Big bands, big stars and big buy-ins all collided in the Amazon Room at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas to mark the beginning of the 2008 World Series of Poker. After the UNLV marching band played a rousing rendition of "Viva Las Vegas" to kick off the opening ceremonies, living legend Doyle Brunson uttered the words the poker world has been waiting months to hear – "Shuffle up and deal!" and the $10,000 World Championship Pot-Limit Hold'em tournament was underway.
The big buy-in event drew a field stacked with poker superstars, including former WSOP Main Event winners Brunson, Greg Raymer, Chris Moneymaker, Berry Johnston, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Jamie Gold and Tom McEvoy, just to name a few. Also in the field were Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, Howard Lederer, Jennifer Tilly and 2007 WSOP Player of the Year Tom Schneider. Table #8 was one of the early "tables of death," featuring Phil Ivey, Jonathan Little, Bill Gazes, Gavin Smith and Orel Hershiser, the baseball star turned poker player who made a strong showing at the NBC National Heads-Up Championship earlier this year.
Shannon Elizabeth's day came to an end early when her pocket aces were cracked twice in the first level of play. In the first hand, Beth Shak flopped a set of sixes to double through Elizabeth, and in the second, Elizabeth ran her overpair into a flopped set of tens on a 4-5-10-7 board. No ace showed on the river for Elizabeth, and she was eliminated. Other early eliminations included Tilly, Kristy Gazes, Terrence Chan and Schneider.
Greg Raymer flopped the nut straight in a big hand with John Juanda and still lost, finding himself crippled early in the event. On a flop of , Raymer fired out a bet with for the Broadway straight. Juanda raised with for top pair / top kicker with redraws to the straight, the flush and the royal flush. The on the turn was irrelevant, but the on the river gave Juanda the royal flush and left Raymer on a short stack. Raymer and Juanda both were eliminated on Day 1.
Other world champions eliminated on Day 1 included Tom McEvoy, Berry Johnston, Chris Moneymaker, Jamie Gold and Doyle Brunson. Brunson went to the rail early in the day after getting into a big hand with Lyle Berman. Brunson moved all in on a flush draw with on a board of . Berman make the call with for top set, and the board ran out to send Brunson to the rail.
Tuan Le came back from the dinner break on a tear, winning back-to-back hands to move into contention for a final-table spot. In the first, he called all in against Dario Minieri with pocket threes against Minieri's pocket kings on a board of . The on the turn completed Le's straight as he doubled through Minieri. In the next hand, Le fired out a bet on a board reading , and got one caller. Le bet out enough to put his opponent all in when the river brought the , and tabled to send his opponent to the rail. Le built his stack enough in the latter hours of play to finish near the top of the Day 1 leader board.
Anthony Licastro held the chip lead for a large part of the evening before surrendering the top spot to Eli Elezra as play drew to a close on Day 1. One of Licastro's biggest hands saw him pick up a three-way, all-in pot with 10-10, cracking aces and kings along the way. All the money went in preflop, and Licastro picked up a ten on the turn to send two opponents to the rail and add to his monster stack.
As the evening wore on, the eliminations came at a faster pace, with Bill Edler, Tom McEvoy, Alex Kravchenko and Chris Moneymaker all busting out late. Moneymaker ran into a classic cooler for his exit, running pocket jacks into Alexander Kostritsyn's aces on his last hand. Other notable players eliminated on Day 1 included Phil Ivey, Erik Seidel, Daniel Negreanu, Brandon Schaefer and Joe Sebok.
Eli Elezra picked up a few big hands late in the evening to take over the chip lead, including one where he flopped trips holding on a board of . He called one player's all-in with his trips and dodged hearts on the turn and river as his opponent tabled for the flush draw. No hearts came down, and Elezra moved further up the leader board.
Joining Elezra near the top of the field were Mike Sowers, Nenad Medic and Patrik Antonius. Also among the big names surviving Day 1 were Phil Laak, David Benyamine, Mike Sexton, Lyle Berman and 2000 World Champion Chris Ferguson. The top ten chip stacks looked like this:
Eli Elezra 302,900
Amit Makhija 251,100
Nenad Medic 240,200
Patrik Antonius 236,300
Justin Newton 233,000
Mike Sowers 216,700
Anthony Licastro 211,000
Nikolay Evdakov 206,200
David Bach 204,100
Vivek Rajkumar 194,000
Join PokerNews at 2PM for Day 2 of the $10,000 World Championship Pot-Limit Hold'em event, as the remaining 70 players fight for their spot at the final table and the first gold bracelet of the 2008 World Series of Poker.