Hold'em World Championship

$10,000 No-Limit Hold'em World Championship, Day One: "And We're Off!"

At 10:30 a.m. today, I asked a high-ranking World Series of Poker tournament official where we were in entries, and what he expected for a total.

“We’re at about 370 now,” he said. “With the last minute surge we always get, I figure 450-480,” an estimate that would shatter the old record of 393 entries, set last year.

If any of the roughly 230 players still left at the end of today’s 10-hour session have a “surge” that good near the end of the tournament, we’ll have our winner. A whopping 512 players entered, crushing the old record by an almost unbelievable 30.2%. So much for Tunica or the Nasdaq hurting the World Series of Poker.

As is always the case, we lost some big names early. Huck Seed and Scotty Nguyen, among them. By midnight, only 8 hours into the day’s play, (the record number of entries caused all sorts of logistical problems and we missed the nominal noon starting time by almost two hours), when Tournament Director Bob Thompson called off the names of the former champions still playing, it was a fairly short list.

We had so many players starting today that the tournament busted clear out of the tournament room and had to move into the satellite area downstairs. I had the unbelievable experience of playing at a table right next to a bunch of 10-20 players (boy can a guy get an attitude in a hurry). Interesting table right across from me, though, with Gabe Kaplan and Johnny Chan having fun. I was so close to Kaplan I could have hit him with a spitball without inhaling much. Not wanting detention from Mr. Kotter, or a 20-minute penalty, I resisted both this impulse and a much more difficult to resist temptation to do my Arnold Horschact or Vinny Barbarino imitations for him, figuring that he has heard these even more than one hears bad beat stories at the World Series, and that number is greater, I’m almost sure, than the number of molecules in the universe.

At the first break, I ran into TJ Cloutier, who asked me how my first World Series effort was going. “I feel like a virgin bride on her wedding night,” I said, “it’s exciting but right now there’s some pain.” Unfortunately the analogy breaks down there, as the other poker & casino players were most definitely not being gentle or loving. I was down to only $7,200 after the first two hours, and thanks to two nasty encounters with pocket kings, I didn’t make the dinner break.

By the way, if you think I’m whining, I’m not. I could have gotten luckier, but I don’t feel I made any particularly dazzling plays today, unless you want to count two laydowns when I correctly read opponents for giant hands. So I’m a great folder. Mostly what I’m doing, in describing the my destruction, is engaging in a time-honored World Series tradition, one which, as nearly as I could tell, was engaged in by practically everyone who lost today.

Would you believe (I can just hear Maxwell Smart saying it now) that EVERY single player who lost today got busted out on a hand where he or she had the best of it? No? Would you believe that everyone who lost was at a table where everyone else had aces at least three times? No? Then you probably shouldn’t visit the Big One at Binion’s, or you’ll lose faith in the truthfulness of some of the world’s best players. Everyone has a bad beat story. No one leaves saying, “I played horribly and deserved to lose every single chip,” at least not anyone I ran into.

One thing I learned today: busting out of the World Series is an awful and empty feeling. It’s like a team losing in the NCAA basketball tournament, or in a professional sport playoff series. It’s not just another game. It’s the World Series, and it doesn’t happen again for another year, and wishing it weren’t so doesn’t change a damn thing, just as going over possible wrong moves or unlucky breaks doesn’t change it.

My World Series is over. I’m not happy about that, even though I knew going in I was certainly going to have to catch some cards to advance. This gives me a little better perspective on what the world-class players, the ones who come here not hoping to get lucky but knowing their talent gives them a reasonable chance, feel like when they bust out.

It’s just another good example of not judging a man until you walk a mile in his shoes. From this day forward, I’ll be a lot more understanding of any nasty remarks anyone makes when they exit (even though I didn’t make any). Getting knocked out of the Big One is the death of hope and of dreams.

I haven’t lost all perspective: I know it’s still “just” a poker tournament, and there are a lot more important things in this world than a poker tournament (and casino obviously). And there’s always next year.

I’ll be back with an update on who’s still in the tournament, the chip leaders and their re-drawn tables, as soon as possible. At least we’ll have enough chips tomorrow. Binion’s only had enough chips for 513 players; we made it by one. They could have accommodated a few more players by breaking out the $5,000 chips right away, but to start with the right amounts to avoid constant chip-changing, we were right up against it here today.

Starting Players for the 2000 World Series of Poker

Total Entrants: 512 (breaks old record of 393)

Total Prize Pool: $5,120,000

Not all tables started with 9 players. Binion’s was unable to provide complete table information on 5/15/00 due to logistical problems with the unexpectedly high number of players. The information below comes straight from their official records. I will fill in the missing names when we can obtain the missing information; I may be able to piece some of it together from the seat assignment board.

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