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Friday, July 25, 2014
open/closeVin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan

Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.


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Phil Hellmuth eliminated on opening day of WSOP Main Event
 

LAS VEGAS -- The $10,000 World Series of Poker Main Event began Saturday, with 1,066 players beginning their quest to win poker's most important tournament.

Saturday's Day 1A field was the first of three starting days. The fields will combine for the first time on July 12.

An interesting mix of players elected to play Saturday, with pros like Phil Hellmuth, Mike Matusow, Andy Black and Joe Hachem sharing the felt with poker amateurs like Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, Norwegian cross-country skier Petter Northug and actor Kevin Pollak.

Luongo acquitted himself nicely and ended the day with 41,000 in chips, while Hellmuth and Hachem were eliminated from the event. Only 659 players survived Day 1A action.

Phil Hellmuth didn

Phil Hellmuth didn't survive the opening day of the 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

William John finished the day as the chip leader with 266,700. Pollak finished with about 43,900.

With just 10 hours of play under our belts, it's hard to say if any trends are developing. We'll have to wait and see on that (novel concept, huh?). But there were certainly several interesting things worth noting today. Here are my top-10 Main Event observations from Day 1A of the Main Event:

10. Fans ignore Heinz
World Series of Poker officials placed Pius Heinz, the 23-year-old defending Main Event champion, on the featured table, and the fans in the Amazon Room at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino yawned. The seats surrounding the stage were mostly empty throughout the day. The German Heinz might be a star in Europe, but he isn't a big draw in Vegas yet. Heinz survived Day 1A with about 39,000 in chips.

9. Ray Romano keeps trying
The Everyone Loves Raymond and Men of A Certain Age star has been playing at the Main Event since 2007. When he first started playing at the Main Event, Romano provided comic relief at the table, and was pretty frank about not knowing much about poker strategy. "I really have no idea what I'm supposed to be doing and what I'm not," Romano told Casino City in 2008.

But Romano has played every year since 2007. And he's turned into a pretty serious poker player. Does he still make people laugh at the table? Yes. But that's because he's naturally funny. He doesn't go out of his way to be the table comedian. Romano busted out of the tournament in the final hour of play Saturday. He has never cashed at the Main Event. The best "Hollywood" finish at the Main Event belongs to Lou Diamond Phillips, who finished in 186th place at the 2009 Main Event and won $36,626.

8. Temperature control
Poker players beware, the Amazon Room was pretty chilly Saturday. Hoodies, windbreakers, long-sleeve shirts and sweatshirts were in heavy demand Saturday as players adjusted to the temperature of the room. Yes, it might be 107 degrees outside. But the air-conditioning is cranked in the Amazon Room, so dress accordingly.

7. Comfort on the rail
It seems poker fans are finally getting the message -- if you're going to spend the day on the rail watching someone play, do it in comfort. For the first time in six years, I saw women wearing mostly sandals instead of fairly high heels. I also saw people bring portable chairs -- the type with cupholders that you would tailgate with -- to sit in near the rail instead of standing all day.

6. Main Event not the only show
In previous years, when the Main Event began, it was the only poker tournament of consequence at the Rio. That wasn't the case today. Yes, the Main Event had the biggest footprint. But Nick Schulman won the $10,000 No-Limit 2-7 Draw Lowball tournament today (and $294,321) and the WSOP National Championship played down to its final table today. A $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em tournament was also played to its conclusion today.

5. Field size
Day 1A of the Main Event had 1,066 entrants. You can't really compare this to previous Day 1A's, because the WSOP has switched from the usual four Day One's to three Day One's this year.

Because the opening day of the Main Event generally has the fewest entrants, reaching last year's field of 6,865 players isn't outside the realm of possibility.

The Rio put in poker tables outside Buzios (a restaurant in the Rio) today, so they're expecting sizable fields the next two days. Including the tables outside Buzios and the traditional poker room, the WSOP can accommodate nearly 5,000 players on each of the remaining opening days.

If the Main Event averages about 2,900 entrants over the next two days, it will match last year's attendance.

4. Roberto Luongo
It's always interesting when highly competitive people from outside the world of poker try to compete at the highest levels of the game. We saw last week in the $1 million Big One for One Drop tournament at the WSOP that billionaire businessmen fared pretty well against the pros.

