The day began with 228 players laying claim to their own patches of felt in a tournament area on the Mandalay Bay casino floor. As gawkers, slot-machine junkies, and assorted degenerates ambled by, pros like Chad Brown, Greg Mueller, Mimi Tran, David Sklansky, Thomas Wahlroos, Mark Seif, Isabelle Mercier, Antonio Esfandiari, and yes, even Blake Buffington.
Also present was poker vixen and self-professed humanitarian Chantel McNulty, who has been linked to everyone from Dustin "Neverwin" Woolf to James Van Alstyne to starving children in Africa, but who arrived and departed on the arm of Zachary Hyman, winner of the inaugural Wynn Poker Classic.
Upstaging Chantilt, however, was the original forum-bomb herself. Before today, you'd have had to figure the odds that Brandi Rose Hawbaker would waltz into a poker room and immediately make tracks for David Levi and Steve Zolotow at the expense of every other pro would be pretty slim.
But you'd have been wrong, as Brandi appeared from oblivion midway through the second level and spent her first few moments back in the spotlight laughing and chatting with the aforementioned pros, who, while certainly fine men in their own right, are not likely to be found at the top of many a young lady's "eligible bachelor" list.
Brandi practically stopped the poker room in its tracks as fanboys (media) and players alike scrambled to see what had become of Captain Tom's ex-BFF. Had she, indeed, flown one day? Was she by now a millionaire thrice over, sailing her yacht in the azure seas as she always knew she would?
Miss Hawbaker did not disappoint, claiming to have translated a $1,000 bankroll into $200,000 thanks to a good run of cards at the tables, and then claiming to have spent substantial time in Florida with a lucky backer before making her triumphant return, flush with cash and Louis Vuitton handbags (and, one presumes, toasters and Bebe tees), just in time for the World Series. PokerListings.com, for one, is pleased to have Brandi back, and looks forward to a long summer of Hawbakering throughout the poker community.
Moving away from Perez Hilton towards People Magazine, the poker world was shocked and delighted to see that Erica Schoenberg entered this event carting a massive rock on her ring finger. As first reported on PokerListings.com, Schoenberg, who won the $2,500 NLHE preliminary event yesterday (defeating Anna Wroblewski heads-up FTW), recently became engaged to high-stakes cash game regular David Benyamine, prompting PokerListings.com to sob tears of joy for the happy couple.
Both Schoenberg and Benyamine would survive the day, she with $40,925 after an aggressive fifth level, and he with $110,375 for fourth on the chip leaderboard, despite doubling up J.C. Tran near the end of the day. Also surviving Day 1 was the Unacouple, with both Bomber (Phil Laak - $53,275) and Bombshell (Jennifer Tilly - $35,325) putting forth a strong showing.
Notable eliminations on Day 1 included Phil Hellmuth (busted by quad deuces), Johnny Chan (ran into Thomas Wahlroos' pocket aces), Jeff Madsen, Jonathan Little, Justin Bonomo, David Williams, Roland De Wolfe, Cory Carroll, and Toto Leonidas (fell to Sean McCabe's straight flush).
At the other end of the spectrum is Shawn Buchanan, chip leader with $158,075. He's followed by Tim Herbert with $155,175, John Juanda with $112,325, the aforementioned Benyamine, and John Racener with $108,550.
Action will resume tomorrow at noon Pacific Time, as 108 survivors return to try and battle it out for a spot in Brandi Rose's heart (and, of course, the prestigious title of Mandalay Bay Poker Champion). As usual, PokerListings.com will be on scene to bring you the livest of updates and the most heart-wrenching of gossip, although you'll forgive us if we can't look at E-Scho without bursting into tears. See you tomorrow!