The World Series of Poker Circuit, Harrah’s, St. Louis got under way Sunday and drew 449 entrants who created a prize pool of $646,762. The air was palpable with excitement as players took their seats and spectators surrounded the tables to watch some of their family, friends, and even a few poker superstars, compete for the $142,290 first-place prize. By the end of the night, with approximately 93 players remaining, Harris Paroya was the chip leader with 314,100.
While Paroya emerged as the big stack, the day’s focus was on the large number of notables who entered the event. They included 2004 WSOP Main Event Champ Greg Raymer; St. Louis native and 2008 November Niner Dennis Phillips; Poker Hall of Famer T.J. Cloutier; and World Poker Tour Borgata Open Champion Dwyte Pilgrim, who had busted from the NAPT Mohegan Sun in Connecticut the night before and took an early flight to St. Louis. Joining them were circuit regulars such as Sam Barnhart, “Captain” Tom Franklin, Bob Talbot, Keith Woernle, Kurt Jewell, Joel Merwick, La Sengphet, and the Brothers Hinkle, Blair and Grant.
Unfortunately, not all the notable players were able to survive. Cloutier was an early casualty, as was poker pro Josh Brikis. They were soon joined on the rail by Talbot, Barnhart, Merwick, Sengphet, Woernle, and Pilgrim. Some others fought long and hard but ultimately fell in the last levels of the night. The fallen included the Hinkle brothers, Jewell, Hugh Jordan Drummond and Kenny Nguyen.
Not all the notables were knocked out. A number managed to survive with healthy stacks included Mark “Pegasus” Smith (tied for the most WSOP-C rings with four), Kyle Cartwright (Harrah’s Tunica Casino Champion), John Land, Aaron Massey, and Nadya Magnus. While all of these players will return for Day 2, all eyes will likely be on two players in particular: Phillips and Raymer.
Phillips, the third-place finisher in the 2008 WSOP Main Event, managed to survive the day and bagged up 197,600 chips. Much of those chips came after the dinner break when he held against the of his opponent on a board reading . Phillips doubled on the hand to just over 118,000. Later in the night, action folded to Phillips in middle position and he raised to 5,200. The big blind was the only player to call, and the pair watched the flop fall . From there, the big blind checked, Phillips bet 11,500, and the big blind check-raised all-in for 32,400.
"Let me check," Phillips said as he counted out the chips. "I'm pretty sure I'm going to call." Sure enough, he did.
Phillips was in great shape to eliminate his opponent but still needed to dodge an ace or jack on the remaining streets. The turn changed nothing; neither did the river. Phillips sent his opponent to the rail while chipping up to 210,000.
Likewise, Raymer survived after nursing an average stack most of the day. Luckily, a late night surge put him in a much better chip position. The hand that really helped came when he was all-in preflop with pocket tens against pocket aces. Raymer was in rough shape, but a ten in the door gave him the hand and the 205,000-chip pot. He would lose a little and go on to bag 133,000 chips.
Day 2 action is set to resume at noon CDT (1700 GMT) on Monday when the final 93 players will look to crack the top 45 and survive the money bubble on their journey to the final table. As always, the PokerNews Live Reporting Team will be there to bring you all the action, eliminations, and stories straight from the tournament floor.