Despite the relatively modest number of entries, the starting field was comprised of a number of big names. Harrah's had made a lot of noise about the presence of Steve Wong, Michael Binger, Allen Kessler, Max Pescatori, Layne Flack, Bill Edler, Shane Schleger, Davidson Matthew, Brandon Cantu, Alex Jacob, Joseph Tehan, Peter Feldman, and even poker vixen Chantal McNulty.
Once play actually did begin, a fair number of the professionals found themselves quickly making their ways to the exit, with the vaunted four of Williamson III, Duke, Gordon and Nguyen all hitting the bricks before the day was out. In the case of Phil Gordon, the departure did not come without acrimony.
Gordon found himself shipping his chips to Barry Greenstein after the Robin Hood of Poker flopped a pair of jacks to take down Gordon's ace-high. Not exactly pleased by the beat, Gordon complained about his loss and was rebutted by the normally reserved Erik Cajelais.
"Why don't you just take your beat and leave?" asked the French-Canadian, who had had nothing to do with the hand. Gordon, flabbergasted, stopped packing to stare him down.
"What the f- what the hell is your problem?"
"Just take your beat and leave," said Cajelais. "You'll be fine."
"We'll meet again," said Gordon. "You can count on it."
"You don't go deep enough in tournaments," said Cajelais. "We'll never meet."
Now Gordon, more than a little irritated by the beat and by Cajelais' backtalk, spread his arms as if ready for a fight. "Any time you want to go, we'll go."
Cajelais, unblinking, agreed, "anytime," but anytime was not now, as Gordon had stalked off into the night, shaking his head and muttering to himself. Cajelais retreated into his usual unflappable persona and continued to accumulate chips throughout the night.
It was a strange interlude in a day that featured a number of bizarre incidents, including a ridiculous span of unconnected hands during level five.
The first level back from the dinner break is often marked by craziness and quick eliminations, and level five was no exception, sending 25 players to the rail, including Kathy Liebert and Brandon Cantu. The wackiness, however, transcended eliminations.
Things began to stir up when Joe Sebok and Joe Michel got involved in a hand at their table. Both players checked to the river on a board that came A♣ A♠ 2♠ 7♣ 5♣, but all of the money quickly got into the pot on fifth street, wherein Michel revealed that he had been slow-playing a monster, turning over 2♥ 2♣ for a flopped full house.
Sebok was doing a little slow-playing of his own, though, showing A♦ A♣ for flopped quad aces, and he took down the hand and a huge pot, bolstering his stack such that he would remain in contention for the chip lead throughout the day.
No sooner had PokerListings.com finished reporting on the hand than Larry Rider and an unnamed opponent got all of their chips in the middle on a flop of Q♦ Q♠ 7♣. Player 1 showed pocket eights for queens-up, but Rider had Q♣ Q♥ for flopped quad queens, and he sent Player 1 packing.
Immediately after this hand, Matt Graham saw a flop come 9♠ 9♣ 9♦. He checked to his opponent, who checked behind, and the turn was the A♦. Graham bet out $500 and his opponent called, and the river was the 4♣. Now Graham bet out $2,000 and again his opponent called, but for the third time in about twenty minutes, quads had been flopped and Graham took the pot after showing down K♥ 9♥.
Meanwhile, Phil Gordon (still in contention, but not for long), and Barry Greenstein found themselves in a hand that saw the board come 8♥ 9♥ J♥ Q♥ A♥, putting the possibility of a straight and/or a royal flush on the board.
Greenstein bet out $5,000 on the river and Gordon mulled the situation over for a number of minutes before finally mucking. Greenstein mucked as well as he raked the pot, leaving all in attendance to agonize over what on earth those hole cards could have been.
While all of this tomfoolery was going on, Gavin Smith was quietly accumulating chips as he battled back from a low of $525 to bring himself up to over $69,100 at day's end. It was a display of tenacity befitting the wily pro, who managed to keep on a level keel despite engaging in a number of ludicrous prop bets with counterpart Gavin Griffin.
With 181 players beginning the day, the total prize pool for the tournament is $877,850, with 18 players getting paid for their efforts. Eighteenth place will take home $10,402, while both second and first place will be paid six-figure amounts - $147,364 for second and $280,859 for first.
By day's end, the field had been narrowed to 43 players, of whom the chip leader is Peter Feldman, with more than $125,000. He is followed closely by Joe Sebok and Steve Diano, both of whom wound up around $115,000. Erik Cajelais is fourth with $95,000.
Play will resume tomorrow at noon Pacific time, with plans to play down from 43 to the final nine contestants. As usual, PokerListings.com will be there with scintillating live-updates and jaw-dropping photography, so do your country proud and slough off work to support America's game by clicking that "refresh" button all day long. See you tomorrow.