LAS VEGAS -- The second of the three starting flights brought a little bit of spirit back to the 2014 World Series of Poker main event. After a lackluster turnout for Day 1A, the tables were packed on Sunday with a group of players ready to turn their $10,000 into $10 million. Featuring a field of 2,144 hopefuls, a field size nearly three times bigger than that of Day 1A, action began with actor Ray Romano uttering the game's most famous words: "Shuffle up and deal." Spread out among the three rooms in the convention center, five levels of play resulted in a number of familiar faces accumulating some of the top stacks. One of them was Erik Seidel, who, from the very start of the day, had complete control over one of the feature tables.
"I'm happy with the way things went today," said Seidel, who finished with 134,000 in chips. "It was a good table. Lots of decent players, but no supernovas to deal with, which helps. Obviously things went my way."
Seated at an adjacent table to Seidel's was ESPN.com's third-ranked player and 2014 bracelet winner, Vanessa Selbst. Known for her impressive tendency to accumulate big stacks on Day 1, Selbst struggled early and was down to 3,000 in chips during the first few levels. Looking to survive, she adjusted with a more conservative approach and made it through the day, finishing with 38,000 in chips.
"I made chips on the day," said Selbst. "I've never been so thrilled to have 38,000 at the end of Day 1 of the main. ... There are certain spots that you just need to play tighter because the value is going to come later."
Scott Seiver made a similar comeback, going from 5,000 in chips to 45,000 at the end of the day. Seiver has 32 career WSOP cashes, but has never made it into the money in the main event. Many pros were among the Day 1B survivors, including the leader of the 2014 WSOP Player of the Year race, Brandon Shack-Harris, multitasker David Williams, Phil Galfond, Matt Affleck, Marvin Rettenmaier, former main-event champions Dan Harrington and Huck Seed, Jeff Madsen, Jonathan Little, actors Romano and Kevin Pollak, NASCAR's Jason White and former Liverpool back John Arne Riise. Romano has yet to cash in any of his previous seven WSOP appearances while Pollak looks to match his run from two years ago, when he finished 134th.
"I'm a nit. I'm a cockroach," said Pollak. "You can't kill me. ... I'm nowhere near chip average, but I'm in it."
Others weren't so fortunate. Russell Thomas and Joseph Cheong, two players who are consistently deep in the main event, failed to make it through. Cheong ran kings into aces in the ultimate cooler while Thomas pushed A-K against his opponent's kings. Bertrand Grospellier, Paul Volpe, David Sands, Scott Clements, Chris Moorman and Vivek Rajkumar also had their runs cut short. Elimination from the main event is often the toughest moment of the year for a poker player, and 716 players were left coping with that disappointment on Day 1B.
Here are the unofficial top 10 chip counts from Day 1B:
1. Trey Luxemburger (193,450)
2. Sarkis Hakobian (190,125)
3. Ryan Buckholtz (189,000)
4. Dan Wirgau (173,350)
5. Ryan Julius (165,125)
6. Maxim Panyak (158,425)
7. Jeff Norman (156,625)
8. Julian Stuer (155,200)
9. Steve Ryan (147,500)
10. Richard Moon (146,200)
The 1,428 survivors from Day 1B will return on Tuesday.
Anticipation is at its peak for Day 1C. With more than 3,000 players already registered for the final starting day, it's likely that Day 1C will be the largest single starting day in main-event history. Play is expected to take place all across the Rio, and will not be limited to the convention center. It seems likely that the total field size will hover near the 7,000-player mark, a figure that may signal the re-emergence of poker after a number of challenging years.
Small blinds: The final non-main-event bracelet of the Series was awarded today to Igor Dubinskyy, champion of Event 62. Players who attended Matt Stout's Charity Series of Poker event offered rave reviews. The tournament benefited the Three Square food bank. 2008 November Niners Dennis Phillips, Steven Begleiter and Kevin Schaffel all played on Day 1B. Day 1C participants will include Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Joe Cada, Joseph Hachem and many more, but it won't include Doyle Brunson. In past years there may have been a chance of him showing up, but given his recent tweet, it seems very unlikely. The satellite room remains busy at 3 a.m. No surprise there. The Pavilion was emptied into Brasilia during the final level of the night. Very doubtful that it clears on Day 1C. Daniel Negreanu added "Rounders" into the mix of movies he watches before his main event begins. Typically it's just a lengthy "Rocky" marathon. Many players have been giving away pieces of their main event action on Twitter to their followers. Quite an interesting time to incentivize fans. Someone could get really, really lucky. I don't believe any former main-event champion has been eliminated yet. During the final break of the night I was speaking to Ben Lamb when a fan came up and asked to take a picture. Lamb made room with the expectation of taking the picture with the fan, but no, she just wanted to take a picture of him. She was thrilled as he stood there and posed. After play concluded, the security-led dogs played fetch and performed tricks in the Amazon Room.