The 2016 WSOP Main Event Champion was among the 795 players that started their Main Event journey on Saturday
July 9, 2017 (Las Vegas, NV) - Ryan Riess, the 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion, summed up the atmosphere at the Rio today perfectly in a tweet he sent earlier this morning. It's like being a kid on Christmas morning if you are a poker player - the Main Event starts today.
The first of three starting days for the 2017 WSOP Main Event kicked off at 11 a.m. on Saturday. Registration stayed open until the start of Level 4, at which point registration closed and there were 795 players registered for the first Day 1, which is a significant increase from the 741 players that played Day 1A in last year's Main Event.
Even with six other bracelet events running, the field was still littered with pros. Among them was last year's Main Event champion Qui Nguyen. Nguyen finished the day with 96,700 in chips, but obviously had a much different experience than his 2016 Day 1 when he was a complete unknown.
"It was very much different," said Nguyen about his two Day 1 experiences. "Last year, I came here like just a guy. Not nervous, but not comfortable, you know? This year, I come back and feel very comfortable."
Just like last year's dominant run throughout the final table, Nguyen was sporting the raccoon hat that he wore throughout the 2016 Main Event. If it wasn't for his brother, he wouldn't have worn it again this year, however.
"Today, I didn't want to wear the raccoon, hat, but I wear the Bentley shirt and the Bentley hat," said Nguyen. "But we eat before we came here and my brother looked at me and said 'Why don't you wear your hat?' And I said 'No, I don't want to wear my hat.' He said 'No, you have to wear your hat,' and he ran home to get the hat for me."
He was one of the most popular people in the Rio on Saturday, with plenty of people stopping him for pictures and autographs. It was that reason he didn't want to wear his signature hat on the first day of play this year.
"I love people, but sometimes I don't want people to recognize me," said Nguyen. "I know people love me and they love the way I play and they want to take a picture, but sometimes it's too much."
The one difference he consciously made between this year and last year was which starting day he played in. After his win last year, he decided not to play Day 1C again.
"Last year, I played the last day, so I had to play straight seven days in a row," said Nguyen. "So, this year I know to play the first day so that I have two days to stay home before I have to come back. That's my idea."
Besides Nguyen, there were plenty of familiar faces in the field. Bracelet winner Rifat Palevic (160,000), Patrick Leonard (145,000), Alex Foxen (141,000), Faraz Jaka, (119,800), Barry Shulman (106,700), Chad Power (100,000), Mike Matusow (99,000), Matthew Ashton (93,500), Ian O'Hara (87,000), two-time bracelet winner Mark Radoja (87,000), Josh Arieh (80,400) and Phil Laak (78,900) were just a few of the pros who survived the day.
Former NFL star and three-time Super Bowl Champion Richard Seymour also survived the day. He bagged up 105,000 and was on the featured table for most of the day. Seymour was using one of his Super Bowl rings as a card protector, which drew a lot of attention from other players at the table.
Seymour and Laak were both on and off the featured table today throughout the first half of the day. The first two levels of the day were streamed live by PokerGO and ESPN. After players returned from their second, the streaming stopped, but there will be live coverage of the Main Event every day all the way down to a winner with those two outlets.
When the final hand was dealt, only 576 players survived the day. Denmark's Morten Mortensen led the field with 276,000 and Sam Grafton finished the day second in chips with 226,000. Like Nguyen, Grafton had never played Day 1A before, but definitely liked the result.
"Yeah, I really enjoyed it," said Grafton. "I never played 1A before, but it's quite nice. It's a bit more tranquil in the Brasilia room today. A bit more relaxed."
It was a last second decision for Grafton to play after getting some insight from a friend who told him that 1A would be a good day to start the tournament. His friend was right. Everything went smoothly for the British pro.
"I woke up at 11, reg'ed 40 minutes in and yeah, it's been a dream day," said Grafton. "Everything I tried has gone well for me. When I was bluffing with some outs, I made them on the river. Can't complain. I'm really happy with my stack."
Griffin Abel (226,000), Jonathan Little (210,300) and David Eldridge (207,000) round out the top five stacks and are the only players with more than 200,000.
Not everybody was lucky enough to survive the day, however, with many notable pros hitting the rail and ending their Main Event dreams early. Jerry Yang, Matt Savage, Sorel Mizzi, Dan Shak, Anthony Spinella, Leon Tsoukernik and Blake Bohn were among the Day 1A casualties.
Those players that did survive the day will be back to play Day 2 on Tuesday at 11 a.m. Day 1B gets underway on Sunday at 11 a.m. and will play the identical schedule to Day 1A - five, two-hour levels.