Luongo showed poker skills while chipping up on Saturday. But what really stood out was his intimidating physical presence at the table. At 6 feet 3 inches tall, Luongo towered in stature and physique over his schlubby tablemates. When he checked, his arm reached halfway across the table. And when he was involved in a hand, he dropped his sunglasses into place to make sure he didn't give away information. Luongo didn't just look the part of dominant poker player. He looked like he was born to play it. (Visit our photo gallery on Facebook for photos of Luongo).

3. Fabio Luongo
Fabio Luongo is not nearly as good as his brother in hockey. Fabio stopped playing in 2005 after winning just nine games for the Williams Lake Timberwolves in the British Columbia Hockey League. But Fabio might be the better poker player. He finished Saturday with 104,000 in chips.

Tatjana Pasalic brought a splash of color to the World Series of Poker after losing a prop bet to her boyfriend.

Tatjana Pasalic brought a splash of color to the World Series of Poker after losing a prop bet to her boyfriend. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

2. Tatjana Pasalic's leopard suit
During the online poker boom, players would wear crazy costumes to the Main Event in an effort to get on TV, or get their photo taken by the media. But as TV coverage of the opening days of the tournament declined, and as photographers started ignoring the wild costumes, the sartorial wackiness that marked the Main Event disappeared. That changed today when Tatjana Pasalic showed up wearing a leopard costume. The backless outfit, complete with ears and tail, stood out in an otherwise dull crowd. Pasalic was wearing the outfit because she lost a bet with her boyfriend. But the huge splash of color she provided harkened back to the wild and fun days of the Main Event, and that's good enough for number two on this list.

1. Understated Hellmuth
There were no Julius Caesar or General Patton costumes this year when Hellmuth entered the Amazon Room today. The drums were put away. The models usually ushering him in were nowhere to be found. Hellmuth walked into the tournament like any other player, sat down at his table and played poker. He didn't survive the day. But he had an outstanding Series. Hellmuth won his 12th WSOP bracelet this year in the $2,500 Razz tournament. He finished fourth in the $1 million Big One for One Drop tournament, fourth in the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. tournament and cashed in three other events this year. Hellmuth had all the reason in the world to celebrate the 2012 Series with a grand Main Event entrance. But he chose restraint. And for that, he's number one on this list.
Original Compiled Text: LAS VEGAS -- The $10,000 World Series of Poker Main Event began Saturday, with 1,066 players beginning their quest to win poker's most important tournament.



Saturday's Day 1A field was the first of three starting days. The fields will combine for the first time on July 12.



An interesting mix of players elected to play Saturday, with pros like Phil Hellmuth, Mike Matusow, Andy Black and Joe Hachem sharing the felt with poker amateurs like Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, Norwegian cross-country skier Petter Northug and actor Kevin Pollak.



Luongo acquitted himself nicely and ended the day with 41,000 in chips, while Hellmuth and Hachem were eliminated from the event. Only 659 players survived Day 1A action.



Phil Hellmuth didn

Phil Hellmuth didn't survive the opening day of the 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

William John finished the day as the chip leader with 266,700. Pollak finished with about 43,900.



With just 10 hours of play under our belts, it's hard to say if any trends are developing. We'll have to wait and see on that (novel concept, huh?). But there were certainly several interesting things worth noting today. Here are my top-10 Main Event observations from Day 1A of the Main Event:



10. Fans ignore Heinz

World Series of Poker officials placed Pius Heinz, the 23-year-old defending Main Event champion, on the featured table, and the fans in the Amazon Room at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino yawned. The seats surrounding the stage were mostly empty throughout the day. The German Heinz might be a star in Europe, but he isn't a big draw in Vegas yet. Heinz survived Day 1A with about 39,000 in chips.



9. Ray Romano keeps trying

The Everyone Loves Raymond and Men of A Certain Age star has been playing at the Main Event since 2007. When he first started playing at the Main Event, Romano provided comic relief at the table, and was pretty frank about not knowing much about poker strategy. "I really have no idea what I'm supposed to be doing and what I'm not," Romano told Casino City in 2008.



But Romano has played every year since 2007. And he's turned into a pretty serious poker player. Does he still make people laugh at the table? Yes. But that's because he's naturally funny. He doesn't go out of his way to be the table comedian. Romano busted out of the tournament in the final hour of play Saturday. He has never cashed at the Main Event. The best "Hollywood" finish at the Main Event belongs to Lou Diamond Phillips, who finished in 186th place at the 2009 Main Event and won $36,626.



