Day 2C: Around The Felt

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
LAS VEGAS -- I often use the "Around The Felt" tag in the blog as a way to give a big-world picture on a variety of stories. Here, on Day 2C, it's easy to miss many of the storylines in play, so I decided to utilize Twitter and hear what the players are saying for themselves as the action continues late Wednesday night.

From the chip leader, Phil Ivey:

In case you were wondering, Ivey had 421,000 in that picture. He has held steady around that range for a few hours and can essentially blind out from this point on and still make the money. Obviously that will never happen. Ivey is seated in Amazon, far away from the rail. He probably can't be much happier.

Tucked in the back corner of the Amazon Room behind the stage, Negreanu has a strong stack of about 150,000 in chips. The woman that he references, Bridget Fredericks, is among the Day 2C leaders. She has five small cashes in her career, but Negreanu is impressed nonetheless.

Phil Hellmuth version 2.0, or more realistically, 18.4, has chipped up since this tweet and has about 55,000 midway through the ninth level. He's seated at an outside feature table and is chatting up those that he's sitting with, including bracelet winner and WPT champion Matt Waxman.

Pierce arrived with Derek Gregory for Day 1 and went their separate ways. Both survived the day and returned on Day 2C to be seated together. Pierce has had a strong day, chipping up into six figures, but still has trouble staying in his seat while the levels progress. The NBA star has a tendency to walk around while play continues, which apparently keeps him focused but costs him a number of hands.

He's not doing any interviews, but Gerard Pique, the 27-year-old defender from Spain, has been taking care of business at the felt. He chipped up slightly after the dinner break to 160,000 and is wearing custom Barcelona-styled Beats that are drawing a lot of conversation in the Brasilia Room.

"In Spain, a major portion of the population thinks that poker is the same as roulette," said Guillermo Sanz, a member of the Spanish poker media. "They don't understand it." He continued to explain that if Pique, who has a poker room in his house, started to do interviews about poker, it would go a long way toward helping his countrymen to become interested in the game.

The 2009 WSOP main event champ had a great summer, capturing his second WSOP bracelet. He won't get a third one. Another November Niner, Jake Balsiger, also fell short of Level 10.

I'm lucky enough to be part of the committee for this. Who do you think should be inducted this year?
Crowds are forming in pockets of the Amazon Room. It's not for Daniel Negreanu. Or Phil Hellmuth. Or Joseph Hachem, Phil Ivey, Paul Pierce, Joe Cada, or anyone else you can think of. In fact, the players and cards on the felt are apparently the side show on Day 2C. The crowds stand motionless with a blank stare across their faces. Don't ask them to move. Their eyes are locked on what's directly in front of them.

I stop to look down at my phone, probably to tweet. A player yells out to me and waves his hands furiously as if there was a gigantic bee swarming around his stack. It looks awkward, but I understand. My bad. I quickly take a step to the left. He gives a nod.

What was behind me was perhaps the most important thing in the room to hundreds of those in my view ... the television screen that was locked onto ESPN and showing the World Cup. Apparently that's a pretty big deal.
[+] EnlargePhil Ivey
Andrew Feldman/ESPNPhil Ivey leads after the first two levels on Day 2C

If there ever was the ultimate distraction for players as they compete for the chance to win $10 million, it's the Netherlands/Argentina game. The WSOP main event is an international spectacle that featured players from 83 countries. The majority of players didn't have a true vested interest in the game, but it has been all that everyone is talking about on Wednesday. Poker criticism turned to criticism of coaching and styles. Players were sporting jerseys and rocked with anxiety as if they were sweating the most pivotal river card in the world. Despite so much on the line in the event that could change their lives, the masses of players acted as if they were in a bar with their best friends.

They were watching a game and if they could, they'd try to chip up, too.

For a few hours, the social engagement that's commonly seen around the world in home games was replicated here in the biggest tournament in the world. This event is known for the quiet, meticulous behaviors, filled with hoodies, glaring stares and only a mumble or two per hand. Sunglasses were removed and smiles were seen. Leave it to the World Cup to bring out the best in the main event.

Then the game ended and players went back to business. Except for Phil Ivey, who never stopped being all business.

It's a scary thought that Ivey is not only playing like the best player in the world, but also running good too. Ivey began the day as one of the chip leaders and left for the second break of Day 2C with a stack nearly 150,000 bigger than his closest competitor. Ivey eclipsed the 400,000-chip mark nearly five hours before anyone in the field from Day 2AB attained it, and is seated in the middle of Amazon at a table that, when he sat down, looked up and him and asked how they could be so lucky to sit with the greatest of all time.

Bumps to Ivey's stack came a few times during the level, but a hand with just minutes to go put him well over the top of the competition. Ivey flopped bottom set of sixes on a board of 10h-9d-6s and led out in a three-player pot. Lazaro Hernandez called and Fabian Scherle moved all-in for 44,000. Ivey moved all-in over the top and Hernandez, holding the nuts 7-8, called all-in for 130,000. Scherle, holding kings, was in big trouble and began to get up. Even though he had the nuts, Hernandez joked that he was going home and Ivey looked at him incredulously. Then came the 5h. Then the 10c. Ivey had filled up and won a massive pot. Hernandez was going home.

Right as play was beginning, I joked that Ivey would have 700,000. Now that joke doesn't seem so farfetched.

Small blinds: The Amazon is filled with notables, but hidden in a back corner is Daniel Negreanu and a sub-100,000 stack. … Phil Hellmuth is back in his survival mode with 38,000 in chips. … Paul Pierce has 96,000 at the break. … Earl Barron is right behind him with 90,000. … Two 2013 November Niners went down so far today, JC Tran and Sylvain Loosli, as well as two former champions, Jonathan Duhamel and Scotty Nguyen. … Nguyen told me that now that he's in the Hall of Fame he feels old. He was also drinking a Michelob at noon. … UFC fighter Martin Kampmann has 70,000 at the break. … The green chips are being colored up during the second break of the day. … Bruce Buffer did the Shuffle Up and Deal on Day 2C. … Sully Erna, Eric Baldwin, Matt Stout, Jesse Martin and Paul Wasicka will have to wait until next year. … One of the players sitting with Paul Pierce, is wearing a Paul Pierce jersey. … The media event begins at the dinner break. … Tables are breaking from Pavilion into the other rooms. Should be cleared out by the end of the night. … The Day 2AB Poker Edge daily podcast, featuring Chris Moneymaker, Antonio Esfandiari and Mukul Pahuja, can be found here. … Dennis Phillips was standing in the hallway outside of the Amazon Room watching his final table on the televisions.

