LAS VEGAS -- All main event tables have been consolidated from Brasilia into the Amazon Room as Day 1A continues its fourth level. The shouts of "seat open" are becoming common, as a third of the field is typically eliminated from contention on each of the starting days. For one reason or another, post-dinner break play is typically more aggressive, and it's no surprise to see a few players emerge with six-figure stacks even this early in the tournament. So far, only a few familiar faces have fallen, including perennial main event casher Steve Gee, David Chiu, Phil Laak and Jeff Gross.
As a mellow field continues the grind in Amazon, the rest of the poker tournament areas are busy with both players and spectators. Brasilia has been overtaken by the Daily DeepStack events that have been consistently awarding $40,000 paydays for first, and Pavilion is the home of the cash games and -- more importantly -- the satellites that are pivotal to pushing the main event number upward.
According to floor staff in Pavilion, the mega-satellites that ran today have qualified approximately 150 players. The single-table satellite number will most likely eclipse 1,000. With limited online poker qualifiers in a post-Black Friday world, the World Series of Poker has figured out the right mechanism for getting people into the main, and it's a ship that runs smoothly until the very last moment.
The mega-satellite process is easy to understand. A player buys into the tournament in the cage, he or she gets a seat, and he or she plays it out. The single-table setup is a little more interesting. There's a line in the Pavilion Room that leads up to a podium. At the podium there are cards for whatever single table satellites are running. You take a card, head to the table listed on the card and buy in through the dealer. Tables compete under whatever structure was predetermined, and eventually a winner is crowned. Sometimes there's a chop, sometimes there's a winner. Completed tables are being tracked by hand on a legal notepad, and dealers are calling for the floor to handle winners constantly. Players are given lammers that they can use to buy into another event or, as typically happens, trade to other players for cash. Some players also play the single tables just to generate income. It's a strategy that was seen time and time again online as those who specialize in sit-and-gos have a distinct advantage.
There were approximately 2,500 players in satellites on Saturday inside of the Rio, and another 1,235 played on WSOP.com. On top of the fact that these satellites drive the main event number up, the WSOP also benefits from the rake paid every step of the way.
For the next two days, the satellite room will continue to be the place with the most excitement. Single table efforts turn into super turbos with 15-minute blinds or even full-table all-ins in order to quickly determine a champion. With a Day 1A number of only 771 players (down from 943 this past year), the WSOP has a lot of ground to cover and a lot of people to qualify if they want to reach their goals. I was optimistic there would be an increase in year-over-year turnout, but this small Day 1A is concerning, despite reiteration from the WSOP that they are indeed tracking ahead of 2013. Hopefully it's due to people traveling to Vegas today after spending the 4th with their families.
Small blinds: Jean-Robert Bellande bought into the main event during the dinner break. He didn't make it through one level. ... Johnny Chan has a new table and is all smiles as he's eclipsed the 100,000 mark. ... Ole Schemion is wearing something that reminded me of Fred Flintstone. I'll see if I can get a picture on Twitter. ... 2013 runner-up Jay Farber is sitting with Tom McEvoy and Amanda Musumeci. ... Marc-Etienne McLaughlin became the second member of last year's final table to bust. ... Early chip leaders include Martin Jacobson, Nick DiVella and Jon Broderick.