Atlantic City, NJ (May 23, 2104) — The 2014 WSOP National Championship began Thursday at Bally’s Atlantic City as the Circuit’s top performers matched up against WSOP Player of the Year qualifiers and online winners. The elite player pool convened on the property to compete for an up-to $2 million prize pool and, of course, the year’s first bracelet, all the while under the scrutiny of the ESPN cameras.

In all, play began with 124 hopefuls including Main Event champions Greg Merson and Ryan Riess, gold bracelet winners Loni Harwood and Eric Baldwin, Circuit points leader Yossi Azulay and six-time ring winner Ari Engel.

Following 10 levels of Day 1 play just 50 players remain with Palm Beach Casino Champion Jeff Gunnip out in front as the only player over the 200,000 mark. Gunnip holds 201,000 chips and begins Day 2 with a slight advantage over POY qualifier and bracelet winner Dominik Nitsche. Nitsche bagged 171,000 and sets the pace for POYs.  The final tally isn't in yet, but it appears at least 25 players exercised their option to buy into the tournament for $10,000.

Starting Day 2 toward the middle of the pack is Greg Merson with 73,800. As far as Main Event champions are concerned, Merson was one of just two in the field. The other, defending champion Ryan Riess, exited the event toward the end of the day when he came out on the losing end of a coin flip against Merson.

Notables joining Gunnip and Merson on Day 2 include Loni Harwood, Eric Baldwin, Matthew Ashton, Pavlin Karakikov, Russell Thomas and James Dorrance who burst on the WSOP scene earlier this year besting a record field of 1,717 entires in the Horseshoe Hammond Main Event.

Those not fortunate enough to punch their ticket to Day 2 include Engel, Joe Kuether, Austin Buchanan, Charles Sylvestre, Marvin Rettenmaier, Jake Balsiger, Zal Irani and Charles “Woody” Moore. The latter held the chip lead shortly after dinner break but surrendered it to Gunnip over the course of two pots and ultimately exited shy of Day 2.

Day 2 begins Friday at noon ET with blinds of 800/1,600 and a 200 ante. Registration remains open until tournament staff announces “shuffle up and deal” and full prize pool information will be posted at that time. Day 2 play is set to wrap when the field narrows to the final six.

Top 10 chip counts:

1. Jeff Gunnip - 201,000
2. Dominic Nitsche - 171,000
3. Ruslan Dykshteyn - 145,200
4. Bryan Campanello - 143,300
5. Jessie Bryant - 132,600
6. Eric Baldwin - 129,100
7. Matthew Ashton - 121,200
8. Jason Sandling - 116,700
9. Russell Thomas - 116,200
10. Ylon Schwartz - 114,000

Full chip counts are available on