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Sunday, July 10, 2011
Day 1C: Duhamel, Negreanu, Pierce advance

From Cupcake Wars to comedians to NBA stars to a long day of intense poker action, Day 1C offered it all. On a day when 2,181 players started their main event, the attention at the Rio was focused mainly on a handful of players that stood out from the crowd.

Only one member of the 2010 main event final table was in action on Day 1C. As that individual sat down at the feature table, under the glares of spectators and players alike, it was a moment he'd been looking forward to for eight months. It was finally time for Jonathan Duhamel to begin his title defense, and with high expectations, the defending champ delivered with a hard-fought performance that resulted in a day-end total of 41,150 in chips.

The feature table curse that had gotten the best of Doyle Brunson and Michael Mizrachi on the first two days didn't manage to stop Duhamel, although after the first level it seemed more than likely that he'd be heading home. He reached the first break with nearly half of his starting stack, but he rebounded, showing a resilience that we didn't need to see from Duhamel in 2010 until Day 6. At no point on Day 1C was Duhamel in a comfortable chip position and his double up during the final hour of play was the difference-maker that may give him some additional confidence heading into Day 2 on Monday.

Duhamel was one of eight WSOP main event champions in the field on Day 1C and Chris Moneymaker was the only member of that elite group who didn't make it through. Scotty Nguyen, Tom McEvoy, Bobby Baldwin, Dan Harrington, Phil Hellmuth and Joe Cada all advanced to Day 2. Cada led the group and ended up with an above-average stack of 58,000 in chips. He felt he played well throughout the day, and only regretted a few small mistakes that cost him a few chips at the end of the day.

As is tradition, Hellmuth turned his entrance into a spectacle. This year, however, his efforts were significantly toned down. The 11-time WSOP bracelet winner walked in holding an ESPN microphone, which represented his upcoming appearances on ESPN during our live WSOP main event coverage starting on July 14. Hellmuth finally took his seat during the fifth hour of play and immediately chipped up. He was on pace for a solid and easy Day 1 grind, but a flopped flush ran into the rivered full house of his opponent after dinner and Hellmuth would end the day with only 7,700 in chips.

The huge field also featured a number of the game's biggest stars, including Daniel Negreanu and Jason Mercier. Both advanced to Day 2 with Negreanu chipping up to 41,175 and Mercier grinding all day long to finish with 28,650. Other notable survivors include Gavin Smith, Daniel Cates, Eric Baldwin, Sorel Mizzi, Gavin Griffin, Shannon Shorr, Dan Shak and Humberto Brenes. Comedian Brad Garrett flirted with the 100,000 mark early in the day, but ended with 68,000 and made it to Day 2 for the second time in his WSOP career.

Also among the thousands of players in contention was one current NBA star who spoke loudly with his chips. Paul Pierce took his seat at a table against the rail in the Pavilion Room and throughout the day, fans would observe the nine-time NBA All-Star and ask for autographs or photos. Pierce obliged with a smile on his face, but when the cards were in the air, it was all business. He claimed to have little poker experience, but when asked why he was playing in this event, he had a specific reason. "The prize," he said. "Who wouldn't want to try and come and win that?"

Pierce ended the day with 63,750 in chips and a bill of more than a couple hundred dollars after receiving a six-hour massage at the table.

Day 1C also marked the end of the 2011 WSOP for a number of recent bracelet winners. Allen Bari, Jason Somerville and Fabrice Soulier all held WSOP gold just a few weeks ago, but were eliminated on Saturday. Other casualties included Chad Brown, David Benyamine, James Akenhead, Hoyt Corkins, Ali Eslami, Karina Jett and Robert Mizrachi.

Leading the pack is Kevin Song, meaning that a WSOP bracelet holder is on top of the chip counts for the third day in a row. Song won his title in 1997 in a $2,000 limit event, and he's amassed $3.2 million in life tournament earnings throughout his 25-year tournament career.

Here's a look at the chip leaders:

1. Kevin Song ($163,325)
2. Chris McClung ($162,375)
3. Giuseppe Zarbo ($159,400)
4. Daniel Skolovy ($151,475)
5. Henry Pena ($140,800)
6. Nathan Amar ($140,000)
7. Mozhnyakov Alrsandr ($136,225)
8. Don Nguyen ($136,000)
9. Thomas Pahnke ($135,900)
10. Adam Junglen ($127,025)

This recap gives a broader picture of the day's action. For more detailed coverage, here are the level breakdowns: Level 1, Level 2, Level 3/4.