A total of 160 players paid the entry fee for this event, among them such poker luminaries as certified ATLien Josh Arieh, Texan Kido Pham and Irish pro Ciaran O'Leary, as well as Matt Graham, Brandon Cantu, Will "The Thrill" Failla, Matt Russell, Joe Cappello, Sabyl Cohen, Raj Patel, Circuit All-Star Ed Corrado and May 2006 WSOPC New Orleans champ Lou Esposito. The big names were joined by a smattering of local talent, including 2005 WSOP bracelet winner Dan Schmiech, preliminary event winner Phillip "This Is" Sparta and noted horse racing jockey Gerard Melancon.
The field's 160 players created a prize purse worth $765,000, of which 18 players will partake when we get down to the money on Tuesday. The lowest earner on the proverbial totem pole will take home $9,180, while players who reach the nine-handed final table are guaranteed at least $15,300. Of course, it's the big money that will gather the most attention, with second place taking home $130,050 and first a tidy $247,860, as well as a $10,000 entry into the 2008 WSOP Main Event, a shiny WSOPC ring and the honor of an interview with PokerListings.com.
Before the money could be dispersed, however, Day 1 would have to be played, and the field endured a full seven 75-minute levels of poker before calling it quits at around midnight on Monday evening. The day would belong to Arieh, who found himself a comfortable table early in the proceedings and never moved, amassing an enormous stack while eliminating opponents left, right and center over 12 hours of carnage.
Not quite so dominant was Matt Graham, who fell early after his ace-king ran into an opponent's flopped set of kings to cripple the local online pro. A few hands later Graham would bust, ironically at the hand of another opponent who'd flopped a set of kings.
Kido Pham would join Graham at the rail soon after, losing the last of his chips in a gruesome bad beat that saw the hyper-aggressive pro get all-in with pocket kings against Payne Farrell's pocket sixes. The flop came 8-6-6 and Pham was drawing slim against Farrell's quads, and after the turn brought an eight Thang was drawing dead.
2007 Foxwoods Poker Champ Raj Patel would fall victim to the No Chips Disease a few rounds later, getting the last of his chips in with 5♣ 4♣ and getting a call from an opponent with A♥ Q♦. It was probably the best possible situation for Patel, who at least had live cards and drawing possibilities, but the board brought nothing but blanks until the river, when an ace spiked to hammer the nail in Patel's coffin and send him home early.
Gerard Melancon would bust early in the day's fourth level, the victim of a pocket tens versus pocket queens debacle, while later in the proceedings WSOP-E Main Event runner-up John Tabatabai would also falter. Tabatabai would lose a race with A♠ K♣ against pocket queens and hit the bricks shortly before dinner.
Dinner break would occur at 6 p.m. (CST) with 108 players remaining, but after the field returned, sated, from 90 minutes at the smorgasbord the numbers began to drop, and fast. Within one level 28 players were eliminated, among them Sabyl Cohen, who battled valiantly with a short stack throughout the proceedings but who eventually faltered when her pocket fives ran into aces and could catch no miracle on flop, turn or river.
Ed Corrado would join the ranks of the departed midway through the day's sixth level when he flat-called a spade-heavy board to the river and then shoved on fifth street, only to see his opponent turn up a ten-high flush with four spades on the board. Corrado couldn't beat it and hit the streets in style, accusing his rival of being a "chimp player" and then making his exit with dignity safely intact.
Meanwhile, Josh Arieh was straight crushing his table, eliminating opponents in every possible manner. Throughout the day, Arieh would bust players when his draws connected, when their draws failed to connect, when his small pocket pairs flopped sets and when his suited connectors flopped boats.
Arieh might have saved his best trick for last, however, busting two opponents near the end of the seventh level after raising pre-flop with T♠ 8♠ and seeing the flop come eight-high with two other opponents in the hand. Player 1 open-shoved for his last $19,200 with top pair, worse kicker and Arieh called before a third player called all-in for the last of his short stack with bottom pair. The board bricked out on turn and river and the Bodog pro might have been well-off installing a revolving door at his table given the speed with which he was dispatching opponents.
Not quite so lucky, but substantially more tenacious, was 2007 WSOP bracelet-winner Ciaran O'Leary, who jumped out to $30,000 early in the day before finding himself at a table with the aforementioned Tabatabai and Corrado, as well as early chip leader Andy Philachack. O'Leary doubled-up a pair of opponents (on one memorable occasion falling with kings to a rival's quad aces) and saw his stack drop to $6,000, but managed to grind out an evening of solid poker and build his stack up to $19,000 by day's end.
A total of 50 players survived the carnage of Day 1, with Arieh's $157,700 head and shoulders above anyone else in the field. Second place on the chip leaderboard is Kenny Milam with $88,100, while rounding out the top five are Frank Vizza ($59,400), Stuart Fox ($55,500) and Joel Font ($55,300).
Action will resume at noon (CST) on Tuesday and continue until a final table of nine has been established, with the money bubble a surefire point of interest along the way. Tune in to PokerListings.com for comprehensive coverage of Day 2, including thrilling live updates, scintillating photography and anything else we can throw into the mix. Goodnight from the Bayou!