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2006 Tournament of Champions Day 1

The Wild Bunch

Jesus, A Great Dane, and A Mouth walk into a casino…for the 2006 WSOP Tournament of Champions.

Day 1 of the exclusive invitation-only tournament played out in the Rio's Amazon Room, the massive space that will soon be the site of the World Series of Poker, and featured an eclectic starting field. Of the 27 players, the majority earned entrance by placing first in a WSOP Circuit event. These players included Greg Merkow (Grand Tunica), Daniel Negreanu (Grand Tunica), Vinny Vinh (Caesar's Indiana), Chris Reslock (Harrah's Atlantic City), Chris "Jesus" Ferguson (Harrah's Las Vegas), Darrell Dicken (Harrah's San Diego), Abraham Korotki (Harrah's Atlantic City), Jeffery King (Harrah's Atlantic City), Peter Feldman (Harrah's New Orleans), John Spadavecchia (Caesars Las Vegas), Thang "Kido" Pham (Paris/Bally's), and Clint Baskin (Harrah's Lake Tahoe).

The now famous members of the 2005 WSOP main event final table also gained entrance into the TOC and the event marked the first tournament to feature Joseph Hachem (1st), Steve Dannenmann (2nd), John "Tex" Barch (3rd), Aaron Kanter (4th), Andrew Black (5th), Scott Lazar (6th), Daniel Bergsdorf (7th), Bradley Kondracki (8th), and Mike "The Mouth" Matusow (9th) together since last year's championship.

A number of players received special invitations to the tournament, including Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Mike Sexton, Gus Hansen, Mike O'Malley, and Sarah Strom, who won her seat through a contest held by sandwich restaurant chain Quizno's.

At 12:10 p.m. the action kicked off with $25-$50 blinds and $10,000 chip stacks. Fans in bleacher seats and standing three rows deep behind the rails witnessed a much lighter tournament atmosphere than usual as all 27 players had freerolled into the event. Daniel Negreanu spent most of the day joking with the railbirds and all the big name players took time between hands to sign autographs and have their pictures taken.

Despite the free entry, players entered the day with a chance to take home a $1 million first-place prize, and the stakes created some tension among the pros. Mike Matusow, the TOC defending champion, and Phil Hellmuth traded verbal shots early in the tournament and the floor manager was called over on numerous occasions to intervene.

The arguments ended, however, when Hellmuth became the first poker star to be eliminated. He bowed out of the tournament after his pocket queens failed to improve against Chris Ferguson's pocket aces.

Negreanu, in between chatting with fans and practicing his golf swing, enjoyed the rare honor of knocking out the 2006 WSOP champion and runner-up finisher on the same hand. The action began when Joseph Hachem, a short stack for the majority of the day, pushed all in preflop and received calls from both Steve Dannenmann and Negreanu. Hachem took an early lead when he showed Qheart Qdiamond, while Dannenmann flipped over 8spade 8club and Negreanu turned over Adiamond Qclub. But the Aspade Jclub 10club 10diamond 4spade board gave Negreanu two pair and he eliminated Hachem and Dannenmann from the tournament.

With a goal of playing down from 27 to 10, the final elimination of the day came nearly 12 hours after the first cards had hit the air. In a heads-up hand that featured the WSOP fourth- and fifth-place finishers, Aaron Kanter moved all in on a Aheart 10diamond 6heart flop and Andrew Black called. Black flipped over Adiamond 10club and Kanter became an instant dog with Aclub Kdiamond. The 8spade turn and 3heart river offered Kanter no help, and he finished the tournament in 11th place.

The chip counts going into the final table are as follows:

1. Andrew Black - $94,175 (Seat 6)
2. Daniel Negreanu - $44,325 (Seat 5)
3. Daniel Bergsdorf - $24,500 (Seat 10)
4. Thang "Kido" Pham - $23,825 (Seat 1)
5. Mike "The Mouth" Matusow - $21,300 (Seat 4)
6. Chris "Jesus" Ferguson - $16,600 (Seat 2)
7. Mike Sexton - $16,100 (Seat 7)
8. Darrell Dicken - $15,425 (Seat 3)
9. Gus Hansen - $7,375 (Seat 8)
10. Chris Reslock - $6,375 (Seat 9)

The final 10 players return tomorrow at 1 p.m. PST. Stay tuned to for live updates, chip counts, and photos.

Quote of the Day: "I'm the Anti-Button" - Mike "The Mouth" Matusow