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Arnold M. Knightly

World Series of Poker: Pocket aces not good enough

9 July 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- It took nine minutes for Luke Staudenmaier's dreams of poker greatness to come to an abrupt end Friday afternoon.

The college dropout from the University of Pittsburgh was the first player eliminated from the main event at the 38th World Series of Poker at the Rio.

"I played correctly. I didn't do anything wrong," the 21-year old said.

After being dealt a pair of aces, Staudenmaier went all-in with $20,000 after being raised.

"I was excited," he said. "I thought I was going to be the chip leader and double up immediately."

His opponent held the ace and king of clubs and wound up making a flush.

"It happens to everybody," said Staudenmaier, who paid the $10,000 entry fee himself.

Staudenmaier was one of approximately 2,300 players to be seated on the first day of the $10,000 buy-in Texas hold 'em event. The main event runs through July 17.

Former main event champions Doyle Brunson (1976, 1977), Bobby Baldwin (1978), Thomas "Amarillo Slim" Preston (1972) and Huck Seed (1996) were seated on the first of four days of opening play.

Officials for Harrah's Entertainment declined to say how many people have already signed up for the main event, which is still accepting entries 24 hours a day until 1 p.m. on Monday.

The number of entries and the purse amount will be released about an hour after that.

Last year's main event had 8,773 entries, with the winner Jamie Gold taking home $12 million.

Jeffrey Pollack, World Series of Poker commissioner for Harrah's, said that no matter how many people register, the tournament is still the premier event poker that players use to measure themselves against one another.

"Poker players around the world measure themselves against each other by how many bracelets they have," said Pollack, referring to the gold-and-diamond encrusted bracelets handed out to winners of World Series of Poker events.

Pollack said the tournament has a history, prestige and size that newer tournaments cannot match.

He added that awareness of the World Series of Poker brand continues grow.

"That growth is not dependent upon the number of people that play in the main event," he said. "No matter how many show for the main event, it's a pretty safe bet that it will still be the world's largest poker tournament."

While a few thousand players descended on the Rio, many poker enthusiasts also arrived to take in the spectacle of the main event.

Kim Spencer and her husband, Dean, spent Friday afternoon watching the ESPN featured table, which included Brunson.

The Phoenix couple, who have been casual players for 10 years, entered some satellite tournaments hoping to earn a spot in the main event without paying the $10,000 entry.

"We sucked," said Kim Spencer, who is now content to spend the rest of her vacation watching some of the professional and celebrity players. "I just want to see some big names, how they play."

Val Gray said she was at the opening of the main event to "soak up the atmosphere," although her husband, James, won't begin playing until today.

"As many people as they have in here it is very well organized," she said.

Val Gray traveled 16 hours from Scotland to root for her husband of 17 years. He won a satellite tournament back home.

"A dollar-seventy it cost me," said James Gray, who won a $14,000 prize package from to cover the entry fee and travel expenses.

"I've dreamed about playing in an event like this," he said.

As for Staudenmaier, he said he was going to head straight to the airport and get the first direct flight back to Pittsburgh.

He said he will definitely be back next year to try again and hopes he can convince tournament directors to pay his entry fee.

"I don't really like the attention," Staudenmaier said about being the first one to be knocked out. "I just want to see if I can get a free entry out of this.