LAS VEGAS -- The 1,933 survivors from Day 1A and Day 1B returned to action Tuesday for another five two-hour levels of play. As intended, the fields were kept in separate playing areas with 1A occupying Amazon and 1B in Brasilia and Pavilion. By the end of the fourth level all that remained was the Purple section in Amazon (about a quarter of the room) and three-fourths of Brasilia. Eliminations came rapidly, and a total of 1,115 players were sent home on Day 2AB with 2013 WSOP main event champion Greg Merson being one of the first. Some took it better than others.

Day 1 is all about survival and Day 2 is about accumulation. Players first broke the 250,000 chip barrier before dinner. Then came 300,000. Then four players attained 400,000 (250 big blinds). Tim Stansifer bagged a substantial chip lead for the night, trailed closely by Tom Cannuli, Tony Ruberto and Joe Kuether. Out of that group, Ruberto and Kuether have found a few successes this Series. Ruberto earned three cashes and a third-place finish in the six-handed Event 15 and Kuether had five cashes, with his best being a 17th-place result in the turbo Event 23. Stansifer, on the other hand, is looking for his first career tournament cash. A Day 2 chip lead doesn't mean much, but it's a strong step on the path toward the money.

Besides Merson, four of the other former main event champions advanced to Day 3. Defending champion Ryan Riess, 1987 and 1988 champion Johnny Chan, 1996 champion Huck Seed and 2003 champion Chris Moneymaker are all looking to make history. Dan Harrington can not. Moneymaker had the best day of the group and finished with 222,000.

"Going in I knew it was going to be a very tough day," Moneymaker said. "I dropped all the way down to 24,000 at my low point. ... But now the tournament really starts. It really starts on Day 3. I'm in a position now where I can hopefully use my experience and grow this stack as we get closer to the money and really put myself in a position to do something. The biggest thing in this tournament is getting to Day 3, with a stack, and using it effectively."

Moneymaker hasn't cashed in the main event since his victory in 2003.

As for the other champs, Riess (84,900) coasted most of the day before having a tough last level. "I made my first mistake," he said during a break in the action. Chan suffered a similar setback, chipping up well above average before ultimately losing a few key pots to finish with 46,600. Seed, who has final tabled this event twice, ended with 96,500.

The other worldwide star stayed silent for the most part in Amazon on Day 2AB. Antonio Esfandiari was focused on the grind for most of the day, but a big hand with aces against A-Q gave him a boost at the end of the night. Finishing with 277,800, he looks to cash for the third time in six years.

"I ran good," he said of his final few hours. "What can I do? When the cards come they come. I ran good, I played pretty good and I'm very fortunate to have a good stack to enter Day 3."

Esfandiari was part of the Day 1A contingent that played in a reserved fashion in the Amazon Room. Across the hall, Brasilia's atmosphere was like a loud party with chatter, smiles and drinks during the final level of the night. Given the smaller space and nearly three times the players, there was a clear emotional distinction between the two rooms. The chip leaders above all built their stacks in Brasilia, as did Erik Seidel, Faraz Jaka, Allen Cunningham, Ole Schemion, Jeff Madsen, Marvin Rettenmaier and Phil Galfond.

Here are the unofficial top 10 chip counts from Day 2AB:
1. Tim Stansifer (481,500)
2. Tom Cannuli (407,800)
3. Tony Ruberto (402,700)
4. Joe Kuether (401,200)
5. Zhen Cai (367,900)
6. John Sacha (364,400)
7. Munir Shahin (361,900)
8. Tom Roupe (349,600)
9. Martin Jacobson (342,700)
10. Jon DeGeorge (342,200)

When the field combines after Day 2C, blinds will begin Day 3 at 800/1,600 with a 200 ante.

Small blinds: Only 215 of the original 771 Day 1A players remain. … Jacob Zalewski advanced to Day 3 with 64,200 in chips. … Actor Kevin Pollak has made Day 3 for the second time in three years. … The media tournament will be held during the dinner break Wednesday night. … Mike Matusow didn't take his elimination too well. He tweeted: "Out if main event this concludes the worst 6 weeks of poker in my life thanks for [all] your support #illbeback." … Vanessa Selbst, Annette Obrestad, Mike Sexton, Dennis Phillips, Josh Arieh, Ray Romano, Yevgeniy Timoshenko and last year's seventh-place finisher Michiel Brummelhuis were eliminated on Day 2AB. … NASCAR's Jason White bagged 157,100.

LAS VEGAS -- Seven hours into Day 2AB and the Amazon Room is beginning to look a little barren. While surviving players from both Day 1A and 1B are both in action on Tuesday, they play as if they are part of two separate tournaments until Day 3 on Thursday. As a result, the Amazon Room has cleared out its largest Orange section with a significant portion of the small Day 1A field hitting the rail during play on Tuesday. Of the 505 players that began the day in Amazon, only about 320 remain.

Scattered throughout the tables in Amazon are three former champions -- Chris Moneymaker, Ryan Riess and Johnny Chan. Moneymaker has been treading water all day, never able to build a stack while seated at the feature table area. Riess eclipsed the six-figure mark before dinner and sits casually at his table with a just a few on his rail. He doesn't seem to mind.

After wearing a black T-shirt with a bright gold emblem on Day 1A, Chan has gone for a more casual, hidden approach on Tuesday. He is sporting a hoodie and doing his best to remain inconspicuous during Day 2AB action. The only problem is that he also has 100,000 stacked in front of him, and keeping a low profile with those chips is going to be hard.

Martin Jacobson began the day as the chip leader and still holds strong with 260,000 in chips. Also scattered at tables throughout the Day 1 contingent is 2013 WSOP main event runner-up Jay Farber, Antoio Esfandiari, David Bach, Mukul Pahuja Brian Hastings, Kyle Cartwright, Annette Obrestad and Ted Forrest. Jacob Zalewski, seated with Esfandiari, has nearly quadrupled his stack on the day.

The Day 1B contestants have also been reduced to one room. With the Pavilion emptied, the Brasilia room is nearly filled to capacity and seems to have most of the chip leaders from the day. Joe Kuether, looking for his sixth cash of the 2014 WSOP, is one of five people with more than 300,000 chips. Brasilia also features some big stacks belonging to Marvin Rettenmaier, Kevin MacPhee, Dan Kelly and Erik Seidel.

