2,317 players spread throughout all playable areas of the Rio for Event #45, $2,000 No-Limit Hold'em. While attendance in some of the big-ticket events has held steady or decreased from last year, the smaller buy-in no-limit hold'em tournaments continue to draw huge crowds of pros and amateurs alike taking their shot at the biggest prize in poker – a World Series of Poker bracelet.
More than 90% of the field was eliminated on Day 1, as the money bubble burst just before play was halted for the night. Eric Crain topped the leader board at the end of Day 1, logging his second cash of the 2008 WSOP. Along his way to the top, he outlasted some of poker's biggest names, including Joe Hachem, Andy Black, Gavin Smith, TJ Cloutier and Joe Sebok. Joining Crain on the survivors' list were Erica Schoenberg, David "The Dragon" Pham and the 2007 winner of this event, Blair Rodman, who finished Day 1 just outside the top ten.
The bustouts came quickly as the field thinned. TJ Cloutier was among the early eliminations, along with John Gale, Dave "Devilfish" Ulliott, Andy Black and Vanessa Selbst. Selbst, who picked up her first WSOP bracelet earlier this summer, got it all in with Chris Grigorian on a flop of . Grigorian called with for two pair, and Selbst was left drawing with . The board ran out , and Selbst was eliminated.
Joe Sebok picked up a couple of coolers early to find himself on the rail. In the first hand he was crippled after he saw a baby flop with pocket nines but ran into an opponent with two jacks in the hole. Then he ran into the ultimate cooler when his ran into not only from one opponent, but from another. The player with kings tripled up when a king appeared on the board while Sebok went to the rail.
As the day wore on and the field shrank, the list of top players on the rail continued to swell. Howard Lederer, Gavin Smith, David Williams and John Juanda all added their names to the list of the fallen long before the money bubble was reached. Joe Hachem busted on Day 1, as did his runner-up in the 2004 WSOP Main Event, Steven Dannenmann. Other big names heading to the rail included Humberto Brenes, Chris Ferguson, Alex Kravchenko and Mike Matusow. The newly-svelte Matusow departed late on Day 1 after riding a roller coaster for much of the afternoon. One key hand early saw him river a full house to crack an opponent's straight, and then he found himself crippled after losing a big pot with to an opponent's pocket sevens. As he busted out, he remarked, "Did I really hit the miracle jack and then go broke on a coin flip?"
The field was volatile, and the chips were flying, but it was Eric Crain that was able to capitalize on the action and take over the chip lead as the money bubble neared and Day 1 drew to a close. Crain first took the chip lead when he moved all in on a flop of with pocket aces. One player called and tabled . No ace or nine on the turn or river, and Crain was off to the races. He used his big stack to dominate his table for the rest of the day, and finished atop the leader board.
After Vincent Dulac's aces held up to burst the money bubble, the chip leaders from Day 1 looked were as follows:
Eric Crain — 253,500
Sergey Rybachenko — 214,700
Sean McCabe — 206,600
Vincent Dulac — 181,100
Denis Limon — 178,000
Kham-Ar Aythavone — 131,300
Gerald Watterson — 126,600
Marco Johnson — 124,700
Van Dung Nguyen — 123,900
Guy Gorelik — 120,000
Join PokerNews at 2PM PDT on Saturday as the remaining 198 players play down to the final table.