What do you do to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the biggest poker tournament in the world? In addition to throwing a $40,000 poker tournament, you invite all the surviving winners of the Main Event to play in a freeroll for a hot rod from the year of the first WSOP and the first-ever Binion Cup honoring WSOP creator Benny Binion and the longtime home of the World Series. Twenty winners of the Main Event from Amarillo Slim Preston (1972) to Peter Eastgate (2008) gathered around three tables at the Rio to battle it out for bragging rights and a vintage 1970 Corvette Stingray. By the end of the night only ten champions remained, with 2001 champ Carlos Mortensen holding the chip lead going into the final table.
Jamie Gold holds the record for largest WSOP Main Event cash ever, but he picked up an ignominious title in the Champions Invitational – first champ busted. In a classic cooler hand, Gold picked up pocket jacks on one of the first hands of the tournament, only to run face-first into Carlos Mortensen’s pocket kings. Gold busted just a few hands later, and Chris Moneymaker came in to fill his seat. The seat was no better for Moneymaker, who busted in the early going to finish in 19th place and bring the event down to two tables.
Jerry Yang continued the streak of recent champions busting early when he got it all in good preflop against Scotty Nguyen, but the Prince of Poker caught a queen on the turn to make a set and crack Yang’s aces, as the 2007 champ headed to the rail. The earliest surviving WSOP champ, Amarillo Slim Preston, fell to the most recent champ, Peter Eastgate, when Preston’s couldn’t outrun Eastgate’s pocket queens.
Moments after busting in third place in the $40,000 No-Limit Hold’em event, Greg Raymer joined the festivities in the champion’s event. Having been blinded off for most of the tournament, he shipped the remnants of his stack in with , but Carlos Mortensen held pocket kings once again, and added another notch on his gunbelt as he sent Fossilman packing.
Brad Daugherty found himself holding pocket nines and riding a short stack, so he moved all in preflop. Chris Ferguson was another short stack but he had Daugherty slightly covered, and dominated with pocket jacks. Nothing out of the ordinary happened on the board, and Daugherty was gone in 15th place. Pocket jacks claimed another victim moments later, when Tom McEvoy busted Scotty Nguyen. Nguyen held pocket tens to McEvoy’s jacks, and found no help as the field shrunk to 13.
Carlos Mortensen knocked off another giant when he busted Chris Ferguson in 13th place. Ferguson moved all in over the top with after a preflop raise from Mortensen, and Mortensen didn’t hesitate to call with . No miracle board for Ferguson, and he was done. Johnny Chan fell to Jim Bechtel’s pocket aces when his couldn’t catch on the board of .
Joe Hachem raised nearly all in preflop with , and put his last chip in the middle on the flop. Doyle Brunson called with , and Brunson’s kings held up as the turn and river came down and .
With Hachem’s elimination in 11th place, play was halted for the night. Carlos Mortensen went into the clubhouse atop the leaderboard, with Tom McEvoy his closest pursuer. The final chip counts looked like this at the end of Day 1:
Carlos Mortensen — 42,375
Tom McEvoy — 31,000
Jim Bechtel — 30,475
Doyle Brunson — 20,250
Dan Harrington — 19,975
Peter Eastgate — 18,425
Huck Seed — 15,400
Robert Varkonyi — 13,450
Berry Johnston — 7,625
Phil Hellmuth — 1,125
Join PokerNews at 3PM local time as the ten men standing battle it out for the Binion Cup, the 1970 Corvette, and most importantly, the bragging rights associated with beating the rest of the champs.