Small Blinds: Comedian Kevin Pollak remains in contention and successfully made it through six hours of competition against Phil Galfond, Michael Binger and Matt Vengrin. That table broke shortly after dinner. Pollak does some impersonations of Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth here. … NASCAR's Jason White has just less than 100,000 in chips. … Ryan Riess's dad and girlfriend have pulled up chairs along the defending champion's rail. … Greg Merson was eliminated during the first level on Tuesday. … The two players that lead the WSOP Player of the Year race, Brandon Shack-Harris and George Danzer, both fell on Tuesday. With plenty of points for first to the main event champion, along with 10 more bracelet events in WSOP-APAC, the race is far from over. … Michael Binger told me he's happy to be out of the poker world. "I take the subway to work," he said of his "normal" lifestyle. Binger lives in Brooklyn, still pursuing his passion of science. … The WSOP asked first-timers to stand up and be recognized at their table Tuesday to show a similarity to how they could all be like Riess a year ago. Some players stood up. Some players didn't. Some criticized them for making that request, but there's no guarantee that anyone who stood up was actually a first-timer. It's a game of information, so wouldn't you want to take advantage there? … Johnny Chan is taking a quick walk through the Amazon room, listening to something and dancing. Yes, a dancing Johnny Chan. I have no idea what he's listening to, but it's pumping up the two-time champ. … The WSOP had a record-setting 82,360 entries in 65 events. It awarded the largest prize pool in WSOP history: $225,584,873. &133; A total of 107 countries are represented in the 2014 WSOP. … Of the main event participants, 4.2 percent were women. It was 4.7 percent in 2013. … The average age in the main event was 39.2. There average age last year was 38.1.

Tournament Director Jack Effel is walking through the Amazon Room on Day 2A. With a cheery demeanor he looks out at a few members of his staff, hard at work inside the ropes. He gives them a look and a nod. They respond with a smile. Effel continues to make his way through the room and assists a player. He heads my direction.

"Happy Day 2," I say to Effel, attempting to acknowledge the baby steps taken thus far in the main event.

"Day 2 was May 28th," he replies without hesitation.

He's right.

The main event is the cap of the World Series, but since May 27, Effel has been on the floor day in and day out doing his best to make sure every event goes off without a hitch. Of course the spotlight is on the main event, but when it comes to the World Series of Poker, every hand that is dealt is important and the planning that goes into it begins even before the previous edition's conclusion.
[+] EnlargeJack Effel
Andrew Feldman/ESPNTournament Director Jack Effel stands in front of the action on Day 2AB

"The WSOP comes together nicely. It's a year-round project," Effel said during a break in action. "Everyone does their part. We're cognizant of timelines and we always have the sense of urgency so that the show can open."

Before play begins each day, either Executive Director Ty Stewart or Effel takes the microphone with a goal of providing instruction or hype for the field in attendance. Effel has become the front man, but he's the first to admit that it's those by his side who constantly make a difference. The team organizes everything from table service to payouts to the floor plan and aims to make the players' experience as optimal as possible.

"All of us are standing up there at once," Effel says about the times he's talking to the masses. "I may be the voice representing us, but the whole team is standing up there together making it happen. ... But it's the players' event."

The focus on the players is a common theme since Effel joined the WSOP as tournament director in 2005. Always looking to fill the next niche and satisfy a need, Effel has worked with players both in person and through social media to create the right opportunities that will lead the event to greater success.

"This event belongs to the players," he said. "As long as we keep giving them the best competition and the best experience, the WSOP will continue to be successful."

While there were many, two of the biggest successes of the 2014 WSOP were Effel's innovations: the Monster Stack and the Dealer's Choice events. The Monster Stack offered players the ability to buy into a $1,500 event and receive 15,000 in starting chips, far more than the 4,500 that they would receive in another similar buy-in event. It was a way to provide players the opportunity to compete in a different structure, similar to the depth of the main event, and play for a huge prize pool. It was a stunt that Effel and team expected to work and attract a field of around 4,000-5,000. Then 7,862 players showed up. Effel was floored.

"I wasn't doing a dance when everyone showed up," he said when I asked if he was excited by the incredible field. "I tried to get everyone in."

The structure wasn't conducive to the alternate system since players weren't busting out quick enough, so Effel decided to add a second starting flight that began at 5 p.m. that day. By the end of the sixth level, every player had been seated and a new record for a field on a single starting day had been set.

"I thought it would be popular, but I had no idea it would do what it did. We had one extreme with the turbo event, so we needed one on the other extreme. There were lots of players and lots of chips. When they all showed up I had no idea what I was going to do with them."

The thing is, the more you talk to Effel, the more you realize that his determination and creativity are what make him tick. He knew exactly what he wanted to do and figured out a solution that could handle it. His vision also led to what some players have called the best event of all time: Dealer's Choice.

"Players could try all of the 16 games for a small buy-in," he said. "It was a way to introduce new games into the mix and gauge what would be most popular. It also gave mixed-game specialists the poker game of poker games."

The item that scared many prior to the start of the event was the capabilities of the dealers. However, Effel and his staff handpicked the crew for this event and said those dealers loved having the opportunity.

"This is all you are going to be doing for the next three days," Effel said he told his crew. "They were all good and they were role models who looked forward to this event. They were all excited and it was an honor for them to be part of this being dealt for the first time."

Dealer's Choice went off without a hitch and was another notch in the belt of a very successful summer. With only a week left of the main event, Effel knows that more time with his wife and kids is just around the corner. He also knows that the magnifying glass is in place on the main event and that any mistake in the main can overshadow the success of the past six weeks. The truth is that Effel is ready for anything, and ready to handle anything that may come his way. He believes he needs to, and that with every passing day, he's still building the legacy of the WSOP.

"The train stopped to pick us up and we're all on it for a ride," he said. "Poker is a great game. We know what it means to us and want to do all we can to get everyone in the seats and keep them here for years to come. We want to inspire new players and have people say that they're glad these guys did what they did. I'm proud of where the WSOP is, and where it's going."

In a week the Amazon Room will be empty. The players will have moved on and the media will have left the city, but Effel will be back in his office. More innovation is coming for 2015, and for his team, there's plenty of work to do.
The last of the World Series of Poker main event's three starting days featured a huge field of 3,768 players that nearly filled the Rio to capacity. From the tables at Buzios near the entrance of the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino to the Amazon Room in the convention center, the biggest tournament in the world attracted a ton of attention as the best in the world competed on the green felt.

