The world's richest and most prestigious poker tournament continued today at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino, in Las Vegas. 
 
The 2011 World Series of Poker Main Event Championship reached the third step of a very long march toward the game's ultimate achievement with the play and conclusion of the third of four starting flights, designated as Day 1-C
 
Day 1-A began on Thursday and was completed with 560 players surviving out of 897 starters.  Day 1-B was completed on Friday, with 618 players surviving out of 978 starters.  Day 1-C was completed on Saturday, with 1,471 players surviving from a considerably larger starting field of 2,181 starters.
 
On Sunday, the largest group of poker players is expected to jam pack the Rio and enter the $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold'em tournament.  The last group of entrants will participate in Day 1-D, which is the fourth and final shot for all poker players to enter this year's world poker championship. 
 
Indeed, thousands of poker players will attend this year's championship from more than 100 different nations.  Main Event registration has already crossed the 6,000-player mark and shows no signs of slowing down.  A turbo mega-satellite will be played at 8 am, four hours prior to the start of the tournament.  Players may register up until the end of the second level of play, which is expected to be about 4:30 pm on Sunday.  Hence, it's not too late for many undecideds to dash to the Rio and enter poker's biggest show.
 
The third starting flight (1-C) began with two beloved celebrity poker players onstage for the traditional “Shuffle Up and Deal” announcement.  Actor-comedians Brad Garrett and Ray Romano stood alongside WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel and former gold bracelet winner Annie Duke, who then turned over the microphone to the Food Network's "Cupcake Wars," who officially began the tournament.  Only at the WSOP could such an eclectic mix of personalities all take center stage, at one time. 
 
By the end of the third day of play, several well-known poker players had already been eliminated.  Those who will not continue in their quest for victory include 2003 WSOP champion Chris Moneymaker, who was never able to establish any momentum from the instant he sat down.  Ray Romano didn't last long, either.  However, his counterpart Brad Garrett enjoyed a respectable day and survived with a healthy stack of chips.  Some of the others who were bounced out on Day 1-C included David Singer, Jason Young, Steve Billirakis, Fabrice Soulier, David Benyamine, Robert Mizrachi, Karina Jett, Hoyt Corkins and several hundred of the other less-fortunate.
 
Conversely, several players made headline news for a good reason -- they're still alive in the world championship.  Defending world champion Jonathan Duhamel made the cut, although he will need a better performance on the second day to make any kind of run.  Some of the other more well-known poker players who will return for Day 2-A are --Ted Forrest, Humberto Brenes, J.P. Kelly, Gavin Smith, Phil Gordon, Marcel Luske, Joe Cada, Mike Caro, Daniel Negreanu, Scotty Nguyen, Dan Harrington, Bobby Baldwin and many others.
 
Perhaps the biggest news of the tournament so far has been 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 one of the early chip leaders.  He played on Day 1-B.  This has unquestionably been a breakthrough year for Lamb and he is keeps himself in position for a chance at 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 1-C survivors will combine with the 1-A survivors (from Thursday), who then return for Day 2-A to be played Monday, July 11th.  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 at the moment, November seems like such a very long way off.  No one is thinking about what happens if and when the golden road leads to poker magical kingdom of fame and fortune.  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 contest of physical and mental endurance in addition to a test of poker skills.
 
Every meaningful journey begins with an initial first step.  Today, more than 1,000 poker players from all over the world took their 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.