Indeed, somebody at the USPC had hired cameramen to roam the tournament floor on spec, and the few representative members of the poker media who'd bothered to attend (headlined by PokerListings.com and unhampered by any sort of foolish exclusive coverage agreement) found themselves dodging film crews rushing across the room to each and every all-in throughout the day, of which there were a surprising number given the $30,000 starting stacks.
The day began at a very relaxed 3:30 p.m. (EDT) after only about 15 minutes of delays with the aforementioned 164 entrants finding their seats in the poker room at the Taj. Among their numbers were such poker luminaries as defending champ Victor Ramdin.
Absent from the proceedings, however, were such Atlantic City/East Coast staples as John D'Agostino and either David Singer, although the lack of a concrete television deal and the large number of tournaments in the last few weeks undoubtedly contributed to the relative lack of star power.
Jacob, who took down $878,500 for his first-place finish at last year's event, got a great start on retaining his championship as within the first few minutes of the tournament he'd taken the entirety of tablemate Brian Strahl's $30,000 stack. Strahl got all of his money in the middle on a 7♣ 6♣ 2♦ board having flopped top two with 7♥ 6♦, but the Fro was in a better spot with 7♠ 7♦ for top set. No surprises hit the turn or river, and suddenly AJo was the chip leader by a large margin.
With a luxurious blind structure and generous starting stacks, eliminations were rare in the early going, with only six players eliminated in the first two levels. That didn't mean the tournament was devoid of action, however, as exemplified by a hand that saw two strangers get their money in the middle on a K-Q-8 flop. The big stack had queens while the shorter ($15,000) stack had pocket eights, and the situation looked grim for Shorty, especially after the turn came a blank.
Like a dagger, however, the river was the case eight, giving Player 2 quads and doubling him through his unlucky opponent with the sweet one-outer. Player 1 would not last the day, eventually getting all-in with the same opponent in a sevens-versus-aces battle and not even seeing the poker gods rewarding him with a measly set.
Adding to the pre-dinner excitement was the announcement of the payout structure, which will see eighteen places divvy up the $1,590,800 prize pool. Finalists will be paid a minimum of $20,680 with the top three finishers earning six figures. First place takes home a tidy $606,095.
The return from dinner would see the departure of Paul McCaffrey, who entered into a bit of a war with Tim West on a 7♣ 4♣ 4♥ flop that would eventually see McCaffrey all-in for his last $18,000. West would tank for a few minutes before making the call with naught but pocket nines while McCaffrey turned up 5♣ 3♣ for the gut-shot straight flush draw. Neither the turn nor river would provide McCaffrey with any of his outs, however, and he'd hit the bricks muttering about the audacity of West's call.
Shortly after McCaffrey's elimination, PokerListings.com fave Bill Edler would drink his last cup of coffee. Edler had built his stack to $40,000 before seeing his set of queens cracked by an opponent who'd flopped the nut straight, and from there struggled with a half-pint stack before getting it all-in with an open-ended straight draw against an opponent's two pair and missing his outs. Before heading to the rail, Edler told PokerListings.com he was now marooned in Atlantic City until Saturday with not much to do, an utterly abysmal punishment for early elimination if ever there was one.
Early chip leader during the day was young Svetlana Gromenkova, a Brooklyn girl with seven prior cashes for about $64,000 in total who managed to navigate a table that included Mike Sica, Eric Weiner, Mike Sukonik, Victor Ramdin and Frank Vizza. Gromenkova would build her stack to about $90,000 before giving some back to Ramdin when her kings ran into the PokerStars.com pro's aces, but would wind up the day competing for the chip lead all the same.
The final level of the evening would be the final level of the tournament for Chris Reslock, who got the last of his money in the middle on a 8♠ 5♠ 2♦ board with pocket kings against an opponent with A♠ 8♠. The turn would brick but the river was the 3♠, giving Player 2 the nut flush and Reslock the boot.
Reslock's elimination would prove one of the last of the evening, with 126 players surviving to see the morrow. Leader of the pack is one Gavin Smith, who managed to build his stack to over $100,000. Smith is pursued most closely by the aforementioned Gromenkova and defending champ Jacob.
Action will resume tomorrow at precisely 1:15 p.m. (EDT) with no indication given as to how long or how late we'll play. With four more days of play and only 126 players, however, chances are that organizers will take a leisurely approach to the proceedings, so expect to see the action wrap up at around midnight at the latest. Scheduling questions notwithstanding, PokerListings.com will be there from start to finish, providing you the most comprehensive coverage available on the Internets. Tune in tomorrow and join the fun!