And the best in the world thrived.

Phil Ivey played at a table in the Pavilion Room that was perfect for him. Far away from the rail and the distractions, Ivey was all business during the five-level session and dominated to bag a top-five stack of 187,025 in chips. After a slow start in which he dropped under 20,000, Ivey picked up a number of big hands, including one in the final moments of the day in which he flopped a straight and successfully faded his opponent's draw. For the second year in a row, Day 1 was kind to Ivey, and for the rest of the field, that's not good news. The 10-time bracelet winner has four top-23 main event finishes since 2002.

Those visiting the Amazon Room today had the privilege of seeing former main event champions everywhere they looked. Joe Cada occupied the feature table and put on a show for the fans, building a 66,935-chip stack at the end of the night. Jonathan Duhamel, Carlos Mortensen, Robert Varkonyi and Joe Hachem fared well, too, and advanced to Day 2 with hopes of a second main event title. Phil Hellmuth arrived after the dinner break, and unlike his typical style, he was extremely active at his table. He was also outwardly friendly to his opponents as he's made a conscious decision to limit his negativity at the table. It was refreshing.

"Winning [the main event] would be amazing," said Hellmuth, who finished the night with 49,425. "I know it's doable."

Hellmuth posed for pictures and made some jokes with a few of his competitors throughout the night. For lack of a better description, it was a new Phil, armed with consideration, but despite that outgoing positivity, he reminded everyone that taking his chips won't be easy.

"It's important that people have fun playing with me," he said. "I live my life as a good guy, and everyone in the poker world knows it. I don't want too much whining or berating to make the world think [otherwise]."

Jamie Gold became the first former champion to bust after all members of that elite fraternity advanced in the first two days. Greg Raymer and Jerry Yang also failed to make it through the day.

While the champs competed in an environment that encouraged spectators, the rail following a non-champion remained the strongest of all. Daniel Negreanu, who is freerolling as part of his prize for winning the 2013 WSOP Player of the Year award, was chatty and smiling all day. From the very first orbit Negreanu was in a groove, and that momentum didn't stop. The six-time champion utilized a small-ball approach all day, focused on limiting the size of pots preflop, and finished the day with 129,250 in chips. Negreanu's focus comes from his dedication to a positive mindset.

[+] EnlargeDaniel Negreanu
Courtesy of Andrew FeldmanDaniel Negreanu coasted to a six-figure stack on Day 1C of the 2014 WSOP main event.

"I'm a big believer in clear intention, and being clear about what you want to accomplish," said Negreanu after the day. "My intention is to be in great chip position throughout the tournament and win the tournament. ... I'm just playing my game."

Negreanu has cashed in the main event in two out of the past three years.

The three-day total of 6,683 players made the 2014 edition the fifth-largest main event in WSOP history. It's the first time that the event has grown since 2010, and the guaranteed $10 million for first place will be the storyline for not only the next week, but the next few months. Some may debate the substanial $4.9 million difference between first and second, but it's going to make for a very interesting final table.

"It encourages more fight for first if the tournament is top heavy," said Cada.

Here are the unofficial top 10 chip counts from Day 1C:

1. Eric Tracey (206,175)

2. Phil Ivey (187,025)

3. Ronnie Pease (181,850)

4. Nick Yunis (171,100)

5. Tom Sarra Jr. (168,100)

6. Martin Hansen (167,250)

7. Konstantin Tolokno (161,550)

8. Justin Lunin-Pack (154,925)

9. Justin Swilling (149,275)

10. Anthony Maio (147,500)

Players who advanced on Day 1C will return on Wednesday. Day 1A and 1B survivors play on Tuesday, but as separate fields. Action resumes at noon PT.

Small Blinds: Actor Aaron Paul was hanging out at the Rio all day … taking selfies with fans. Paul said he didn't have any interest in the field, but he was on the rail almost all day just watching the action. He told me he plays a lot of poker, but couldn't play the main event due to a conflict with work. … Paul Pierce didn't feel like hanging out until the end of the day to bag his chips. The NBA star left 15 minutes before the end of the final level of the night with his 60,000 in chips on the table. In that situation, a member of the floor staff bags the chips. … Sunday, Binions will host a charity poker event in tribute to Chad Brown, who died at the age of 52 after a long battle with cancer Wednesday. The event is being organized by his ex-wife Vanessa Rousso, who has dedicated her main event to Brown. She advanced to Day 2. … The UFC's Martin Kampmann advanced to Day 2, as did ESPN contributor Bernard Lee. … It's expected that 2013 main-event champion Ryan Riess will announce Wednesday's "Shuffle up and Deal." … Other notable players eliminated: Jesse Sylvia, Tom Dwan, John Racener, Andy Frankenberger, Sam Trickett and Phil Collins. … Notable players who advanced: JC Tran, Jake Balsiger, Matt Salsberg, Haralabos Voulgaris, Greg Mueller, Amir Lehavot and Barry Greenstein.
The largest starting day in World Series of Poker main event history (3,768 players) led to a main event field of 6,683 contestants. The winner, as guaranteed months ago, will win $10 million and every other member of the final table will earn at least $730,725. This is the fifth-largest main event in history and the first time since 2010 that there's an increase in participation. Why? Online satellites, live satellites and, of course, a little bit of added money in the poker economy thanks to the repayments of the Full Tilt funds earlier this year.

Regardless of how or why everyone showed up, this is a win for the WSOP.

"With all-time records for both entrants and prize pool and the first main event increase in years, it's got to be the best summer in the 45-year history of the WSOP," said Ty Stewart, executive director of the WSOP. "We all want to have a story. And there's few stories better than heading to Vegas for a shot at 10 million [dollars]."

Stewart is spot on, and with a flawless main event thus far, players are thrilled as well. One of the bigger concerns voiced socially was the potential to play 10-handed, but the event never reached that point. In fact, there were still tables in the Pavilion Room offering cash games that can be closed when the WSOP needs additional space. Looking out a year, there's no reason to think that the magic 4,000 number won't be hit on the final starting day of the 2015 WSOP main event.

"There's a ton of pressure on that closing entrant number," Stewart said. "It's the barometer of the industry. It's the crystal ball. It's sort of like sweating whether Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow and send poker back to the hole or we can stay happily in the sun."

