The $25,000 T.J. Cloutier, Men "The Master" Nguyen, Josh Arieh, and John Duthie joined countless other well-known players in a collision of poker talent probably rivaled only by the upper-echelon WSOP events for sheer degree of difficulty.
At every table there were marquee match-ups, with the most interesting coming in the far corner of the Fontana Room, where Jamie Gold held court over a table that included Tony Cousineau, Hoyt Corkins, Maureen Feduniak, Adam Weinraub, Tuan Le and Scott Clements. Weinraub would fall victim to the WSOP champ early on, pushing all-in on the river with a set of treys and running into Gold's 6♣ 4♣-driven turned nut straight, but he was quickly replaced by Martin De Knijff to keep the Table of Doom alive.
Gold and Le, seated side by side, soon began to realize their patch of felt wasn't big enough for the both of them, and within a few hands of the day's commencement had notched the first in a succession of audacious collisions.
The initial encounter between the two men saw Le check-call Gold's increasingly ambitious bets to the river with the board coming J♥ 2♣ 2♠ 7♠ 4♣. Fifth Street, however, brought a $25,000 all-in move from Crispin Leyser's ex-BFF, and as Le went into the tank, the Jamie Gold show kicked into high gear.
"There's no question I have you beat," Gold told Le. "It's just a question of whether you call or not." Hollywood Jamie would reconsider a few moments later, however, telling his opponent, "You might actually have a hand if it's taking you this long to call. You might have a better hand than me."
Unconvinced, Le laid the hand down, and Gold smacked the old 6♣ 3♦ on the felt in front of him, raking in a sizeable pot with six-high, and sending the media into appreciative swoons as he did so.
Gold would continue to roll throughout the day, stacking up chips "entirely on bluffs," he claimed, and earning mad dollars from Phil Hellmuth, who bet $5,000 that Gold wouldn't get through the day, and gave Hollywood $500 for every bluff he showed down against Tuan Le. It would thus turn into a very profitable day for the maniacal Gold.
At the other end of the Fontana Room, 21-year-old Anna Wroblewski was making waves at a table that included Phil Ivey, Jeff Madsen, and Padraig Parkinson. Wroblewski won the $3,000 preliminary event at Bellagio earlier in the week and commanded attention from the gallery and her tablemates right from the start of the day, singing along to her iPod, double-fisting Budweisers, and stacking chips like a hellacious chip-stacking demon.
The diminutive Vietnamese-American rocketed to the head of the chip leaderboard with a couple of big hands, including one near-triple up that saw two opponents ahead of her get their money in the middle on a turn of A-J-9-6 with three hearts. Player 1 had pocket aces for top set, while Player 2 had pocket jacks for second set. Wroblewski? K♥ Q♥ for the nut flush, leaving her opponents drawing to full houses or quads to earn the check mark.
The board bricked out and P2 was outtie, while Wroblewski was up to $110,000 early. She'd continue her assault on the leaderboard throughout the day, refusing to relinquish her position and ending up at over $200,000 by day's end, with only Shannon Shorr seriously threatening her lead.
With players starting with $50,000 in chips and a relatively luxurious blind structure, eliminations were few and far between, but they still occurred, with about 70 players hitting the bricks over Day 1a's five 90 minute levels.
Among the busticatees were Shane Schleger, Raj Patel, Jeff Madsen, Cyndy Violette, Davidson Matthew, Men Nguyen, Alex Jacob, Chad Brown, T.J. Cloutier, John Gale, Doug Lee and Kenna James. You can read about all of their eliminations and the day's other numerous instances of rampant donkstrikery in our Live Updates Section.
Day 1b begins tomorrow at noon, with the remainder of the field settling down for a relaxed five-level stint in one of the most beautiful tournament rooms in the world. PokerListings.com will be chasing stories and opportunities for obscure/labored pop culture references from the moment the cards are dealt, so keep it locked on the PL and we promise to make it sizzle. See you tomorrow!