As part of a record-setting attendance day at the WSOP, 2,628 players began action on Day One of Event #15, $1,500 No Limit Hold'em. The packed house drew both anonymous players and big names. Joining in on the day's action were Phil Hellmuth, Berry Johnston, David Williams, Kido Pham, Nam Le, Mike Sexton, Per Ummer, Matthew Hilger, John Juanda, David 'Devilfish' Ulliott, Erik Seidel, Lee Watkinson, Amnon Filippi, Paul McCaffrey, Freddy Deeb, Justin 'ZeeJustin' Bonomo, Men 'The Master' Nguyen, Shannon Shorr, Richard Lee, Burt Boutin, Arnold Spee, and actor/director/movie-producer extraordinaire, Kevin 'Clerks' Smith.
Fast action marked early play and several notables hit the rail early on. Bowing out of the event early were Men the Master, J.C. Tran, Williams, Gavin Smith, Minneapolis' Jim Meehan, Juanda, Barny Boatman, Phil Gordon, Filippi, and the cinematic Smith.
Inspirational stories were present as well. Several players participated despite having severe health difficulties. One example was Ryan Smith, who has been confined to a wheelchair with muscular dystrophy since age three. Smith's friend Mike Gauthier holds the cards while Smith extracts his breathing tube long enough to tell the table whether he will fold or play. In a sport where some players that seem to have everything, Smith stands out as a shining example of how strong the human spirit can be and his play demonstrates that if worked at, the mind can overcome the body's limitations.
Another amazing example of an inspirational player came from Scott Kowalske. Given only four months to live by doctors, his greatest wish was to play in a WSOP event. Suffering from chronic wasting disease, Kowalske continues to battle on despite the odds and considers poker one of the things that has kept him going during his personal health battles.
As play continued on throughout the day, players continued to drop off at a rapid pace. With a prize pool of $3,587,222, a first-place cash of $637,254 and a gold bracelet on the line, players needed very little incentive to get their chips in the middle and showed little hesitation in taking their shot at the chip lead. By day's end the field was whittled down to 161 players, well inside the money bubble. Among them was Phil Hellmuth in 33rd spot, his own record for WSOP career cashes now extended to 59.
Leading the way into Day Two is Jason Beasley, followed by Stuart Kemble, Sam Sangjinda and French star Fabrice Soulier, gunning for his first WSOP title.
The top ten in chips at the end of Day One:
Jason Beasley 184,200
Stuart Kemble 143,700
Sam Sangjinda 138,300
Fabrice Soulier 135,300
Raj Sawant 134,500
Rick Fuller 111,500
Derek Peyrot 111,400
Matthew LaGarde 107,600
Jeff Miller 106,100
Mich Dumas 103,800
Besides Hellmuth, other players of note still in the running include James Van Alstyne, Bertrand Grospellier, Joe Bartholdi and David Plastik. Play resumes today at 2pm PDT. Check in at PokerNews.com's 'Live Reporting' of Event #15, $1,500 No Limit Hold 'Em, as play moves forward until tomorrow's final table is set.