The 2011 World Series of Poker Main Event Championship continued today at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino, in Las Vegas. 
 
The year’s richest, most prestigious, and most exciting poker tournament reached stage two of the long drive toward poker immortality with the play and conclusion of the second of four starting flights, designated as Day 1-B.  Over the next two days, thousands of additional poker players will enter the $10,000 buy-in tournament.  They will participate in Day 1-C (Saturday) or Day 1-D (Sunday).  Day 1-A was completed yesterday, with 560 players surviving out of 897 starters. 

The second starting flight (1-B) began with poker superstar Michael "the Grinder" Mizrachi onstage for the traditional “Shuffle Up and Deal” announcement.  Mizrachi has been in the spotlight quite a lot lately.  He not only won the 2010 Poker Players Championship, netting his first career gold bracelet last year on national television.  Mizrachi also made it to the November Nine.  He ultimately finished fifth in the 2010 Main Event Championship. 
 
Mizrachi took a hallowed position alongside WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel and performed the "Shuffle Up and Deal" announcement for the first time ever to the WSOP Main Event.  Shortly thereafter, cards flew into the air for the second time in two days as the competition to determine the 2011 world poker champion continued.
 
Thousands of poker players are expected to attend this year's championship from more than 100 different nations.  Many players come and play in the WSOP every year.  A fair number make the pilgrimage of all poker pilgrimages not necessarily expecting to win, or even cash in the event.  The overriding theme is players come just to participate and be a part of poker’s most exciting celebration.  In his or her own way, every poker player who participates is a winner.

By the end of the second day of play, several well-known poker players had been eliminated.  Those who will not continue in their quest for victory include Michael Mizrachi, who was never able to establish any momentum from the instant he sat down at the feature table.  Some of the others who were bounced out on Day 1-B were Eric Froehlich, Rep Porter, Justin Smith, Nicolas Levi, Melissa Hayden, Tuan Le, Andre Akkari, and a few hundred of the other less-fortunate.
 
Conversely, several players made news for a good reason -- they're still alive in the world championship.  Some of the more well-known poker players who will return for Day 2-B are -- Ben Lamb, Patrik Antonius, John Racener, Sam Stein, Justin Bonomo, Jean-Robert Bellande, Chris Viox, Maxim Lykov, David "Devilfish" Ulliott, David Bakes Baker, Erick Lindgren, Eugene Katchalov, David Sklansky, David Hiu, Ted Lawson, Roland de Wolfe, Allen Cunningham, and many others.
 
Perhaps the biggest news of the day was the amazing performance by Ben Lamb, who continued his astonishing run at the 2011 WSOP.  Lamb, winner of a gold bracelet, as well as having second and eighth place finishes this year, is among the early chip leaders.  This has unquestionably been a breakthrough year for Lamb and he is now in position not only to win WSOP "Player of the Year" honors.  He may very well be the favorite (if there's such a thing at this early stage) to win based on his chip stack and recent performance.
 
The long list of survivors was not limited to big-name poker pros.  Patrick Bruel, one of France's most popular singers and actors as well as a 1998 gold bracelet winner, will come back for Day Two, along with more than 500 others who separated themselves from the pack of 985 starters.  The 1-B survivors will combine with the 1-D survivors (from Sunday), who then return for Day 2-B to be played Tuesday, July 12th.  The restart will be at noon.

The Main Event Championship continues through July 19th.  On that date, the final nine survivors are expected to finally be known.  The elite band of super survivors will become this year’s “November Nine,” a term which refers to the nine final players who will compete at the final table for the world championship, to take place in November once again a the Rio.

But November seems a very long way off.  No one is thinking about what happens if and when the golden road leads to Oz.  At least for now, poker players are determined to play their best poker and try and survive the early stages of what will prove to be a marathon test of physical and mental endurance in addition to poker skills.
 
Alas, every meaningful journey begins with an initial first step.  Today, more than 500 poker players from all over the world took a huge leap forward in pursuit of poker's ultimate prize -- a WSOP gold bracelet and immortality as the world champion. 
 
The Main Event Championship will be televised by ESPN.  Live coverage will start July 14th.