The 39th World Series of Poker rolled on at the Rio in Las Vegas regardless of the Independence Day celebration, although there was a distinctly patriotic flavour to the start of Day 1b as a total entry field of thousands was whittled down to manageable numbers in preparation for the Day 2 action.
1 297 players is the official number of Day 1a players, and this had been reduced to 636 by the end of the day, with Mark Garner of Little Rock, Arkansas leading the pack with a chip count of 194 900, chased by Brandon Adams on 176 450. Garner has cashed in several major tournament events, including one in the WSOP main event back in 2006, and madit as far as the final table in two World Series of Poker Circuit events.
Other recognisable names among the Day 1a survivors were Kido Pham, Mark Vos, Svetlana Gromenkova, Darrel Dicken, Jamie Rosen, Joe Beevers, Toto Leonidas, Blair Hinkle, Billy Baxter, Ted Lawson, John Hennigan, Vince Van Patten, Susie Isaacs, Noah Boeken, Jimmy Fricke, Thomas Wahlroos and Barry Greenstein.
Not so fortunate, and out of this year's Main Event were television celebrity Jason Alexander and a number of previous champs who didn't cut the mustard this year; Bobby Baldwin, Berry Johnston and Dan Harrington. Television comedy star from the "I Love Raymond" series, Ray Romano was still in the running and gave a good account of himself, ending with a stack of over 61 000.
The start of Day 1b was appropriately all stars ‘n stripes and in holiday mood as the international entry field got down to business on 150 tables with 700 dealers and just short of 1 200 entrants.
By the time Day 1b was done the shock departures were Daniel Negreanu, Greg Raymer, Ted Forrest, Jamie Gold, Andy Black and Tuan Le.
On the more positive side, a talented range of master players were still in contention including: Tom McEvoy, Kenna James, Kristy Gazes, Vanessa Rousso, Jamie Gold, David Levi, Hoyt Corkins, Sam Grizzle, Robert Mizrachi, Bruno Fitoussi, Marc Goodwin, Patrick Antonius, Vicky Coren, Robert Varkonyi, Scott Fischman, Lee Watkinson and Greg Mueller.
By the last break of the night, the Day 1b roll call was down to 750 players, with almost blind player Hal Lubarsky still in with a chance. Lubarsky played in last year's main event despite a degenerative eye disease that has all but removed his visual capability, making it necessary for him to play with a sighted assistant. He's wearing Full Tilt patches.
Unofficial figures for the total number of entries for this year's 39th World Series of Poker Main Event estimate the numbers at around the 5 481 mark, significantly down on last year's 6 358. This number is still to be confirmed.
Day 1b finally concluded in the early hours of the morning with 623 players remaining and the chip lead resting with Ben Sarnoff on 165 000, chased by a determined Robert Mizrachi on 131 000. Among the top ten finishers was Marc Karam and Patrik Antonius.
The attrition rate was high and an imposing list of big names saw the end of their 2008 Main Event hopes: Sam Grizzle, Ross Boatman, Todd Witteles, Farzad Bonyadi, Jacobo Fernandez, Orel Hersheiser, Humberto Brenes, Olga Varkonyi, Jamie Gold, Ram Vaswani, David Levi, Greg Raymer, Kenny Tran, Steve Biko, Dewey Tomko, Daniel Negreanu, Andy Black, and Ted Forrest.
Two more Day 1 rounds will be played over the next few days before the survivors battle it out again in the Day 2 lists.