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  • 2008 WSOP – Day 1d

    By Anthony Holden

    It’s nowhere near the pre-UIGEA record entry of 8,772 in 2006, when Jamie Gold won that staggering $12 million first prize. But this year’s world-title field of 6,844 is cheerfully ignoring US economic conditions by ranking as the second biggest in WSOP history.

    After the Spanish victory in Euro 2008, and now Nadal’s at Wimbledon, you might fancy a wager on Spain’s Carlo ‘the Matador’ Mortensen to repeat his 2001 world title win. The Matador was one of 2,461 starters on Day 1d of this year’s main event. When last heard of, he was among the Day 1 leaders, after turning his starting stack of 20,000 into 109,000.

    (Actually, Mortensen was born in Ecuador in 1972, but people don’t bother too much hereabouts with that kind of detail. His family lived in Spain before moving to the US in the late 1990s – good enough for official WSOP history, which lists him as ‘the only Hispanic player’ to have captured the world crown).

    So large was Sunday’s field, far the biggest yet, that some tables were playing ten-handed at the beginning, with the overflow from the Amazon Room taking in the Rio’s tiny card-room (about 100 miles away from the main action) and even the Buzio’s seafood restaurant (where I was hoping to have dinner. I wound up having to head over to Nero’s at Caesar’s Palace). 

    So the total number of entrants for the 2008 WSOP Main Event turns out to be almost 10% up on last year’s 6,358. The prize pool totals $64,333,600, with 666 players making the money – there was much muttering, and some booing, around the Amazon Room as that was announced – at a minimum of $21,320.

    This year’s title-winner will walk off with a little over $9 million ($9,119,517, to be precise) as well as the diamond-encrusted gold bracelet. But that, as we know, won’t be decided until mid-November, after the final table is frozen for four months a week today.

    In mid-afternoon two politicians were roaming the Rio’s Amazon Room, assuring players they were working on Capitol Hill to get poker exempted from the recent US anti-gaming legislation. Representative Robert Wexler (D, Florida) and Poker Players Alliance representative Alfonse D’Amato, a former New York senator, seized the microphone from tournament director Jack Effel, as politicians do. Wexler intoned: ‘We’re here as friends of poker. Two years ago, under a Republican-controlled Congress, the United States Congress took away your right to play poker on the internet. With your help, we’re going to change that wrong-headed law.’ 
This drew scattered applause around the room, which was generally trying to concentrate on its cards, before Wexler added: ‘That’s what we need to do while we’re fixing the economy and a few other important things’. This drew some laughter.

    Among yesterday’s massive field were a clutch of former world champions – Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Phil Hellmuth, Chris ‘Jesus’ Ferguson, Mortensen and Ireland’s Noel Furlong, along with reigning champ Jerry Yang. Other big names included Gus Hansen, Layne Flack, Antonio Esfandari, Steve Dannenmann, Robert Williamson III, Todd Brunson, Jennifer Harman, Men ‘the Master’ Nguyen, Paul Magriel and Phil Laak – who fooled his table by playing in disguise, disappearing unnoticed after making an early exit. Veteran Willie Tann was leading the British charge, while players from other sports – following strong Day 1 showings from Aussie cricketer Shane Warne and UK snooker champ Steve Davis – were led by former pro golfer Paul Azinger.

    Much interest also centred on mixed martial artist Forrest Griffin, who had won the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) light heavyweight title only the night before, arriving bruised and stitched from an overnight stay hospital to find himself at the same table as Johnny Chan. ‘This is the first time I’ve played poker not in the basement for nickels or beers or something,’ he said. ‘I slept two hours . . . so going head-to-head with Johnny Chan, I’m not in shape for that.’

    Forrest was indeed eliminated by Chan shortly thereafter. Another martial artist, Chuck Liddell, suffered the same fate after being drawn on the showcase TV table with an ebullient Phil Hellmuth.

    After screwing up his ritual Grand Entry here last year, contriving to crash his racing car in the parking lot before transferring to a limo, ‘Poker Brat’ Hellmuth made his fashionably late arrival yesterday in an Army jeep, dressed as World War II’s General Patten, flanked by 11 scantily fatigues-clad beauties (one for each of his WSOP bracelets) who escorted him along a red carpet, all the way into the arena. Even so, he managed to survive the day to fight another.

    Among those who did not were such big poker names as the great Brunson and his son Todd, former champs Ferguson and Furlong, David Williams, Scott Lazar, Annie Duke, Andy Bloch, Jennifer Tilly, Robert Williamson III, George Danzer, Paul ‘Eskimo’ Clark, John Phan, Michael Mizrachi, Melissa Hayden, Dario Mineri, Cyndy Violette and Layne Flack.

    At 1am, after five levels (or ten hours of play), 1,362 players had survived to join me and 1,025 others on Wednesday’s Day 2b. Today is the tournament’s only day off, featuring sundry media events – including the annual media tournament – before tonight’s lavish PokerStars party here at the Palms. I’ll be trying to ensure that any Day 2 players attending the bash leave as late as possible, infinitely the worse for wear.

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    Comment from Renee
    Time: July 9, 2008, 8:44 am

    This is like a complete sports weekend news update.. thanks for sharing and for posting about wimbeldon. great to have something more than poker. Keep up the good work!

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