Georges St. Pierre steals WSOP spotlight
LAS VEGAS -- Day 1B has arrived and the biggest players in the game are out in full force. From Daniel Negreanu to Jean-Robert Bellande, Liv Boeree to Dan Harrington, the Amazon, Pavilion and Brasilia Rooms are filled with familiar faces who are looking to start their main events off on the right track. After a Day 1A that featured a small field of 1,066 players, Day 1B looks to be approaching the 2,000-player mark and the buzz around the Rio is that Day 1C will be even bigger. One of the strongest competitors on Sunday is definitely not the best poker player in the field, but the man who performed the day's "Shuffle up and deal," UFC champion Georges St. Pierre. Among world champions, bracelet holders and online icons, it's GSP who has caught everyone's eye in the Amazon Room.
To begin the day's festivities, WSOP tournament director Jack Effel welcomed the players and introduced St. Pierre to the crowd. The room filled with cheers and applause.
"I want to play at a poker table with the best in the world," St. Pierre said. "This is the biggest event. It's the World Series and I'm honored and glad to be part of it."
As he sat down in the Purple section, his table was immediately engaged by the fighter's presence. The remaining nine players looked surprised for a moment, but once the cards were in the air, it was all business &133; well, to a certain extent. With GSP surrounded by media and requests from the rail for photos and autographs for most of the first two hours, the table seemed to enjoy having him at their table.
"They're nice guys," he said of his table. "But we're not here because we're friends, we're here to make some money."
GSP is also taking a different approach than every other player in the main event. Attributing this unique decision to a goal of staying emotionally detached, St. Pierre opted to walk away from the table for nearly 10 minutes during the first level to enjoy a Starbucks in the hallway and to clear his head.
"If I stay too long, I make stupid mistakes," he said. "I try to walk away every hour, change my mind and focus on the best choice I can [make]. Be more logical than emotional."
One of the players at his table is Event 35 champion Chris Tryba.
"He's a heck of a friendly guy," Tryba said. "I asked him, 'How is it you're so friendly, yet such a killer?' He responded that it's a different mindset. I totally get that."
As if the bracelet winner wasn't a big enough challenge, the table also includes Dani Stern. GSP said he was planning on staying out of the way of the pros who surrounded him. His goal is to survive the day, but as Level 2 begins, he's holding one of the shortest stacks at the table. St. Pierre is very realistic about his expectations on Sunday.
"The odds of taking a normal guy on the street and him beating me up in a street fight are bigger than me winning the World Series of Poker," he said. "My odds are pretty low, but I'll do my best to go as far as I can."
Action will continue for five levels on Sunday. If St. Pierre makes it through, you can bet that even though the game's brightest stars will surround him on Day 2, he'll remain the center of attention.
Small blinds: The WSOP expects to award another 1,000 seats through satellites on Sunday. Actor Robert Iler is back at the WSOP main event, looking to cash for the second consecutive year. Iler was eliminated on Day 5 in 2011. During the first 10 minutes of the day, the first all-in and a call occurred. The hands: A-A versus A-A. Don't worry, no crazy flush elimination occurred. Tyler Bonkowski, one of the players who has helped train GSP for this event, was one of the first eliminations on the day. All tables begin 10-handed, then are reduced to nine-handed before any tables are broken. Daniel Negreanu's table includes Steve Zolotow and Sam Barnhart. Jean-Robert Bellande is seated with Gavin Smith. ESPN.com's Bernard Lee is playing his Day 1 on Sunday and chipped up slightly after the first level to 34,000. To improve the fan experience this year, the WSOP has added three new tables that provide flop cameras. Expect these areas to be utilized as the field is reduced during the final days.