The Main Event of the second annual WSOPE fired up on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in London, England, with the first of two flights of Day 1 hopefuls taking to the tables at the swank Casino at the Empire in Leicester Square.
Primary objective for those initial 159 entrants was to survive five levels on the first of six full days of poker before the successor to last year's champ is determined. It's going to be a long, tough slog, as evidenced by the 11 hours of poker played on Saturday.
Last year's Main Event saw 362 players hit up the Empire on Days 1a and 1b in search of that £1 million first prize, meaning tomorrow's numbers will have to be slightly higher than today's if we're going to see an improvement.
But numbers games aside, the field in this thing is bound to be as challenging as last year's event, which saw 19-year-old Joe Beevers. Mattern got all-in with pocket kings against Beevers' A-5, only to see the Elegance spike an ace to send the Frenchman to the rail.
The after-dinner rush saw a couple of sorry beats when Jason Mercier and cricketer Shane Warne were eliminated right off the bat, so to speak. Mercier got it all-in with A-Q in a blind-versus-blind confrontation with Andy Block and his wired kings. An ace on the flop gave the Floridian hope, but the river was another cowboy and such was the story for young Mercier.
Meanwhile, Warne had turned trip kings with K-7 against Farzad Bonyadi, only to see his adversary turn up K-J after he'd shipped the last of his chips into the middle. Warne had kicker trouble and a jack on the river sure didn't help, giving Bonyadi the boat and sending Warne off the pitch with little to show for his efforts.
While much of the field was treading water, however, Justin "BoostedJ" Smith was making the most of his time at the tables. The young Andy Black, Brandon Adams and Mike Matusow, while Alex Kostritsyn, Erik Seidel, Joe Hachem, Josh Arieh, Dario Alioto, Vicky Coren, Isaac Baron, Erica Schoenberg and yes, Phil Hellmuth all remain in contention.
Part 2 of Day 1 will play out tomorrow on PokerListings.com as we play out the first five levels all over again. It will be like Groundhog Day, complete with our own Ned the Head. Be here or be doomed to Punxsutawney forever.