Eleven World Series of Poker Circuit Main Events have come and gone during this 2010-11 season, and Thursday marked the beginning of number twelve. Harrah's Rincon opened its doors at noon for a crowd of 188 poker players, each ponying up the $1,600 buy-in to play for a gold ring. After 16 levels of play, Seneca Easley stood in front of the pack with 329,000 chips in his bag.
While it was the smallest of the Circuit Mains thus far, there was still a good crowd of notables scattered throughout the starting tables. Doug Lee was in the field very briefly — for less than two levels, in fact. In a big three-way pot, Lee turned queens-full on a board. Richard Yellend got himself all in with his drawing stone dead, and Steve Nixon's had just one out to work with. It was all he needed. The case peeled off the deck on the river, locking up an early lead for Nixon and sending Lee off to the rail courtesy of that one-outer. Circuit regulars Dwyte Pilgrim and John Land both arrived late and left early, relegated to the rail before the second break.
Some WSOP royalty were in the house on Thursday, too, with two Main Event champions and a former November Niner in the fray. Jerry Yang had the shortest day of the three, but Phil Hellmuth and Dennis Phillips joined him at the bar before night's end. None of the three got much going, and Phillips ended up running his pocket queens into pocket aces to end the trio's run at a gold ring. Others who came and went on Day 1 included David Baker, Michael Traylor, Kyle Bowker, Josh "JJProdigy" Field, Adam "Roothlus" Levy, Allen Kessler, Gavin Griffin, and Lisa Parsons.
Oh, and Kristy Arnett — Ms. PokerNews herself — played the Main Event today, but things didn't go as well as she would have liked. On the first hand of Level 7, her fell to an opponent's leaving her with only 2,200 chips. Three hands later, however, she was back up to 8,550 courtesy of two doubles but failed to survive the level. It was another race that sealed her fate beginning when Arnett's as the overcards to Gavin Griffin's . The board failed to connect with Arnett, who was left sweating her fiancé Andrew Moreno for the remainder of the day. Moreno finished Day 1 with 67,000 chips, incidentally. Another close friend of PokerNews, former live reporting manager Garry Gates, also played the Main Event, bagging up a respectable 43,100 at the end of his day.
Easley had the overnight lead, but a number of players had their hands on the big stack over the course of the day. Nixon was first in that big three-way pot with quad eights, and his lead lasted several hours. Eric Morton quietly worked his way up to 75,000 at the 25/150/300 level, and Eddy Sabat was hot on his heels by that time. Morton was chip daddy for a good while, as well, but along came Seneca Easley. In a preflop raising war between he and Gavin Griffin that put well over 100,000 chips in the pot during the 200/700/1,400 level, Griffin held and Easley held . It looked like they were headed for a chop. The dealer had other ideas though, running out a board of to boost Easley into the chip lead with 165,000.
That lead was short-lived, however, as Patrick Karschamroon's flopped a set against an opponent's in a massive pot to move him all the way up into the top spot with 230,000 chips. We'd penciled that long name into our top chip position, but then Paul Hails and Jason Wheeler had late surges to push themselves to the front of the pack. Just as the chip bags came out, though, Easley reclaimed the lead once and for all.
Here's how the remaining field will stack up when they return for Day 2 on Friday.
The 36 Day 1 survivors will return at noon PDT (1900 GMT) on Friday to play down to the final table. Our Live Reporting Team will be back inside the ropes to bring you all of the action as it happens, and you can follow along with the coverage right here.