Cards and chips on green felt casino table

2019 WSOP Day 1 Highlights, According to Me

Players are into Day 2 at the 2019 World Series of Poker Main Event, which is always exciting, but it often feels like a little bit of a letdown once all of the Day 1 flights have ended. The anxiousness, the buzz of the first day has cooled and now players are starting to get a tad more serious about the march to the money. So, with Day 1 wrapped, let’s look back at a few of the more interesting, odd, or surprising things that happened during the three starting flights.

Poker is Definitely Not Dead

For years, there was no thought given to ever breaking the Main Event attendance record set in 2006, at the height of the poker boom, just before the UIGEA passed in the United States. That year, Jamie Gold outlasted a field of 8,773 to win the $12 million first prize. Attendance was mostly in the 6,000-range in the years that followed, but the last two years have seen a serious uptick, with last year’s field of 7,874 becoming the second largest in Mai Event history.

This year is not going to break the record, but for once, there was actually some question as to whether or not it would happen. For just the second time, the Main Event has more than 8,000 participants, as the field has climbed to 8,225 runners; players can still register prior to Sunday’s Day 2C, so that number will grow, but probably not high enough to eclipse 2006’s mark. Day 1C also became the largest starting flight in Main Event history, coming in at 4,879 players.

Talk About a Heater

In a small tournament on a cruise once, I got K-K, A-K, and A-K in a row at the final table, using one of those hands to knock out a poker pro. It was a great feeling, but it pales in comparison to what happened to Bryan Whiteman on Day 1A of the WSOP Main Event.

In consecutive hands, Whiteman was dealt aces, kings, and then kings again. He won the first two hands without much action, and while it was likely a bit disappointing, a win is better than a loss. On the third hand, his kings ran into his opponent’s aces. Naturally, the two men got all their chips in the pot (I don’t remember the exact action or community cards, as I caught it on ESPN2 and failed to either record it or take notes) and though Whiteman had to have been ruing how his amazing luck turned into terrible luck, he was able to find that third king on the river.

Whiteman was among the chip leaders for a while after that, but hit a downturn and finished Day 1 with just 24,100 chips.

Better Buy Her Flowers

Liv Boeree and Igor Kurganov Won the 2017 WSOP $10K Tag Team Event

Liv Boeree and Igor Kurganov won the 2017 WSOP $10K Tag Team Event
Photo credit: Giron

When players register for the World Series of Poker Main Event – or any WSOP tournament – they are randomly assigned a seat. Day 1A had 1,334 players, meaning it was unlikely that any two given players would be at a nine-handed table together to start the day.

But unlikely does not mean impossible and as luck would have it, poker pros Liv Boeree and Igor Kurganov, who just so happen to also be a couple, found themselves seated together on Wednesday. They won the $10,000 Tag Team event a couple years ago, but they were certainly not a team during the Main Event.

Finding herself short-stacked, Boeree reraised all-in pre-flop with A-J suited after Brian Altman raised, only to be re-reraised by her boyfriend, who had two black kings. Altman folded, so it was Boeree against Kurganov with Boeree’s tournament life on the line. The flop produced a flush draw, but that was it and Boeree was eliminated.

Boeree gave Kurganov a hug and a kiss as she left the table, but later tweeted, “noone’s [sic] busting on anyone tonight that’s for damn sure.”

Scary Moments, Courtesy of the Planet

A magnitude 7.1 earthquake, centered near Ridgecrest, California, was felt at nearly that strength in Las Vegas Friday night. Naturally, it scared many of the thousands of people in the Rio, but with all of the rigging and lights above the action, especially at the featured tables, there were some moments of particular nervousness as equipment hanging from the ceiling swayed back and forth.

Phil “The Unabomber” Laak, who was at the ESPN featured table, was entertained by it all, laughing that it was the most action he had seen all day. His wife, actress and poker player Jennifer Tilly, rushed over to him from another table, but Laak kept joking, saying that he wasn’t going to leave the table during the Main Event just because of an earthquake.

The tournament went on dinner break a little early so that extra time could be taken to evaluate the premises for safety. Everything resumed as normal.

For reference, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake is about as strong of an earthquake as most people will experience in their lives. According to Wikipedia, there are only about 18 quakes of magnitude 7.0 to 7.9 worldwide per year.

Chainsaw Cuts Through a Boat

Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler is a great poker player. He is one of the poker community’s premier tournament grinders and is known – to the point of it being funny – for collecting min-cash after min-cash. Thus, it might have come as a shock to many looking at the standings after Day 1B to see Kessler’s name in fifth place with 301,800 chips, five times the starting stack. He was actually the chip leader for a while before dropping slightly.

Kessler had one of the highlights of the day when he had pocket fours and flopped quads on a 4-4-7 flop. That’s wonderful, but what made it magical for Kessler was that his opponent had pocket sevens for a flopped full house. As one might expect, the chips got in and Kessler cleaned up.


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