For those who wondered about the health of the poker world after the much-maligned passage of the UIGEA in October 2006, Event #3 of the 2007 World Series of Poker, the first of several $1,500 no-limit tournaments, responded by bringing the largest non-Championship Event field to the felt on Saturday afternoon when 2,998 players stepped to the plate.
Lines were amazingly long in the Amazon Room for registering players. Harrah's jammed the players in wherever they could, first filling the Amazon Room, then the Alternate Room and its roughly 60 tables (inside a tent set up outside of the Rio which, while air conditioned, due to the heat of summer in Las Vegas will test the resolve of any poker player), then even stretched to the Rio's poker room's nine tables (which itself is quite a walk from the main arena at the Amazon Room).
As the players made their way to the tables for a 1pm start (an hour later than scheduled), they also found that the troublesome 'Poker Peek' cards had returned. The replacement KEM cards used in the $5,000 Mixed Games event were still in use for that tournament; the shortage meant that the Poker Peek cards were resurrected for the start of the $1,500. This is a situation that Harrah's is quickly looking to get corrected for other tournaments that start within the next couple of days; Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack informed those in attendance that trucks were bringing in 'classic' KEM cards to replace the Poker Peek ones so, quite soon, the Poker Peek cards will be history.
In this event, many big-name players fell early. Actress and 2007 National Heads Up Poker Championship semifinalist Shannon Elizabeth was one of the first casualties, followed soon such names as 1983 World Champion Tom McEvoy, 2006 Poker Player of the Year Michael The Grinder' Mizrachi, David 'Devilfish' Ulliott, 2000 World Champion Chris 'Jesus' Ferguson and current POY leader J.C. Tran. By far the toughest story was that of Robert Williamson III, who was in the outside tent and fighting illness; he abandoned his chip stack and was blinded off rather than push his health this early in the World Series.
The bustouts continued at a frenetic pace, including more big names. 1989 World Champion Phil Hellmuth fell victim to quad jacks after he got his final chips in with the best hand (pocket kings). Gavin Smith, Annie Duke and John Juanda followed Hellmuth to the exit, but Mark Seif and Daniel Negreanu were able to build big chip stacks early, only for Negreanu to eliminate Seif later in the afternoon. Negreanu himself was eliminated later at the hands of Eugene Todd. In the first ten hours of play, there were almost 2,500 eliminations, bringing the money bubble into sight.
The money bubble was reached late in the evening, assuring the 270 survivors a nice payday for their work. They will return at 2pm on Sunday to continue play down to the final nine-handed table that will compete for the $727,012 first-place prize. These are the players presently atop the leader board:
PLAYER — CHIPS
Alex Jacob — 191,000
Roland de Wolfe — 140,000
David 'The Dragon' Pham — 139,300
Pat Blye — 138,000
Eric Baldwin — 137,000
Jeff Yoak — 134,800
Benny Cho — 111,000
Michael Banducci — 111,000
Shawn Reed — 103,000
Sanjeev Bais — 96,000
Other notable players still alive include Arnold Spee, Erick Lindgren, Paul 'Eskimo' Clark, and former World Champions Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer. But above all else, Saturday was the day the World Series demonstrated that nothing can keep the game of poker down.