In the end 99 rounders still braved freezing temperatures and snow-covered roads to make the journey to Council Bluffs, Iowa for the WSOPC event. Down from last year's 142, but last year the tournament didn't have to compete with a WPT event. Those who gathered were definitely among the poker faithful.
Did the big names make the trip? Not exactly.
The highest-profile player at the tournament would was arguably Brandon Cantu. Cantu won a bracelet at the 2006 WSOP but he hasn't been the most prolific player since.
One might have thought a seasoned pro would make short work of the field assembled at Council Bluffs but it was not to be. Cantu wasn't exactly blazing out of the gates and despite winning some small pots in the later portion of the day he was never able to become a truly assertive force at the tournament.
In his last hand of the tournament Cantu held K♥ J♥ on a board of A♥ A♣ 6♥. Cantu decided to move all-in with his flush draw but unfortunately ran into an opponent who held 6♠ 6♦ for the full house. There were no miracles on the turn or the river and Cantu was eliminated.
Fellow WSOP bracelet winner Bob Slezak was perhaps the second-best-known player to make the trip to Iowa. Slezak has had several big cashes in his career at both WSOP and WPT events. Slezak came in 41st place at this year's WSOP Main Event and won $429,000 for his efforts. Not bad at all.
Unfortunately Slezak also had an extremely quiet day. Slezak survived for most of the day with a stack well below average but just before the end of the day he managed to double up and then knock an opponent out of the tournament with 8-7 when he hit an eight on the flop. Perhaps tomorrow we'll see more fireworks from Slezak as he attempts to make another final table.
One exciting player to watch was Darell "Gigabet" Dicken's brother David Dicken. Having two D's in their names isn't the only trait the brothers share. They both know how to play cards extremely well.
David was killing in the early going and somehow managed to get an opponent to go all-in with T♠ T♦ while holding A♦ A♥ himself.
In a disastrous turn of events David's opponent hit a ten on the flop and, yet again, the fabled pocket rockets were cracked.
It was the beginning of a series of unfortunate events for David. Several hands later he lost a coin flip with A-Q versus TT and several hands after that, he shoved all-in with A-J versus an opponent's A-T. Sure enough the A-J did not hold up and that was it for his tournament. We're sure David will be back and better than ever.
One surprising hand in the early going had three players seeing a board of T♥ T♠ 9♥ 3♥. Giovanni Marcacci, a final-table finisher at this year's WSOPC Grand Tunica event, was first to act and he checked. The unknown player to his left checked as well and James Salter, who was last to act, made a good-sized bet. Marcacci re-raised but the player to his left shoved all-in and Salter re-shoved.
Marcacci deliberated for a few minutes and then made what seemed to be a painful lay-down. It turned out to be the right move, however. The player to his left flipped over A♥ K♥ for the nut flush while Salter showed Q♥ T♦ for trip tens.
Incredibly the 9♣ fell on the river and Salter took down a huge pot for the early chip lead.
Salter held onto his stack of chips for most of the day but finally met his demise when his A-9 failed against pocket sixes.
Marcacci was also playing the surviving game for most of the day but managed to turn his game around a bit by hitting a back-door flush draw near the middle of the day. Unfortunately the upward swing was not to last and he was eliminated near the end of the day.
There were several notable players who survived to Day 2, however.
Bernard Lee is a poker player/journalist who managed to finish with a slightly above average $42,400. Lee is blogging for ESPN and hoping to pull off some success James McManus-style.
Slezak survived with $22,400, which definitely makes him a short stack heading into tomorrow but if he's able to make a couple moves early he could be a force.
Our chip leader is Howard Wolper with $88,400. Wolper apparently enjoys giant sunglasses and tall stacks of chips.
With nine places being paid and first place being a very decent $168,000 the action is sure to be fast and furious tomorrow.
Join us tomorrow to see who gets paid and who gets nothing. Trust me, it will be fun!