LAS VEGAS -- The first day of the World Series of Poker Main Event began Monday with 1,125 players hoping the poker gods would smile on them, and one serious karmic twist.
tapped Greg Raymer, who won the WSOP Main Event in 2004, to inaugurate play in the 2010 Main Event with the traditional call to dealers to "Shuffle up and deal." But before uttering poker's version of "Gentlemen, start your engines," Raymer had some fun reminding people he was a Main Event champ.
"We all know why we're here," Raymer told the packed Amazon Room. "We're all here because we want one of these (bracelets)."
Thirty minutes later, Raymer had 1,200 in chips (he started with 30,000). And less than 90 minutes after the tournament had started, Raymer busted out of the tournament. Sometimes karma can be rough.
Raymer wasn't the only fan favorite to exit the tournament on Day 1A. Dallas Mavericks star Shawn Marion, comedian Ray Romano, and poker pros Mike Matusow, Isaac Haxton, David "Chino" Rheem and Victor Ramdin were among the players who busted out early.
While larger field sizes are expected for the next three "Day 1's", Day 1A didn't lack in terms of star power. Amateur players like comedian David Alan Grier, Playboy Playmate Sara Jean Underwood, Marion and Romano generated serious buzz, as did pros like Matusow, Raymer and Erik Seidel.
But what really stood out Monday is how much the Main Event has changed. In previous years, players would wear wacky costumes in an effort to get on TV. Cocktail waitresses would keep the beer and liquor flowing. Comedians would crack
wise for the camera. And massage therapists would be out in force.
The massage therapists are still there. But the wacky costumes are gone. And so is the alcohol. Players are drinking water or Red Bull now. In fact, cocktail waitresses don't even have alcohol on their trays anymore -- though it is available on request.
Amateur players like Romano and Grier are taking the game seriously as well. When Romano lost tough hands, he congratulated his opponent, and talked about the hand with other players at the table -- just like any other poker player. Grier was alert and following the action at his table all the time. And Underwood clearly knows what she's doing. She thought through all of her options before making a decision, and picked her spots to be aggressive
. These players know they're not pros. But
they do know the game. They respect the game. And they're not here to turn it into a sideshow.
The table banter, for the most part, was subdued and professional. For the first time in recent memory, the clacking of the chips -- everyone plays with their chips -- easily drowned out the conversation at the tables. Sure, there were a few outbursts, but nothing like what's happened in the past.
The WSOP Main Event is not the giant "poker party" we saw in this century's first decade. It has truly become a "professional" tournament. Players are not just happy to be in the Main Event anymore. This is serious work for them, and their approach to the game reflects that. Players are focused on winning the big prize, and as a result the atmosphere at the Main Event has changed dramatically.
All in all 786 players survived Day 1A, and they'll combine with the Wednesday's Day 1C survivors to form the Day 2A field on Friday. Day 1B (Tuesday) and 1D (Thursday) survivors will form the Day 2B field on Saturday. The tournament will play as a single field for the first time on Day 3, which takes place on July 12.