LAS VEGAS -- Watching Day 2A of the World Series of Poker Main Event Friday was a bit like watching lemmings jump off a cliff -- a continuous stream of whiskered creatures meeting their untimely demise in the big game.
Friday's action began with the 2,412 survivors from Days 1A and 1C sitting down at 268 tables spread across two rooms in the Rio.
Three hours later, there were 1,908 players remaining. After four hours of play, 1,800 players were left in the tournament. After five hours of play, 1,683 were still alive.
Not even the dinner break could slow the carnage. When the day ended after eight hours of play, nearly 50 percent of the 2A field had been eliminated, including Dennis Phillips, Mike Sexton, Liz Lieu, Marcel Luske, Berry Johnston, Tom McEvoy, Amnon Filippi, David Pham, Sara Jean Underwood, Eli Elezra and Antonio Esfandiari.
Boulos Estafanous is the Day 2A chip leader
, with 344,100 in chips.
The 1,295 players who survived Day 2A will join Saturday's Day 2B survivors to form one Main Event field for the first time on Monday (Day 3), where the shouts of "all in and call" are not likely to abate.
Each time a player faces elimination, the dealer
shouts out "All in and call" to alert the ESPN cameras and WSOP
staff that a player could exit the tournament depending on what cards turn up next.
It's the poker equivalent of foreshadowing drama. And the shouts of "all in and call" often prompt other players to wander over to see what's going on.
On Friday, the "all in and call" shouts were like the vuvuzelas at the World Cup -- a constant buzz that permeated the air (but not nearly as annoying).
The first "all in and call" was announced a minute after play began, and continued at a furious pace throughout the day. Sometimes the shouts rang out at the same time. Sometimes they came in rapid fire succession. But they never stopped.
Phillips, who started the day with 9,500 in chips, was all in a few times Friday. He doubled up once with pocket
"I've been drafted by so many people in fantasy drafts that everyone is texting me and telling me I need to start doing better," Phillips told Casino City just before doubling up.
"I'm like, 'I know!'" said Phillips. "What do you think I'm trying to do?"
But Phillips, who finished third in the 2008 Main Event and 45th in the 2009 Main Event, never managed to get his Main Event mojo going this year. He busted out just before Friday's dinner break when he couldn't crack
pocket sevens with ace-jack.
While Dennis Phillips was grinding away, two-time Main Event champ Johnny Chan was chipping up. He ended the day with a healthy stack of 175,000 in chips, and as a result, he could afford to wander around a bit to check out some nearby "all in and calls."
When Chan popped over to check out the all-in
action at an adjacent table, the players asked him to provide a little commentary on the As-Ks vs 8x-8x showdown
"You're an 11-10 favorite before the flop," he told the holder of the pocket eights before scooting back to his table for the next hand. And sure enough, the eights held up.
Like Chan, Sammy Farha didn't have to worry about elimination on Friday. He had a couple of chip
skyscrapers worth about 175,000. And when Farha has chips, he's dangerous on the felt, and gregarious off of it.
In a table adjacent to the rail
, Farha would get up in between hands, or after he was no longer in a hand, to take pictures, sign autographs and glad-hand with the crowd.
At the table, Farha operated with a smile and a needle.
"You need to play," he told the player on his right. "You haven't played one hand."
The player looked up, saw Sammy's smile, and responded with a rueful grin.
"I know, I know."
Farha also teased the dealer, saying she needed to keep on an older player immediately to her left because he was trouble.
The dealer paused for a moment, saw Farha's smile, and returned the favor with a big smile of her own.
It was Farha's table. Everyone else was just playing at it.