Friday saw the start of the 39th World Series of Poker at the Rio in Las Vegas, replete with marching bands in the Amazon Room, crowds of players and spectators, merchandising and characteristic American enthusiasm and razzmatazz.
 
The traditional "shuffle up and deal" call came at noon, starting the 55 event action with Event 1 – the $10 000 buy-PokerStarsin World Championship Limit Hold'em as 352 entrants set to work, competing for a $3 million prize-pool that will deliver cash to just over ten percent of the entry field….and a serious bank boosting $794 121 to the winner.
 
Top names on the entry list included Shannon Elizabeth  and Jennifer Tilly, with an all-star male roster that included Chad Brown, youthful bracelet holder James Mackay, Internet hotshot Hevad Khan, Eli Elezra, Vanessa Rousso, Mel Judah, Andy Bloch, Allen Cunningham, Bill Edler, Michael Binger, Josh Arieh, Erik Seidel, David Pham, Chris Moneymaker, Eric Lynch, Ryan Daut, David Singer, Jeff Madsen, Andy Black, Doyle Brunson and Phil Ivey.
 
Unfortunately for Mackay, he was ousted early on, joining other early-to-the-rail exits such as Scott Clements, Howard Lederer, past main event winner Jamie Gold, Todd Brunson, Katja Thater and Barry Greenstein.
 
As we went to press, play in Event 1 was still going hammer and tongs.
 
Timing the announcement to perfection, Poker Stars.com revealed that it will be awarding at least 200 WSOP 2008 on one night. June 15th will see the Internet's largest online poker site hosting a $370 buy-in super satellite with a guaranteed $2.5 million prize pool.
 
The estimated 200-plus winners will each be awarded a $12 500 prize package that includes the $10 000 buy-in to the Main Event, $2 500 in spending money, round-trip airfare to Las Vegas, and hotel accommodations for the two-weeks.
 
Poker Stars is aiming to overtake the huge turnout last year when 7 377 players entered the online super satellite tournament, hoping for one of the 150 guaranteed WSOP seat package prizes. Players from around the world flooded the site, turning the satellite into the biggest ever recorded that ended up dishing out 220 seat packages.
 
On the run-up to the 2008 WSOP, Poker Stars has already awarded 1 200 seats, and plans to send a total of at least 2 000 players to this year's big event. At last year's Main Event, Team PokerStars players Tuan Lam, Raymond Rahme, and Hevad Khan all made it to the final table, earning a combined $8 845 249.