Forty years ago, a handful of the best poker players in the country began the World Series of Poker by playing a small tournament and voted who was the best.

To commemorate that original game, the 2009 WSOP had a $40,000 tournament, featuring some of the biggest names in the world, as its first open field event on Thursday.

"These are the best No Limit Hold'em players," WSOP commissioner Jeffrey Pollack said. "I think it's a great way to start."

The tournament field began with 167 players and includes former WSOP Champions Chris Moneymaker and Doyle Brunson, "Big Game" regulars Barry Greenstein and Phil Ivey, and well-known professionals Daniel Negreanu and Mike Matusow.

"It's an ineresting concept," Greenstein said. "It's a nice way to (honor the past)."

David "The Dragon" Pham said the high-level of competition is what will make this event memorable.

"These are top opponents. Fish - very little," he said before the noon event. "They're all focused on this. Most are all ready ready. I'm ready."

Ivey, however, did not realize the historical significance of the event and was just happy with the big buy-in, high chip count 0 $120,000.

"It's a big buy-in tournament. I'm excited to be a part of that."

Full Tilt Poker pro Brandon Adams said the event is a good way to meet up with friends and play poker.

"It's always fun to catch up with friends," he said.

He said, however, this event and this year's WSOP will be different than others because of the tough economic times.

"Money's short, it will be much different than 2007 or 2008," he said. "(I expect) a lot of small fields, not as many TV events."