8. Temperature control

Poker players beware, the Amazon Room was pretty chilly Saturday. Hoodies, windbreakers, long-sleeve shirts and sweatshirts were in heavy demand Saturday as players adjusted to the temperature of the room. Yes, it might be 107 degrees outside. But the air-conditioning is cranked in the Amazon Room, so dress accordingly.



7. Comfort on the rail

It seems poker fans are finally getting the message -- if you're going to spend the day on the rail watching someone play, do it in comfort. For the first time in six years, I saw women wearing mostly sandals instead of fairly high heels. I also saw people bring portable chairs -- the type with cupholders that you would tailgate with -- to sit in near the rail instead of standing all day.



6. Main Event not the only show

In previous years, when the Main Event began, it was the only poker tournament of consequence at the Rio. That wasn't the case today. Yes, the Main Event had the biggest footprint. But Nick Schulman won the $10,000 No-Limit 2-7 Draw Lowball tournament today (and $294,321) and the WSOP National Championship played down to its final table today. A $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em tournament was also played to its conclusion today.



5. Field size

Day 1A of the Main Event had 1,066 entrants. You can't really compare this to previous Day 1A's, because the WSOP has switched from the usual four Day One's to three Day One's this year.



Because the opening day of the Main Event generally has the fewest entrants, reaching last year's field of 6,865 players isn't outside the realm of possibility.



The Rio put in poker tables outside Buzios (a restaurant in the Rio) today, so they're expecting sizable fields the next two days. Including the tables outside Buzios and the traditional poker room, the WSOP can accommodate nearly 5,000 players on each of the remaining opening days.



If the Main Event averages about 2,900 entrants over the next two days, it will match last year's attendance.



4. Roberto Luongo

It's always interesting when highly competitive people from outside the world of poker try to compete at the highest levels of the game. We saw last week in the $1 million Big One for One Drop tournament at the WSOP that billionaire businessmen fared pretty well against the pros.



Luongo showed poker skills while chipping up on Saturday. But what really stood out was his intimidating physical presence at the table. At 6 feet 3 inches tall, Luongo towered in stature and physique over his schlubby tablemates. When he checked, his arm reached halfway across the table. And when he was involved in a hand, he dropped his sunglasses into place to make sure he didn't give away information. Luongo didn't just look the part of dominant poker player. He looked like he was born to play it. (Visit our photo gallery on Facebook for photos of Luongo).



3. Fabio Luongo

Fabio Luongo is not nearly as good as his brother in hockey. Fabio stopped playing in 2005 after winning just nine games for the Williams Lake Timberwolves in the British Columbia Hockey League. But Fabio might be the better poker player. He finished Saturday with 104,000 in chips.



Tatjana Pasalic brought a splash of color to the World Series of Poker after losing a prop bet to her boyfriend.

Tatjana Pasalic brought a splash of color to the World Series of Poker after losing a prop bet to her boyfriend. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

2. Tatjana Pasalic's leopard suit

During the online poker boom, players would wear crazy costumes to the Main Event in an effort to get on TV, or get their photo taken by the media. But as TV coverage of the opening days of the tournament declined, and as photographers started ignoring the wild costumes, the sartorial wackiness that marked the Main Event disappeared. That changed today when Tatjana Pasalic showed up wearing a leopard costume. The backless outfit, complete with ears and tail, stood out in an otherwise dull crowd. Pasalic was wearing the outfit because she lost a bet with her boyfriend. But the huge splash of color she provided harkened back to the wild and fun days of the Main Event, and that's good enough for number two on this list.



1. Understated Hellmuth

There were no Julius Caesar or General Patton costumes this year when Hellmuth entered the Amazon Room today. The drums were put away. The models usually ushering him in were nowhere to be found. Hellmuth walked into the tournament like any other player, sat down at his table and played poker. He didn't survive the day. But he had an outstanding Series. Hellmuth won his 12th WSOP bracelet this year in the $2,500 Razz tournament. He finished fourth in the $1 million Big One for One Drop tournament, fourth in the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. tournament and cashed in three other events this year. Hellmuth had all the reason in the world to celebrate the 2012 Series with a grand Main Event entrance. But he chose restraint. And for that, he's number one on this list.

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