Stewart's second thoughts echo something I've stated repeatedly on the Poker Edge podcast. People look at the WSOP main event as the end-all, be-all. Especially outsiders who don't follow the game at any point besides these two weeks. I've stressed the aspect of growth, and I do that as a reiteration of what most people believe: A healthy main event means a healthy industry. That part is true and incredibly important. I know that when I go back to Bristol, Connecticut, they'll talk about the numbers being up and that poker is making a comeback. This number matters.

What's also true is that there's a big poker world out there besides the WSOP. There are a number of tours around the world that go through the same growth and decline cycles. How the "minors" do is almost as important as the main event, because that dictates those that play the game at a casual level. Then we need to take into consideration online poker, the World Poker Tour, the European Poker Tour, the APPT ... you get the point.

All that said, this is a huge success and nothing should be taken away from that. This is the biggest and best event in the world and there's still a long way to go until someone wins $10 million.

Here are the payouts for the 2014 WSOP main event:

1. $10,000,000

2. $5,145,968

3. $3,806,402

4. $2,848,833

5. $2,143,174

6. $1,622,080

7. $1,235,862

8. $947,077

9. $730,725

10-12: $565,193

13-15: $441,940

16-18: $347,521

19-27: $286,900

28-36: $230,487

37-45: $186,388

46-54: $152,025

55-63: $124,447

64-72: $103,025

73-81: $85,812

82-90: $72,369

91-99: $61,313

100-162: $52,141

163-225: $44,728

226-288: $38,634

289-351: $33,734

352-414: $29,400

415-477: $25,756

478-549: $22,678

550-621: $20,228

622-693: $18,406

The money bubble will burst on Day 4, which will also be the first day of coverage on our ESPN broadcasts this year. Coverage of the main event will begin on Sunday, Sept. 28, at 9 p.m. ET.

Small blinds: There were a few new faces after the dinner break, including a number of former champions. Phil Hellmuth, Scotty Nguyen and Joseph Hachem began their main events a few levels in and Nguyen hasn't fared well thus far. Other additions include Tom Dwan and Gus Hansen, who were probably crowbarred away from the cash games to get to the Rio. Once here, Dwan continued to seek more action from anyone who wanted to partake. Shocker. Hansen nearly doubled-up in his first two hours. … Then there's the story of Michael Nelson. Standing near the banner of Jonathan Duhamel in the Amazon Room, I hear a bit of commotion. There are two players standing and a member of the floor staff beside them. One of the two players, Sean Winter, takes his seat. The other, Nelson, is escorted to a chair by the floorperson and asked for ID. Nelson hands over his license and the floorperson walks away. He sits down in the chair and begins to rock, either falling asleep or passing out intermittently. Nelson, apparently intoxicated, mumbles a few words about the players who were at his table before and yells as the floorperson returns, telling them they need to stop messing with him. More of the floor staff shows up and escorts him through the Purple section in Amazon, asking him if anything looks familiar. He says yes. They stop by the doors to the side of the room and they continue the discussion. Nelson begins to get frustrated and things aren't going anywhere. I'm actively tweeting about the situation and I receive a tweet from Matthew Haugen that says, "@AFeldmanESPN table 309 is missing a drunk player." I show the tweet the staff who escort him into the Pavilion Room and to the tweeted table, which is immediately recognized. Nelson then proceeds to sit in his seat and play, sloppily, and bets out of turn on the first hand. He's given a penalty for doing so, but before he can observe it, his table is broken and he is once again sent to stumble back to the Amazon Room. He makes it to his new table, sits down, falls asleep, wakes up mid-hand and begins to ramble. Long story made even shorter, Nelson didn't make it through the next half hour. … Paul Pierce has a tendency to get up and walk around outside in the hallway during levels. It makes it a slightly harder challenge to figure out if he's eliminated. Which he is not. … Greg Raymer was the second main event champion to fall on Monday. … The last woman standing from 2013, Jackie Glazier, is out, along with Sam Trickett, Phil Collins, Melanie Weisner, Davidi Kitai and Men Nguyen. … There was a Tuan Lam sighting at the WSOP, but it didn't last long. The 2006 WSOP main event runner-up was eliminated early Monday. … A few main event champions that didn't play this year: Pius Heinz, Peter Eastgate and Chris Ferguson.
The World Series of Poker had a big moment earlier today with the announcement of growth in the main event for the first time since 2010. Players continue to file into the registration area at the last minute and essentially enter the main event at no disadvantage given how slow the blinds move on the starting days.

Some of those players are coming from the Pavilion Room, whose tables are occupied by main event players, cash game players and, as mentioned on Day 1, satellite players. As Day 1C plays on, there are fewer and fewer tables being utilized for satellite play. There are single-table ones, which are nothing more than turbos with 15-minute blinds, and then ... there are the flips.

And that, my friends, is where the true excitement is on Day 1. In the smallest pocket of that satellite section is one table next to the podium responsible for the madness. The floor staff yells out, "Two seats left in a $1,030! One seat left!" hoping to entice those who surround the section to buy-in. They eventually do get their players, and as 10 players take their seats, they're surrounded by tens of players and railbirds looking to get a glimpse of the ridiculousness. These players are looking for an ounce of luck to go their way, and they're all content with putting their cash on the line.

The dealer shuffles for high card, then gives everyone a hand. Nobody looks at their hand as the dealer runs out a board. One by one, the players look to see if they hit, and in less than 20 seconds, someone wins their seat into the main event.

In a game that likes to preach skill over luck, there is no skill here. There is simply gamble. And there are plenty of people willing to do so.
[+] EnlargeFrankie Flowers
Andrew Feldman/ESPN.comFrankie Flowers attempts to win another satellite seat just hours before registration closes.

Frankie Flowers is one of those players, and he won his seat in a flip. Flowers, from Poughkeepsie, New York, plays incessantly on the east coast. The father of three (son Brandon, 20, and daughters Miranda and Lia, 19 and 7) travels back and forth to the casinos in Connecticut and plays $5/$10 for a living, mixing in the occasional tournament. In speaking with him for moments, you understand the gamble in his eye and his true passion for the game. The past month hasn't been great for him on the felt, but the past few days have provided him with a little boost.

"I've played in smaller events but have no scores," Flowers says, anxiously looking for other players to buy satellite lammers off of him. "The satellites have been good, though."

Good, apparently, is relative. When discussing the tens of thousands in satellites he's won, he still admits that he's down. Regardless, the smile never leaves his face.

