WSOP Main Event champs appreciate the invite

Chris Moneymaker

The World Series of Poker is always a good place to find the world's top players in action.

However, the first ever WSOP Champions Invitational event brought together the largest collection of Main Event winners ever assembled for one tournament at the Rio today.

Spectators created a chaotic scene for the 20-player event, as throngs of people gathered to get a look at a group of players that includes nearly every living Main Event champion.

Every champion from the year 2000 and beyond is playing, along with legends like Amarillo Slim (1972), Doyle Brunson (1976, 1977), Johnny Chan (1987, 1988), Phil Hellmuth (1989), Dan Harrington (1995), Huck Seed (1996) and Scotty Nguyen (1998).

"This is the only time it's ever happened," said 2003 Main Event winner Chris Moneymaker. "You get to play with legends, so it'll definitely be fun."

Also in the field are Tom McEvoy (1983), Berry Johnston (1986), Brad Dougherty (1991) and Jim Bechtel (1993).

ESPN will feature the Champions Invitational as part of its television coverage of the 2009 WSOP.

"I haven't played with some of these guys in a long time," added Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, the 2000 champ.

"A lot of these World Series of Poker champions aren't nearly as well known as a lot of these young kids, and all of them have really interesting stories.

"It makes for great TV. These guys are all really interesting people."

Chris Ferguson
'It makes for great TV'

If there is a grey cloud to this silver lining, it is the fact the players involved may have to avoid other events for the duration, although Greg Raymer is multi-tabling.

He was still at the $40k final table at press time, but told PokerListings the Champions Invitational wasn't exactly a priority anyway.

"I love the concept, and have suggested exactly an event like this to Jeffrey Pollack several times in the past, as well as to the ESPN people," he said.

"The only downside here is that I expected them to put up a somewhat more vigorous prize pool than an old car."

Those who do advance to Day 2 may be forced to skip the $10,000 Seven Card Stud World Championship bracelet event, which begins Monday.

"It might interfere with tomorrow," Ferguson said. "I haven't made a decision on what I'm going to do if that happens."

Despite the scheduling conflict and the fact first prize is nothing more than a re-built 1970 Corvette, the event is still a fan favorite.

As the players started entering the tournament floor for the 4 p.m. start today, a huge crowd flocked to the Amazon room, creating a red carpet-like scene with cameras flashing and fans desperately attempting to get autographs.

Moneymaker, whose run to the 2003 Main Event championship played a large role in the rise of poker's popularity, will be looking to use the event to change his fortunes after bubbling the WSOP's $40k event Saturday.

"It's going to be a lot of fun," Moneymaker said. "Coming off the $40k bubble, it's not going to be as much fun as it would have been if I had cashed in that or busted out earlier, but it's going to be fun."

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