LAS VEGAS -- I was the first person to set foot in the Amazon Room today. No, I'm not bragging, but there is just something about the start of the WSOP main event that brings out my anxious side. I feel like a kid in a candy store, and I really like candy. For the next nine days, I'll be in this seat, room and hotel, and while many may think my annual trip to Vegas is all fun and games, well they're right. The difference is that my fun isn't hanging out in the 110 degree heat at the pools outside, enjoying the wonderful restaurants that dominate this city or actually playing poker. My fun is really covering this event and watching as the massive field is reduced day after day until the final nine lottery ticket-holding pros or amateurs become the next great poker icons.
On Twitter earlier this morning, I said: "The first day of the main event should be a national holiday. Welcome to Day 1A!" Clearly, I was kidding that it should be a national holiday, but my intentions were clear and understood by those who opted to retweet it. However, I also received this reply, "Calm down. This aint the super bowl." Well, it is our super bowl. This is the day that every poker player around the world waits for. Pros and amateurs alike get chills when they take their seats on Day 1. It is hands-down the biggest day on the poker calendar.
Gary Wise sums the anticipation of the event up nicely here and it's clear what's on the line in 2012. The poker world needs a shot in the arm. It needs a positive story. The past 15 months have been filled with negativity and now, building after One Drop, the 2012 main event will begin the next page in poker's history books.
Let's take a look at the event's format this year:
Instead of the four starting days that we've seen over the past seven years, there are only three in 2012 thanks to the increased footprint and additional tables added this year. From there, we'll have Day 1A and Day 1B survivors combine on Day 2A, then have Day 1C survivors play on Day 2B. On Day 3, the entire field will be together for the first time as the players edge closer to the money bubble that should burst on Day 4.
Once in the money, the dynamic in the room will change as the money and players get more serious. For three more days, family and friends will come to down to support their "team" and the buzz that fills the Rio will be palpable and grow greater with each elimination. On July 16 the final table will be determined, and those incredible talents will return in October to play for the second-largest prize of the year (since Antonio Esfandiari already claimed the biggest one just days ago).
That's how the tournament will play out in a nutshell, but to be part of these players' journeys each day and learn how they've reached their success, I hope you'll stick with this blog. ESPN.com will also bring you daily Poker Edge podcasts, videos and features. If there's something that I'm not covering or stories you want to hear more about, leave a comment in the blog and I'll do my best to bring you the information.
I've stood tableside and watched the dreams of Joe Hachem, Jamie Gold, Jerry Yang, Peter Eastgate, Joe Cada, Jonathan Duhamel and Pius Heinz become reality, and I can't wait to see who will join that group and emerge in 2012 as the next world champion.
Small blinds: I mentioned the larger footprint above, and really, it has the potential to deflate the entire event considering how spread out the players are. That said, there was a huge buzz in the Rio as players filed in to register and play satellites. That buzz is already going at 9 a.m. which, as we know, is way too early for most players. Actors in the house: Brad Garrett and Kevin Pollack. The National Championship continues at the Rio. Out of the starting field of 157, only 39 remain. The chip leader entering Day 2 is Brian Rast and he's followed by Bertrand Grospellier -- two players who simply bought into the event instead of qualifying. Nick Schulman leads the final 10 of the $10,000 2-7 no-limit lowball event, and $294,321 will be awarded to the champion. In the final $1,000 buy-in of the Series, only 51 players remain out of the starting 4,620, and Alex Cordero leads entering Day 3. The WSOP was smart to schedule the starting days of the main event on the weekend, but I personally think a Friday-Saturday-Sunday start would've attracted more players than the Saturday-Sunday-Monday. By starting on these days, it limits the days that nonprofessional poker players needed to take off to play. Good decision.