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Best of Vin Narayanan
Day 1B restores 'normalcy' to WSOP Main Event5 July 2009
LAS VEGAS -- When Day 1A of the World Series of Poker Main Event ended Friday night, we seemed to be in a place Jason Alexander could appreciate -- Bizzaro World.
Gone from the Main Event were Andy Bloch, Allen Cunningham, Freddy Deeb, John Phan, Mark Vos and Isaac Haxton. And sitting in 31st place with 89,575 in chips was Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame.
Other players who survived Day 1A include chip leader Redmond Lee (134,275) Eli Elezra (83,375), Tom Schneider (79,600), John Hennigan (76,250), Vitaly Lunkin (68,300), Ted Lawson (60,000), Phil Laak (53,000), Tony G (42,325), Mike Sexton (41,000), Gus Hansen (38,075), Brad Garett (36,625), Roland De Wolfe (31,000), Sam Farha (30,425), Gavin Smith (17,750) and Jen Tilly (13,325). In total, 821 of the total 1,116 Day 1A entries survived.
Did I mention that Sasquatch ordered the dealers to "Shuffle up and deal" yesterday?
The Main Event's trip through Bizzaro World didn't last long however, as tradition and normalcy reigned Saturday on Day 1B of Main Event.
The dealers were loose before the players were let in to take their seats. The dealer at table 151 Green playfully asked a supervisor if she had to check Doyle Brunson's photo ID if he wheeled up to her table (the answer was no). WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel wandered the Amazon Room in Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, testing the microphones to make sure all sections of the room could hear him. And when the 873 Day 1B players were let in around 11:47 a.m., they found their tables on the mammoth tournament floor quickly.
After the players settled in, the WSOP played the U.S. national anthem in honor of the July 4th Independence Day holiday. Then poker legend Doyle Brunson -- who began this day at the secondary ESPN table -- ushered in play with the traditional "Shuffle Up and Deal" call.
To the delight of fans who braved the Vegas 106-degree heat to get to the Rio, Mike Matusow was playing at the featured table. And ESPN poker announcer Norman Chad wandered around the Amazon floor, looking for unique stories to tell on the upcoming ESPN telecast of the Main Event.
When Casino City asked Chad if he was giving injured partner Lon McEachern a break, his answer was quick, and funny.
"No. He's not hurt," Chad said. "He's just using the crutches for sympathy. Put it this way, if he was standing here and you took the crutches away, he'd still be standing."
As play resumed after the first player break, 2004 WSOP Main Event champion Greg Raymer was chatting amiably -- and continually -- with his fellow players at table 3 Blue. In the span of a couple of minutes, Raymer had commented on how players selected which first day session to play in (family considerations were a prime concern), his betting strategy and tossing bottles into trash cans 15 feet away.
Raymer was drinking Mountain Dew at the table, but according to his wife Cheryl -- sitting just steps away -- the Mountain Dew wasn't cold enough. "He's transferring it into the Sobe bottle because it has ice in it," Cheryl said.
"When the (Mountain Dew) bottles get close to bottom, he freezes it," added Raymer's dad Phil. "Then he pours a new one (into the frozen bottle) and drinks that."
"There are always bottles like that lying around in the freezer," Cheryl added laughing.
After transferring the last of the Mountain Dew into the Sobe bottle, Raymer started to see if he could get any action on whether he could toss it into the trash can 15 feet away, but then changed his mind.
"I was going to see if anyone wanted to bet on whether I could toss this into the trash can over there, but then I realized if I missed I would hit my wife and thought I'd better not," Raymer told the table.
"He won a bet with Erick Lindgren doing that," Cheryl told Casino City. "Lindgren bet him $100 and he made it."
When asked if Raymer is as talkative at home as he is on the felt, Cheryl responded with an immediate "Yes."
"When I call him, I have to make sure the phone is charged and I've gone to the bathroom," Raymer's dad added with a chuckle.
Raymer struggled to gain traction at the table early Saturday afternoon. He dropped to about 16,000 in chips at one point after running into quads and then trips before making a run just before the dinner break to get back to 25,000 (players started the day with 30,000 in chips). But even as he was struggling, Raymer was gracious with the fans. He posed for pictures with the Zynga crew -- which makes a popular Texas Hold'em application for Facebook -- as he left for dinner. And after the dinner break, he made a late run to end up with 43,750 chips.
Another pair of Main Event champions had completely different days. 2003 champ Chris Moneymaker, seated two tables away from Raymer, busted out of the tournament around 3:30 afternoon. Meanwhile, 2000 champion Chris Ferguson looked relaxed in his traditional long coat and black hat. At the table, Ferguson was smiling and laughing at the banter between fellow players. And every now and then, he'd step away from the table to talk to an acquaintance or pose for pictures with other players at nearby tables. Ferguson ended the day with 24,050 in chips.
As the day wore on, the shouts of "all in and call" became more prevalent than the "need a floor" requests. And Jeremiah Smith became an unfortunate victim in of those all-in showdowns.
Earlier in the day, Smith won a monster pot when his aces held up against kings. "I'll take being lucky over good every time," the host of Poker Road's Cash Plays told me while recounting the hand midway through the first level. But Smith's luck ran out when his trip threes ran into Jim Bookstaff's three aces just after the dinner break.
Shortly after Smith bowed out of the Main Event, Texas Dolly did the same, and the fans assembled by secondary ESPN table gave him a huge round of applause.
Brunson's daughter, Pam, playing at table in the Green section -- which sits adjacent to featured tables -- heard the loud applause from the secondary table and rushed over to see what had happened. Brunson had pocket threes, and picked up a third one on the flop. But his opponent hit his gutshot straight draw on the turn and sent Brunson packing.
Both Pam, and brother Todd Brunson, survived Day 1B action. Pam finished with 24,850 in chips. Todd had 32,950 in chips.
Brandon Demes topped the Day 1B field with 137,075 in chips. He leads Day 1A leader Lee by 2,800.
The 1,478 Day 1A and Day 1B survivors will play together on Day 2B, which takes place July 7.
Best of Vin Narayanan