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After the events of "Black Friday" (when the three largest online poker sites were indicted), it would've been hard to predict that this main event could become the third-largest in WSOP history but that's exactly what happened. With 2,809 players spending their $10,000 on Sunday, Day 1D tied with the final Day 1 in 2009 to be recognized as the largest main event starting day in WSOP history.
With great foresight, tournament director Jack Effel played 10-handed on the first day knowing that the turnout would be so large on Day 1D that it would be required in order to seat all players (if you played 10-handed on Day 1A, the same format would need to be applied to Days 1B, 1C and 1D). The first priority of the tournament staff was to reduce all 10-handed tables to nine-handed and that resulted in only a few tables breaking throughout the day. Players were distributed in both the Amazon and Pavilion Rooms and for 10 hours competed with hopes of a solid start and advancing to Day 2B on Tuesday.
The biggest news of the day came away from any table and any flip of a card. During the third level, Effel took the microphone and announced that the WSOP main event champion will earn $8.7 million. The final 693 players will make the money and the final eight will become millionaires. Main event attendance may be down year over year, but not one person in the room would consider the 6,865-player field a disappointment.
"Let's hope that once and for all, people stop underestimating poker," WSOP executive director Ty Stewart told The Associated Press. "It's a beautiful game."
As for the action on the felt, a number of poker's best failed to make it through to Day 2. Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier took his seat at the feature table, but moved all-in with A-K and ran into A-A to make his main event stay a short one. He was joined on the rail by fellow 2011 bracelet winners John Juanda and Owais Ahmed, 2010 November Niners John Dolan and Jason Senti, musician Nelly, and notables Tom Dwan, Ivan Demidov, Alexander Kravchenko, Tom Marchese, Jennifer Tilly, Michael Binger, Antonio Esfandiari, James Mackey, David Williams, Chino Rheem and 2010 WSOP Player of the Year Frank Kassela.
Mory Little bagged up the most chips on Day 1D, ending the streak of three consecutive end-of-day chip leaders who had previously earned WSOP bracelets. Raj Vohra's third-place stack highlights the top 10. The online pro known as "BadcardsAA" owns both a SCOOP and FTOPS title and had won millions on the virtual felt prior to the indictments. On the live felt, he has four previous WSOP cashes, including a fifth-place finish in the $5,000 no-limit hold 'em event in 2008. His live earnings fall just short of $500,000.
Joseph Hachem, Huck Seed, Robert Varkonyi, James Bord (WSOPE) and Jamie Gold represented the main event champions in the field today and all five advanced with Gold holding the top stack among that group (82,000 in chips). Joseph Cheong and Matthew Jarvis ensured that six of the members of the 2010 WSOP main event final table will appear on Day 2 while Darvin Moon, Ylon Schwartz and Eric Buchman will represent the 2009 final table.
Others who advanced to Day 2B include Phil Galfond, Joe Tehan, David Oppenheim, Jeff Madsen, Vanessa Rousso, Jennifer Harman, David Baker, Shawn Buchanan, Chau Giang, Nick Schulman, Brandon Adams, Phil Laak and David Sands.
One of the classiest moves of the day, and perhaps the entire tournament series, was made by Greg Mueller during the second level. Involved in a hand against a businessman in his first WSOP event, Mueller called a raise in the big blind with A-K after the amateur opened from under the gun. The flop came 6-7-10 with two clubs and both players checked. Mueller, believing that his opponent played very straightforward, put him on A-Q and felt great when the ace of clubs hit the turn. He called his opponent's turn bet, and that's when things got interesting.
"Sure enough [the river] is a club," he said to me in an interview recorded for the Poker Edge podcast. "He instantly fires out a bet and I looked at him and went, 'I had you set up, you know.' I was not 100 percent about folding, but in my mind I was going to fold. I picked up the A-K and said, 'Don't worry I think you have A-Q and I think you hit the club.' He turns his hand over and goes, 'No, I didn't hit the club,' shows me the A-Q with a bet sitting there. I don't believe my hands is dead so I call the floor and ask for my options. He said, 'Greg, you can either fold, call or raise.' I had about 20,000 and there was about seven or eight [thousand] in the middle. It was a pretty big pot for me at the time and I pondered things over for a couple of seconds and obviously the reason why he had showed me is because he thought I had folded. Obviously I didn't, and it was his error but I took my hand, turfed it and gave him the pot."
In a game in which trying to get every chip is of the utmost importance, it was an incredibly respectable decision from the two-time WSOP bracelet winner. As the day would progress, perhaps the karma was on his side as Mueller was saved by the river twice during the last level of play and ended the night at 28,000 in chips.
This group of players will join the survivors from Day 1B and return on Tuesday for Day 2B. After Day 2A and 2B have been completed, there will be a day off for all players.
Here's a look at the chip leaders:
1. Mory Little (179,450)
2. Ben Mintz (176,875)
3. Raj Vohra (167,450)
4. Anthony Miller (166,000)
5. Dax Mellon (161,325)
6. Antony Lellouche (155,200)
7. Harambos Tsivicos (147,850)
8. Brett Flood (145,800)
9. Shawn Cunix (144,400)
10. Jay Houston (141,000)
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.