The table gets the call and the crowd emerges. Players are quickly trading hundred-dollar bills with others, trying to reduce their risk, and among those in attendance is Eric Mizrachi who is currently playing in the main event. Mizrachi is all smiles and flanked with other players from his table in the main event.

"The whole table got excited when we saw the flips," says Mizrachi. "So I asked why don't we all do it. Jokingly. Then we got serious about it and did it. We pooled our money and entered."

As Mizrachi's table stood waiting for the cards to come out, they tipped the dealer, looking for a little bit of karma to line their pockets with another $1,000. The payout for the satellites come in lammers, and they had a buyer ready to go. Unfortunately, the winner of this latest flip, Pavlos Savouidakis, didn't. Savouidakis, who bought into the main event and is in action on Day 1C, now needed to find a buyer for his lammers, something that at this point in the event is tough to do given that the lammers are only used to buy into events. Regardless, he was thrilled with the victory, then rushed back to his table hoping to build up a stack that he had depleted over the first four hours.

Flowers, meanwhile, was already back in another satellite and probably will continue to enter them until the very last minute. Then he'll make his way down the hallway and register for the main event.

"If I win the main, I would call my kids and tell them we're going to Fiji for a month or two," he said.

While the risk is high, some, including Derek Dempsey who advanced to Day 2 already, believe the last-minute satellites still have value. Dempsey has pocketed nearly $7,000 today after winning one of the flips and finding a save in three of his other four. He should probably play the lottery tonight.

Small blinds: NFL defensive tackle Richard Seymour is in today's field. … Jamie Gold is the first former main event champion to find the rail this year. According to his Twitter feed, Gold lost two pair to a bigger two pair. … Phil Hellmuth hasn't taken his seat yet. … Players are in action at Buzios right now which is a 10-minute walk from the Amazon Room. Jennifer Harman is one of the players in that situation. … Joe Cada is on today's feature table set. … Over at the Aria, the WPT 500 is completely destroying their $1M guarantee. … There's a pretty good rail behind Greg Raymer in Amazon. The 2004 main event champion hasn't cashed in the main since 2005.

Day 1C: A Full House

July, 7, 2014
Jul 7
The final starting day of the 2014 World Series of Poker main event began with the official awarding of the 2013 WSOP Player of the Year award to Daniel Negreanu. Lance Bradley of Bluff, which sponsors the award, introduced the six-time bracelet winner and presented him with his buy-in for the main event, part of his prize for being the most successful player on the WSOP felt last year. Negreanu smiled and posed in front of the massive banner that will hang at the Rio and wasted no time in instructing the dealers to get going.

Negreanu left the stage and moved to a secondary feature table, where a rail waited for him with cellphones at the ready. Photos, autographs and smiles are all part of Negreanu's routine, and those who are ready to face off against him will have to deal with one intimidating view.

Negreanu nearly doubled his starting stack during the first level of action.

Registration for Day 1C has already moved the total field size beyond the 2013 field. The line for registration isn't long at the moment, but players are still filing in and are expected to make up the largest single starting day in WSOP main event history. The efforts of Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth and Negreanu may dominate the focus of today, but as is customary at the WSOP, it's the surprises that show up that steal the headlines. One of those surprises is NBA star Paul Pierce, who strolled into the Amazon Room with David Gregory an hour into play today.

Pierce played in the main event three years ago and advanced to Day 2 before busting out near the end of the day. Before sitting down, he looked at Gregory, gave him a fist bump, and said, "Let's do this." Pierce's road to the $10 million top prize didn't start off well; he lost more than half his stack in the first few minutes after sitting down. Pierce flopped trips, but his opponent turned a straight and earned a number of chips on the hand. Right before the first break, Pierce got back on track with a flopped set turned river full house and doubled up to 38,000 in chips.

Other notables include FC Barcelona's Gerard Piqué, who is making his second consecutive main event appearance, the UFC's Martin Kampmann, Shane Warne, television producer Gavin Polone, and actors James Woods and Justin Henry.

The most missing notable is Doyle Brunson, who will be missing the main event for the first time in quite awhile. The 81-year-old tweeted that it's time to take care of himself, and nobody can argue with that.

Small blinds: Phil Hellmuth is expected to show up in a few hours. Those seated at his table are simply staring at the open seat, not knowing who will fill it. … Former champions Jonathan Duhamel and Greg Raymer are occupying the secondary feature table area. … There are two very big rails. One near Negreanu, the other near Pierce. Ivey's table isn't easily accessible. … Speaking of Ivey, it appears "60 Minutes" is here to film some footage for a future segment. … Davidi Kitai is seated with Negreanu to start the day. … Also seated together: Andy Frankenberger and Calvin Anderson. … For those who expected Chris Ferguson and Howard Lederer to show up, it doesn't appear that is going to happen this year.
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'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.

LAS VEGAS -- Seven hours of play have been completed on Day 1B and the monotonous post-dinner haze has settled among the tables. Players look glazed as the chips casually fly across the table and fatigue may be setting in. While it sounds comical to those who follow the game from a distance, playing these lengthy sessions at the felt isn't easy. Being seated for hours with aN urgency to focus at all times does take its toll. Go to any poker seminar or talk to any professional and they'll explain that to maximize your efforts at the table, players need to be vigilant to catch any little detail that can help in the long run.

OK, not all players feel that way.

Smartphones have changed the world in general, and poker players, like everyone else, simply can't put them down. The official rules of the WSOP allow players to be on an electronic device as long as the player isn't involved in a hand. When given that opportunity, players will often take advantage. Walking around the playing floor Sunday there's the constant flittering of screens with players looking for anything to keep them occupied as they wait for the next hand to begin. Whether its texting, Facebook or Twitter, players are incessantly seeking something to consume.

Bracelet winner David Bach, seated in Brasilia, along with many others around the three rooms, chose to play on the Open Face Chinese Poker app. As I tweeted Saturday, others are playing online poker. Then there's David Williams who is using his time at the felt to catch up on some TV. Seated in Amazon on Sunday, Williams is enjoying a few moments from House of Cards and nobody at his table bats an eye.

Williams, the 2004 WSOP main event runner-up, bracelet winner and three-time casher at the 2014 WSOP, believes that the distraction helps.

"I started watching House of Cards during the $3,000 Omaha eight-or-better event last week because eight-or-better is all about folding. Something I hate doing," Williams wrote via text. "So I needed something to keep my active mind at bay."

Williams finished sixth in that event for $49,817.

