Event #4 of the 2008 World Series of Poker drew a star-studded field of 332 players, including Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Greg Raymer and Event #1 winner Nenad Medic, trying to become the first double bracelet winner of 2008. The field of 332 was down slightly from 2007, but still created an impressive $1,560,400 prize pool. Jon "Pearljammer" Turner finished Day 1 atop the field, with Justin "ZeeJustin" Bonomo, David Williams and Gavin Griffin among those in close pursuit.
The mixed hold'em event combines limit and no-limit hold'em into alternating half-rounds of play, with the first 30 minutes of each level being played in a limit format. Players then switch to no-limit for the second half of the level, with the blinds dropping to half of the limit structure to compensate for the increased volatility of the no-limit format.
The star-heavy field created some brutal table draws, including one with Gavin Smith and Phil Ivey seated, but none were as brutal as the starting lineup that included Vanessa Rousso, Nick Schulman, Tex Barch, Dario Minieri and Bill Chen all at the same table! These tough table draws landed some big names among the early eliminations, as Daniel Negreanu, Rousso and Doyle Brunson all headed to the rail early in the event. Brunson got all his chips in with pocket jacks against Eric "E-Fro" Froelich's A-K, but an ace on the turn ended Brunson's quest for his eleventh bracelet early on Day 1.
Jennifer Tilly was on the other end of that coin flip in the hand that crippled her. Tilly was left with just a few chips after her A-K did not improve against her opponent's pocket jacks on a board of . Ted Lawson busted Tilly a few hands later when his 10-8 outran Tilly's pocket threes on a board of 7-3-7-7-8.
Joe Sebok and Barry Greenstein made Event #4 a family affair, but both father and son busted on Day 1. Chau Giang knocked out Isabelle Mercier with Q-J to Mercier's J-9 as the board came down J-5-7-10-K. After she busted out, Mercier gave Giang her plate of sushi. "I gave him all my chips," she said, "I might as well give him all my food." Other notable eliminations on Day 1 included Erik Seidel, Dario Minieri, Max Pescatori, Greg Raymer and Phil Ivey.
In 2007 Steve Billirakis became the youngest player ever to win a WSOP bracelet when he took down the $5,000 Mixed Hold'em Event. That record was later shattered for non-US WSOP venues by 19-year-old WSOP Europe Main Event Champion Annette Obrestad, but Billirakis took to the felt at the Rio in Event #4 to defend his title in this event. He ran into trouble at the hands of Roland de Wolfe and busted on Day 1, ensuring that there will be a new champion for 2008. Billirakis re-raised de Wolfe preflop with A-K and de Wolfe three-bet with . The flop missed both players, and they checked around. The came on the turn and Billirakis led out. De Wolfe raised, and Billirakis called all in. De Wolfe was behind Billirakis' top pair, top kicker, but the on the river hit his open-ender to send Billirakis to the rail.
A flurry of action as play drew to a close on Day 1 saw some big names hit the rail, including Dave "Devilfish" Ulliott, Rolf Slotboom, Nenad Medic and Phil Hellmuth. Hellmuth got the last of his chips in preflop with , and found one caller in big stack Ariel Schneller, who made the call for not much more than his preflop raise with . Schneller hit a nine on the river as the board ran out , and Hellmuth made a restrained exit from the Amazon Room.
That hand put Schneller near the top of the leader board as Day 1 ended, with Jon "Pearljammer" Turner in pole position. Other notable survivors from Day 1 included Jimmy "gobboboy" Fricke, Howard Lederer, Patrik Antonius, Anna Wroblewski and Ted Forrest. The top ten chip stacks looked like this as players bagged their chips at the end of the night:
Jon Turner 100,200
Ariel Schneller 99,500
Ron Kevin Haeri 92,300
Adam Westell 82,800
Justin Bonomo 73,900
Jay Rosenkrantz 72,500
Jason Dewitt 70,100
David Williams 67,000
Gavin Griffin 65,800
Thomas Keller 63,500