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WSOP – Day 1A of the Main Event

First Day of Play Draws Smallest Field Since 2005

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Day 1a of the World Series of Poker main event has traditionally featured the smallest turnout of the four starting days. In 2008, the day 1a field attracted a modest 1,297. This year, only 1,116 made the early trip to the Amazon room.

The reasons for the scarcity are simple. Many amateurs wait for the weekend to play, avoiding the hassle of taking a day off of work. Additionally, some players are turned off by the idea of waiting three days for their next session and spending the extra cash for an extended hotel stay.

Nonetheless, the main event has always rebounded in the later starting days with huge near-sellout fields to put up a respectable number of entries. In 2008, the final number grew to 6,844, though only time will tell if 2009 can better that count.

Jason AlexanderA number of celebrities made appearances throughout the day, including rap superstar Nelly and former major league pitcher Orel Hershiser. In a “do you believe in unlikelihood” moment, Seinfeld star Jason Alexander was moved to Everybody Loves Raymond star Brad Garrett’s table, much to the amazement of the players around them. Incredibly, Alexander had spent the early part of the day playing with Nelly.

Hershiser and Nelly both busted, but the T.V. duo survived the day, each sitting with above average stacks. Alexander chipped up nicely thanks to a rather unusual hand and fortunate turn and river cards. A player raised to 1,150 and Alexander reraised to 3,200. The unknown called and the flop came out JDiamond Suit5Diamond Suit2Diamond Suit. Alexander bet 6,000 and his opponent came over the top, moving all in for his last 26,500. Alexander spent quite some time in the tank before making the call with 10Diamond Suit10Heart Suit. His opponent showed him the best hand with 8Diamond Suit6Diamond Suit for a flopped flush, but the turn and river ran out JHeart SuitJSpade Suit, giving Alexander the superior full house and the massive pot.

Berry JohnstonA nice moment developed after the dinner break when Berry Johnston was recognized by tournament director Jack Effel for his years of consistency on the felt. Johnston owns the record for most consecutive years of cashing in a WSOP event with 28. The 1986 main event champion stood up and waved to the room to a nice round of applause before resuming play.

The 2007 champion, Jerry Yang, wasn’t quite so lucky. Yang couldn’t get much going in the early levels and was forced to make a move in level 3 with the worst hand. The poker gods weren’t with him and he was eliminated from the tournament. Other notables to hit the rail during the day included Isaac Haxton, Gabe Kaplan, Freddy Deeb, Matthew Glantz, John Phan, Allen Cunningham, Andy Bloch and Men Nguyen.

Among the players to survive the day with more than healthy stacks were Jason Riesenberg, Eli Elezra, Tom Schneider, Jeff Williams, Jimmy Fricke, Phil Laak and Vitaly Lunkin.

The players began with 30,000 in chips and battled for four 120-minute levels. After the short day was complete, about 800 remained. Those survivors won’t see their chips until July 7th, when the first two starting days combine to form day 2a.

We’ll do it all over again at noon on Saturday with a whole slew of new faces and Card Player will be providing up to the minute coverage with hand histories, chip counts and notable eliminations.