"Poker is all about patience," Williams wrote. "Especially now the way people play. And I get very bored very easily, and when I do, I play bad hands. I put myself in situations that I know better. So since the main event is a marathon and not a sprint, as they say, folding again is key. But while I'm watching, I'm also keeping an eye on everything at the table. I'm very observant and can multitask."

Whatever he's doing, it's working. Williams has chipped up to 95,000 as the final break of the night approaches.

Small blinds: A player fainted during the latest level, sparking a bit of concern throughout the Amazon Room. The player quickly got up off the floor and sat back in his seat as security and medics rushed over to the table. While the player stated he was fine, and rationalized it because he didn't sleep much last night, the Rio is clearly keeping an eye on his health at this point. … A total of 2,144 players took their seats on Sunday, making a two-day total of 2,915 and easing any attendance concerns given that the Day 1C total has already surpassed that number on its own. … Recent eliminations include Bertrand Grospellier, Joseph Cheong, Chris Tryba, Ludovic Lacay and Mike Leah. … Ukrainian Igor Dubinskyy won the Little One for One Drop bracelet. Eric Baldwin finished fifth. … Former November Niners playing today include Steve Begleiter, Jason Senti, Michiel Brummelhuis, Ben Lamb, Chino Rheem and Martin Staszko. … Begleiter still plays with his group of friends and nearly a dozen of them are here this year to play. … Jason Somerville is seated with Vanessa Selbst. … The line for registration is beginning to back up into the convention center hallway. This is the first time there's been a significant line since the main event began. … Police dogs have been walking through the Rio over the past two days for training.
There's a fresh feeling at the World Series of Poker main event on Sunday. After a small field on Saturday that would make the average bystander question why people would consider this the most important tournament in the world, all three rooms are packed Sunday with an extensive footprint that offers an appropriate answer. Saturday was the travel day for the majority of these players and with more than 2,000 players currently at the felt, the main event is back on track to topping last year's field.
[+] EnlargeBrandon Shack-Harris
Andrew Feldman/ESPN.comBrandon Shack-Harris leads the 2014 WSOP Player of the Year race entering the main event.

One of the player's in Sunday's field has been in Las Vegas all summer and may be the most popular man at the Rio. Chicago native Brandon Shack-Harris walks the hallways with a smile on his face. Constantly approached by friends, the hoodie-wearing cash game professional is about as relaxed as it gets, providing positive thoughts to all who cross his path. He's willing to talk to everyone and anyone, and as part of the World Series of Hugs, you can't end a conversation without an embrace. Nobody is turning him down.

Shack-Harris captured gold in Event 3 and followed up his win with five more cashes that included three top-three finishes. He enters the main event as the leader in the 2014 WSOP Player of the Year race, holding a lead that can be erased with one min-cash by double-bracelet winner George Danzer, who is also playing Sunday.

The professional cash-game player has had a summer that every player dreams about and on Sunday he's seated in the Pavilion Room playing in his first WSOP main event. After years of selling smaller packages to his investors that featured small buy-in events, Shack-Harris offered one that included the main event and he's hoping his run can continue.

"It's weird to reflect on it," Shack-Harris said of his current WSOP success. "To see the actual scale of the WSOP, that so many play, and to think that I'm currently at the top, it's surreal to think about."

Shack-Harris has played poker for the past 10 years, and was strongly affected by the Black Friday indictments. His focus has always been on mixed games and the main event is only his third no-limit hold 'em event of the year. Strategies are different and Shack-Harris is trying to keep it all in perspective.

"I'd like to try for a low-variance approach," he said. "But my table is filled with aggression."

Before cards hit the air, friends told him about the weaker play often found in this event. Shack-Harris hasn't seen much of that, understanding that he's drawn a tough starting table. That said, his tablemates haven't all figured out who is seated with them.

"Someone at the table said I won a bracelet in pot-limit Omaha," he said. "That's about it and I'm very happy about that."

Through four hours, Shack-Harris has chipped up above the starting stack. A final table in this event will definitely help his cause in the Player of the Year race, but it seems that he'll be off to WSOP Asia-Pacific regardless as those 10 bracelet events are included in the competition. Traveling seems likely given that Shack-Harris doesn't have a firm home right now. The ability to play online poker enticed him to travel to Montreal and when he decided to return to Chicago, he, as he stated, became "keeper of a recording studio" that one of his friends owns. Friends have always been there for Shack-Harris and it seems he's always there for them.

The main event may not have the glitz and glamor as a result of television coverage not beginning until Day 4, but Shack-Harris finds it refreshing nonetheless. He said his excitement about the event will pick up later in the tournament, but for now, it's all business.

"It's just a game to me," he said of the tournament. "I'm going to focus on winning it right now."

Small Blinds: Ray Romano performed Sunday's shuffle up and deal and had his son, now 21, come up on stage. Romano paid for his son's entry and offered a drink for anyone who eliminates his kid from contention. … Romano and Kevin Pollak are seated at adjacent tables and there is no stated last longer like last year. … There are a number of players who are pushing for cancer awareness. Do yourself a favor and read Brad Willis' story on two of them. … The satellite room continues to churn out winners. A field of 960 participated in Sunday's $1,000 buy-in event. … Russell Thomas, Dan Shak, Chris Moorman, David Sands and Kevin Saul didn't make it through Level 3. … Chris Moneymaker and other 2003 WSOP alums will be doing an autograph signing on Monday. Wonder if Sammy Farha wants a copy of Eric Raskin's new book. … Dan Harrington and Huck Seed are seated together on the feature table set Sunday. This is the second day in a row that two main event champions are at the same table. … The Day 1A Poker Edge daily podcast can be found here. … The 2014 WSOP bracelet count by country (with three events left): USA (51), Germany (4), France (2) and Belgium, Italy, Israel, Russia & UK (1). … There are five players left at the Little One for One Drop final table, including bracelet winner Eric Baldwin. … Nationwide driver Jason White is in Sunday's field. … Bertrand Grospellier and Philip Gruissem are seated together.

Actor Kevin Pollak has played in the World Series of Poker since 2012. During his first effort, he made a surprising Day 5 run and put up a 134th-place finish to make him the highest-finishing celebrity in post-boom main event history. He returned last year and exited before the money, disappointed with his result. Pollak loves poker, plays in a home game and loves the main-event experience, but like anyone else, putting up the $10,000 isn't always the easiest thing to do. Yes, he's an actor with a keen eye on his budget.

