Last year marked the Tuan Lam.
With Mike Matusow, John Juanda, Daniel Negreanu, Justin Bonomo, Shane Schleger, Haralabos Voulgaris, Allen Kessler, Jordan Morgan, Tom Schneider, Jeff Madsen, Vanessa Rousso, Chad Brown, J.C. Tran, Nam Le, Steve Sung, Sorel Mizzi and numerous other pros scheduled to play on the later days, many late registrants took one look at the field on Day 1a and lamented their tardiness, feeling that the turnout on the first day of play would make for much softer tables than on Days 1b and 1c.
Regardless of the overall skill level, Day 1a did boast some talented cats at its tables and some correspondingly hot poker action. Among the biggest hands of the day was one of the first, with founder/champion of the WPT's Million-Dollar "Guaranteed" Turks & Caicos Poker Classic, Rhynie Campbell, getting all-in for $17,000 on a J-9-8 board with top set. Jonathan Little also found himself all-in on the hand, turning up pocket eights, while both players were called by an opponent whose pocket aces put him a distant third.
It looked like trouble for FieryJustice, but the turn card quickly reversed his fortunes, bringing the case eight for Kwaaads (!!!1) and leaving Campbell up a creek. The river was not the last jack in the deck and that was the end of Campbell, while Little became chip leader with brutal immediacy.
Little would see his stack fluctuate throughout the early going, doubling-up an opponent with Q-J to Player 2's K-10 on a K-10-8-10-A board and then cracking Robert Robbins' aces with pocket nines when he flopped a set and let Robbins do the betting for him all the way to fifth street. By the time the third level had concluded and dinner was announced, Little was up to about $55,000 and climbing.
The post-dinner break rush saw two Canadian favorites hit the road, with Sudbury, Ontario's Jason Sagle getting all-in against two opponents on a K-8-3 flop with pocket crabs to his opponents' K-10 and K-8 and seeing the board run 7-8 to crack his set, and Haligonian Cory Carroll seeing his queens falter to Tim Reiman's T♦ 7♦ on a 10-8-7 flop and A-7 finisher.
Other eliminations on Day 1a would include Steve Paul-Ambrose, Ciaran O'Leary, Jeff Williams and Pete "The Beat" Giordano, who'd fall to Tuan Lam in a tragic aces-versus-kings confrontation that left The Beat, these days a Canadian resident, headed to the exits.
As the action progressed into the seventh and final level of the evening, Giordano would be joined railside by none other than Kenna James, who'd spent a very giggly Day 1a chattering about stealing cookie dough and winning pots with the help of the old octocrab.
James would take his bow in another of many three-way all-ins (must be a Canadian thing) when he got his stack in the middle with Q-Q on a J-9-4 flop against opponents with Q-J and 4-4 and couldn't catch his one-outer on the turn or river.
A few hands later the day would be over, with the field reduced to 77 survivors and a half-hour left in the climactic level. Those 77 will return on Monday for Day 2 of this affair, while another 175 entrants will take their spots on the felt tomorrow for another 12.5 hours of greatness.
Chip leaders at the end of Day 1a are the aforementioned Little with $164,200 to his name, followed by Il Baek with $130,100, Matt Kay with $88,700, Richard "Marsh" Mallow with $86,600 and Tuan Lam with $85,000. Action will resume tomorrow at noon EDT with a new crop of hopefuls and PokerListings.com will be there, fair and square, to bring you the most illest of live updates as we seek to continue our record-breaking pwnage of all WPT events. Tune in for more tomorrow or you'll wish you had, eh?