The day began with ten players still in the running for a shot at Linda Johnson's TV table, led by "TheWacoKidd", Jared Hamby, and including such luminaries as online pro Thayer Rasmussen, Canadian leaderboard lurker Shawn Buchanon, J.C. "El Fuego" Alvarado, Danny Wong, Barry Greenstein, Chau Giang, David Levi, WPT PokerStars.com Caribbean Adventurer Ryan Daut, and a man of whom no one knew very much, David "The Dad" Haddad.
Nearly immediately, however, one of the more recognizable faces at the final table hit the trail. Chau Giang was eliminated after calling all-in on a Barry Greenstein shove from the small blind, losing a race with pocket jacks to Father of Sebok's A♦ K♠. An ace on the flop and a king on the turn sealed the deal, and such was life for Mr. Giang.
Chau finished in tenth place and earned $26,235 - $5,000 of which immediately went to the World Series of Poker at the Rio, where Giang enrolled in the $5,000 Mixed Limit/No Limit World Championship, only to bust out early on Day 1.
As the day continued, PokerListings.com learned that Barry Greenstein was also registered in the first event of the 2007 WSOP, despite being firmly entrenched in a battle for World Poker Tour glory a traffic-choked taxi ride away at Mandalay Bay. As the day wore on, Barry's empty stack dwindled at the Rio while he continued to hang on for dear life at the Bay.
Meanwhile, David Levi was busy crippling Ryan Daut, dealing the first WPT champ of 2007 a crushing blow when he pushed with A♦ 9♦ to Daut's Big Slick and flopped a nine to stay alive.
A few hands later, Ryan Daut was eliminated, the victim of Thayer Rasmussen's pocket tens. Daut had pushed with A♥ J♥, and though he picked up a flush draw on the turn, could not close the deal. Daut finished in ninth place for $34,980, and he, too, took a quick cab ride over to the Rio to play in the $5,000 Mixed Event. He, too, would be eliminated before the end of Day 1.
Next on the elimination docket was J.C. Alvarado, a young pro who many in the press corps feel is destined for great things. Unfortunately for El Fuego, those great things won't start at Mandalay Bay, as Alvarado got all-in with Jared Hamby with T♦ 8♦ on a K♦ Q♠ 7♦ J♠ board, with TheWacoKidd showing K♥ J♦ for two pair and dodging Alvarado's straight and flush draws with the J♥ on the river. Alvarado received $43,720 for his eighth place finish, and there were no reports of him donating $5,000 to the WSOP later in the day.
With only one elimination to go before Barry Greenstein could rescue his ailing stack (and the rest of the field could enjoy a beautiful afternoon), all signs pointed to Danny Wong being the next to go. Wong lost most of his stack in a tragic hand that saw David Heddad perform the almighty suckout with K♥ J♥ to Wong's K♣ Q♦ on a king-high flop. When the J♦ hit the river it was like a bomb going off in the tournament area, with Wong's friends and family reeling and the young pro himself counting the last of his $75,000 ashen-faced.
Somehow, though, Wong managed to stay alive, as did David Levi, who had seemingly nursed a short-stack since the first level of the tournament but who managed to parlay his tenacity into a final-table finish, despite nearly losing his entire stack with A♠ A♣ to Thayer Rasmussen's 7♦ 2♣. A flop of K♦ Q♦ 3♦ with Levi all-in sent the Tenacious One to the comfort of his railbirds, but the board bricked out and he stayed alive long enough to see that Barry Greenstein would not have to worry about coming back tomorrow.
Greenstein open-shoved for his last $200,000 midway through the fourth level of the day and was called by Jared Hamby, who showed pocket jacks in the big blind. The Robin Hood of Poker showed K♣ T♠, and after the board came A♦ A♣ A♥ 4♣ 9♥ was autographing another copy of Ace on the River and hitting the dusty trail, $54,655 and destined to build another empire from the dredges of his stack at the Rio. Greenstein miraculously survived Day 1 of the Mixed Event with $43,000 in chips, despite not playing a hand for the first five hours.
Meanwhile, the six survivors will return to the Mandalay Bay (where, it must be noted, there is no bay) tomorrow at five Pacific Time for the TV final table. With $1.764 million, Jared Hamby sits atop a dichotomous chip-leaderboard consisting of three "haves" (Hamby, Haddad, Buchanon) with no less than $853,000 in each man's stack, and three "have nots" (David Levi, Thayer Rasmussen, Danny Wong) with no more than $334,000 per person.
PokerListings.com will be back on the scene on Saturday afternoon to bring you comprehensive coverage of the final table, while simultaneously pwning all takers at the World Series of Poker. Tune in for another exciting day of that hot poker action!