fascination that makes you slow down and look for dead bodies when there's a car wreck on the freeway.
Photographers took turns taking pics of Vinh (and when he disappeared they shot his empty chair) as he muttered how he wanted to go back to sleep. He's be seen resting his head down on the rail at times, when other moments he seemed in control picking up pots and demonstrating that deep down he still had skills at the poker table. Not too many people can boast that the have $2.3 million in career tournament earnings. But it's disturbing to think that someone with talent like Vinh's can piss it all away thanks to his inner demons.
At 8:30pm, Poker News reported that Vinh's stack was 34K. He did not return from dinner and everyone thought the worst. Just six hours earlier, the media paraded in front of Vinh's table checking out the freak and they all returned one by one to take photos of the empty chair. He was blinded off which happened twice before at the WSOP. Those instances, he failed to show up on Day 2 while he was in the money. His stack ended up taking down 20th and 22nd place... both impressive feats considering he wasn't even in the room during his elimination hands.
On Day 1d, Vinh left for dinner break and never returned. I suspected that he was sleeping. He probably took a nap at dinner and never woke up. he slept through his alarm or wake up call. Other friends thought the worse and that he was passed out in a cheap motel after snorting too much (insert drug here).
Where have you gone Vinnie Vinh? Everyone's talking about you. The ghost of Stuey Ungar has returned.
Here are some official numbers...
Total Entrants: 6,358
Prize Pool: 59.7M
Top 621 get paid
Harrah's Juice: $2,670,360
Dealer's Toke: 1,144,440
Bouncin Round the Room on Day 1d...
Brandi Hawbaker arrived. She had strep throat and was sick for the previous week or so. She looked thinner, but not Vinnie Vinh thinner. She also got a new haircut which I thought made her look less cute and more psycho.
Steve Horton gets credit for this bit... Brandi Hawbaker busted out after Teddy Monroe put a bad beat on her. She pushed with A-7 and Monroe called with Kc-Qc. He flopped a King and she couldn't improve. As she was getting up to leave, he said, "Sorry, Brandi." Her reply? "Go fuck yourself."
The Poker Geek cracked the case on the John Duthie hand where he won a 50K pot in a cash game with just Queen high!! Head over to Expert Insight to get the scoop.
Linda's son Dennis played in the event. He made it past dinner break and was moved to Prahlad Friedman's table. I caught two of his hands including his bustout. Linda was on the rail along with her other son watching Dennis play. Head over to her blog. I'm sure she'll have a recap with pictures.
Al D'amato was in the Rio hanging out with Jeffrey Pollack. It seemed like a cheap photo op, not as cheap as the Hellmuthian stunt, but Al D'Amato is nothing more than a glorified used car salesman who lost his job. He's slumming among the unwashed masses and has as much pull in Washington as Sam Grizzle has.
Bonus Code: Pauly
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