One of the most decorated players in history, Poker Hall of Famer and all-time winningest player Daniel Negreanu made a strong statement on Day 1 of the $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl 2018: "I'm here to win this tournament."
Negreanu stormed through the first seven levels of play in the stylish PokerGO Studio just outside of the ARIA Resort & Casino, bagging an overwhelming chip lead.
The field of 48 players brought a mix of the world's elite players where Negreanu may be deemed an old-schooler. "Kid Poker," however, spent the vast majority of the last year adjusting to today's trends, working on his game to keep up with the pace of eager youngsters who spend endless hours with various game-solving programs.
The approach has been paying off for Negreanu so far. He claimed on PokerGO's original show "INSIDERS" that he won $1 million when he played his first event since he started exploring the new area of the game theory drill.
Now he's off to a fantastic start in the Super High Roller Bowl, a tournament he's called the most prestigious in the world. Negreanu is one of only 14 players who entered all four editions but he's failed to cash in previous years.
Bagging 1,618,000 tonight gets him closer to his first notch but there's still a ton of poker to be played before the final seven players split the $14.4 million prize pool. But it's a great base camp for Negreanu whose day in the office was almost inch-perfect. He has raced out front, more than 150 big blinds ahead of his nearest competitors.
Negreanu's rise to the top of the leaderboard started when he took a big chunk off Doug Polk on a double-paired board, getting the value with queens from Polk's tens.
"I really came in with a specific focus," Negreanu said. "Obviously, you know your table draw beforehand. I know that Doug on my left is trying to get under my skin and he's gonna try to throw me off my game. I'm a veteran at this, I'm not gonna be distracted."
Negreanu crossed 1 million in the fifth level. The only player who was chasing him for the lead was Kathy Lehne, fearless poker aficionado and the only female player in the field.
Lehne had a brilliant start to the event, causing the first elimination when 2015 champ Brian Rast bluffed off his stack in the opening level, running into Lehne's nut straight.
The race between Negreanu and Lehne for the overnight lead went into Negreanu's favor after he knocked out Andrew Lichtenberger with a nut flush over a set of fours to get himself a cushion at the top. Lehne eventually finished the day with 801,000, the sixth-biggest stack.
Jason Koon parked in second place after winning a huge coin flip, eliminating satellite qualifier Timofey Kuznetsov to soar to 986,000. Steffen Sontheimer is on his heels with 980,000 while other big stacks feature Stephen Chidwick (888,500), Bryn Kenney (852,500), Seth Davies (738,000), and Justin Bonomo (675,500). Defending champion Christoph Vogelsang has 232,500 and 2017 champ Rainer Kempe bagged 157,000.
Super High Roller bowl brings an interesting cross-over between generations of superstar players. Perhaps two of the most iconic heroes of different decades who demonstrate it the best are Fedor Holz and Phil Ivey. They'll both be back in action tomorrow as Holz finished with 522,500 while Ivey has 254,000.
Day 1 saw 18 players bow out, leaving 30 players in the competition ahead of Day 2. Those who fell included David Peters, Tom Marchese, Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Hellmuth, Isaac Haxton, Ben Tollerene, Erik Seidel and Igor Kurganov, among others.
Super High Roller Bowl 2018 continues Monday, May 28 at 12 p.m. PDT with the blinds of 2,000/4,000 and the big blind ante of 3,000.
Come back to PokerNews for the live updates as our team will be again on the ground to provide the coverage of the immense high stakes action.