Pollak's sponsor over the past two years was Hollywood Poker. After some managerial changes at that company, his sponsorship opportunity was no longer on the table. He searched elsewhere for the buy-in and had some small bites and some big leads. Nothing progressed. Just a week before the start of the main event, Pollak was sponsor-less and despite wanting to play more than anything, odds were minimal that he'd find his way back to the Rio this summer.

He made one last-ditch effort. He sent a tweet.

Pollak has 336,000 followers. It was a shot in the dark that anyone would respond, and if someone did respond, it was questionable just how serious he'd actually be. He simply hoped that something would pan out.

He received only one response from his Tuesday tweet. Pollak was thrilled.

[+] EnlargeKevin Pollak
Andrew Feldman/ESPN.comA single tweet from Kevin Pollak paved his way into the 2014 WSOP main event.

It was from Chuck Fried, the president of TxMQ, a premiere business partner with IBM for more than 20 years. The company, located in Buffalo, N.Y., has never advertised on TV. It's never endorsed a celebrity. It doesn't typically use its marketing budget for exposure. Fried doesn't even follow the poker industry. Despite that, Fried replied and the two set up a call.

The following day, Pollak and Fried chatted. Pollak explained the exposure play and the potential for TxMQ getting its logo in front of television cameras and on a wide spectrum of digital media. He told them he'd provide them with live reads during his Kevin Pollak Chat Show, a digital interview initiative that features the stars of Hollywood. Then Fried dropped the bomb: They had two hours to finalize the deal as he was heading off on vacation for the long weekend.

"At the start of the call I felt he was hesitant," said Pollak just before the start of Day 1B. "I felt like I had a 10 percent chance of it happening."

Fried said he looked up Pollak and was impressed with his accomplishments. Pollak said he looked up Fried to see whether his company was legitimate. Due diligence was important for both sides, but Fried also had to convince those at his company that this was the right move. That wasn't easy, but over the next two hours everyone was on board and the two worked out a deal. Shirts were shipped, the cash was wired and Pollak's lawyer had written up the contract. Essentially out of nowhere, Pollak was heading to the main event.

The amazing part of the story remains the slim chances of Fried even seeing the tweet. He follows 154 people on the social network, and the odds that a president of a company is scrolling through Twitter at just that time seems like a two-outer.

Pollak is seated inside the Amazon Room at one of the featured tables. He has a rail of fans and a constant flood of other players, including those at his table, coming up to take pictures with him. One tweet did all of this. Now what are you going to post today?

"I feel like I've already won," said Pollak. "This is an exciting day, and I can't thank them enough."

There's nothing like the World Series of Poker main event. The world's most prestigious poker tournament occupies most of the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, which was buzzing on Saturday as the first of three starting days kicked off with 771 players battling for the chance to win $10 million. After multiple tournaments in this WSOP with more than 7,000 players, Day 1A felt small, but the anticipation is building for massive fields in Days 1B and 1C, which are still expected to push the total field past last year's turnout of 6,352 players. Tournament organizers have been trying to communicate with players with the hopes of convincing them to register early.

The story of the day was determined early as the past two world champions made their way to the same starting table on the feature stage. Ryan Riess and Greg Merson tangled sporadically and both advanced to Day 2A, which will be held Tuesday. Riess had the more successful day and finished with 70,225 in chips, while Merson bagged only 7,125.

"It was awesome," Riess said of his first day. "I put a lot of pressure on myself, and last year ... it was more of a dream. Now, since it's a reality, I really want to do it again."

Riess' turning point came during the fourth level of play in a hand against high roller enthusiast and businessman Bill Perkins. Riess picked up aces against Perkins' kings and doubled through to finally have some chips to play with after being around 25,000 for the first few hours. Merson lost a few key pots late, but Riess was impressed with his poise and was happy to share this experience with him.

"Greg was on my rail during the final table," said Riess. "He said one time that we're fraternity brothers ... which I thought was kind of cool."

Each of the other three former champions -- Johnny Chan, Chris Moneymaker and Tom McEvoy -- also survived the day. Chan ended up the leader out of that crew with 106,000 in chips and is enjoying his time at the only tournament he's planning on playing all year. Moneymaker, finishing with 69,850, advanced to Day 2 for the eighth time out of the past 10 years and is looking for his first main-event cash since his victory in 2003.

Other players to advance include Antonio Esfandiari, Ted Forrest, Mike Sexton, Jay Farber, Annette Obrestad, Mike Matusow, Kenny Tran, Mukul Pahuja, Layne Flack and Justin Bonomo. Two players who made the 2013 main event final table, David Benefield and Marc-Etienne McLaughlin, failed to make it through, as well as Steve Gee, Phil Laak, Jason Mercier, Jean-Robert Bellande, Jeff Gross and David Chiu. Day 2A will begin with 505 players.

Here are the top 10 chip counts from Day 1A:

1. Martin Jacobson (200,100)

2. Aaron Wilt (157,650)

3. Seamus Cahill (150,775)

4. Benjamin Gold (144,875)

5. Naoya Kihara (124,225)

6. Ken Einiger (120,400)

7. Yung Hwang (118,875)

8. Kenny Tran (115,400)

9. Mukul Pahuja (114,800)

10. Alex Simic (110,675)

Main event play resumes on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.

Small blinds: There have been a few players playing both live and online at the tables. It's far from convenient given the size of laptops, but when mobile apps come through in the state, I'd expect usage to increase. ... Greg Merson's Day 2 starting table includes Chris Moneymaker. ... Jay Farber claimed that this was by far the softest day of the main event in terms of ability. ... Mike Matusow can still draw a rail. Sporting a WPT DeepStacks patch, Matusow held court all day and kept the comments coming for five levels. ... The area that once held the secondary feature table now has a huge sponsored lounge. ... Eric Baldwin highlights the Little One for One Drop final table that will play out on Sunday. ... Pat Walsh won the $10,000 pot-limit Omaha event. ... Actor Kevin Pollak will be playing on Sunday. ... Some players have been vocal on Twitter with their displeasure that tables may be 10-handed on the next two starting days after action was nine-handed (or less at the beginning) on Day 1A. The WSOP will need to address that seating strategy in the future. ... Even after the conclusion of main event play on Day 1A, the Pavilion Room was filled with players trying to satellite in. ... How do we know that the poker player population is getting a little older? Talk in the hallways has shifted from the biggest parties to what their kids are watching on television.

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 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.