Event #1 ($500 Casino Employees No Limit Hold'em) of the 2009 World Series of Poker got underway as WSOP Commissioner Jeffery Pollack, tournament director Jack Effel, and eleven-time bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth welcomed players to the Amazon Room at the Rio.
Effel took the stage to ask how the players enjoyed the 70’s music over the P.A. system, a tribute to the 40th anniversary of the WSOP, which started in 1970. Pollack then took the microphone and thanked the casino employees in attendance and asked that all current and former Rio employees stand and be recognized, which they did to thunderous applause. Pollack went on to explain the new penalty enforcement system that would be implemented during this year’s WSOP, to which Hellmuth grabbed his jacket and bashfully covered his face.
Pollack reached over and reassuringly patted Hellmuth on the back as laughter permeated throughout the room. It was then the Poker Brat’s turn to speak and he reassured everyone in attendance that, regardless of his past behavior, he was excited about the new penalty system. After a short speech, Hellmuth kicked off the 2009 WSOP by proclaiming, “Shuffle up and deal!” A total of 860 players were registered at the start of the tournament, shy of the 930 player-field in 2008 with registration open for another few hours. Each player started with 1500 in chips with blinds at 25-50.