This time last year the World Series of Poker was abuzz with the news that Phil Hellmuth had smacked up a race car. The very next day the “Poker Brat” made his entrance wearing a NASCAR-style uniform complete with every one of his sponsors patches. The buzz for the weeks leading up the 2008 Main Event was centered on what Hellmuth would do to top that.
Leaving nobody disappointed Hellmuth arrived at the Rio All Suite & Hotel Sunday afternoon riding in the back of an Army Jeep and was dressed as an 11-star general – one star for each bracelet he’s won – and was accompanied by fellow poker pro Mark Kroon and eleven ladies in a personnel carrier, all dressed in army fatigues.
Hellmuth is one of over 2,000 players who are making the field on Day 1d the largest of the four starting days. That total helped push the total number of registrants for 2008 over the 2007 mark of 6,358. Upon Hellmuth’s delayed arrival at the end of the first level the field stood at 6,842.
“I’m glad he didn’t crash this year,” joked WSOP commissioner Jeffrey Pollack. “If Phil was able to make and entrance that is bigger than anyone else’s entrance and do it without injuring himself or any of his colleagues, I think that’s a good thing.”
“He should have played on July 4th and it would have worked even better.”
Despite the theatrics involved with Hellmuth’s entrance, he wasn’t the only big name to take to the felt Sunday. Also in the field today is Doyle Brunson, Michael Mizrachi and defending champion Jerry Yang. And while the big names of poker were out in full force in Sunday’s field, there were a few other players who were noteworthy as well.
Fresh off his victory Saturday night against Quinton Jackson, Forrest Griffin was in action at the tables as was Chuck Liddell, who found himself seated directly across from Hellmuth at the ESPN feature table. Other professional athletes joining the Day 1d fun were golfer Paul Azinger, ring announcer Bruce Buffer, former major league pitcher David Wells.
The athletes just weren’t at the tables either. A number of television monitors in the Amazon Room were focused on the Mens championship from Wimbledon where Rafael Nadal outlasted Roger Federer for the title. At one point Gus Hansen decided the match was distracting him too much from his hands, so he plunked himself on the floor in front of the monitor until the match was over.
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