The 2009 World Series of Poker kicked off in earnest yesterday with the 40th Anniversary $40,000 No-Limit Hold’em Event, a new tournament designed to draw the top names in poker to one event early in the series. Tournament organizers more than met their goal, as the star-studded field of 201 players collectively held well over 50 WSOP bracelets. Among the poker legends taking the field for a shot at the first open bracelet event of 2009 were Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Johnny Chan, Phil Ivey, Tom “durrrr” Dwan, Chris Moneymaker, John Juanda, and 2008 WSOP Main Event champion Peter Eastgate. By the time the last level of Day 1 was complete, only 89 players remained, with Bruno “King” Fitoussi leading the survivors.
With relatively deep stacks and a ridiculously skilled field, the pace of play was slow over the first few levels, with only five players busting before the first break. 1993 Main Event champion Jim Bechtel was one of those unfortunate few, heading to the rail barely 30 minutes into the event. Bechtel saw a three-way flop of with David Chiu and Per Ummer. Bechtel checked the flop, Chiu led out, and Ummer got out of the way. Bechtel made the call to see the came on the turn. Chiu fired another bullet, and Bechtel countered with a check-raise all in holding . Chiu didn’t hesitate a second before calling with for the flopped full house, and when the river brought the , Bechtel’s tournament was over. Other early eliminations included Tom Dwan, Steve “gboro780” Gross, John Juanda, and Daniel Negreanu.
Peter Eastgate won the last open WSOP event of 2008, but his attempt to pick up the first open event of 2009 fell short when he was eliminated by Charles Lehr. All the chips went in preflop, and Lehr held the slightest of edges with to Eastgate’s . Lehr’s edge increased on the flop as he made middle set on a board of , and Eastgate found himself needing a ten for Broadway. The on the turn was no help, and the on the river meant no back-to-back bracelets for the 2008 champ. Following Eastgate to the rail in the middle of the day were legend Johnny Chan, David Benyamine, reality TV star and bracelet winner Annie Duke, 2009 WPT Championship winner Yevgeniy Timoshenko, and 2008 WSOP Player of the Year Erick Lindgren.
In a battle of former world champions named Chris, Chris Ferguson fell to Chris Moneymaker as Moneymaker accumulated chips on his way to a top-five stack on Day 1. Moneymaker led out at the flop of , and Humberto Brenes made the call. Ferguson moved all in over the top with pocket tens for second pair and a straight draw, and Moneymaker went into the tank. After a long think, Moneymaker called, Brenes folded, and Moneymaker showed for top pair with the same straight draw. Ferguson was drawing mainly to chop, and when the turn and river came down bricks, he headed to the rail.
Bruno Fitoussi also spent much of the day accumulating chips, some of them at the expense of David Einhorn. Fitoussi checked the flop of and Einhorn led out with a big bet. Fitoussi check-raised enough to put Einhorn all in, and Einhorn made the call with for the nut flush draw and a gutshot Broadway draw. Fitoussi was ahead with for the flopped nut straight, and Fitoussi faded the hearts to bust Einhorn and move into big stack territory.
Phil Hellmuth’s entrance was typically late into the event, as he showed up well into the fourth level of play. However, his exit was atypically early, when he busted late on Day 1 at the hands of Phil Ivey. Hellmuth moved all in over the top of Ivey’s preflop raise with , only to find himself staring down the barrel of Ivey’s A-K. The board came down king-high, and Hellmuth was a late elimination on Day 1. Other late bustouts included Phil Laak, Vivek Rajkumar, Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier, and Scotty Nguyen.
The end of Day 1 featured a new anti-stalling mechanism at the WSOP: with ten minutes remaining in the final level of the day, the clock was stopped and one card was drawn to determine the number of hands played before the end of the day’s play. This policy, already in place at the EPT and LAPT, eliminates any advantage to stalling, as the same number of hands will be played on all tables no matter how long those hands take. Neil Channing drew a nine to set the number, and after one last orbit, the surviving 89 players bagged their chips for the night.
All eyes were on Bruno Fitoussi’s stack at the end of the day, as the Frenchman held a slight edge on Chris Moneymaker for the top spot on the leaderboard. Other big stacks included Justin Bonomo, Lex “RaSZi” Veldhuis, Kyle “krisqueen” Wilson, and Brian Townsend. Among the biggest names still standing after Day 1 were Doyle Brunson, Tony G, Ted Forrest, 2009 Heads-Up Champion Huck Seed, Greg Raymer, and the irrepressible Mike “The Mouth” Matusow.
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