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Top-10 WSOP Main Event storylines so far

11 July 2011

LAS VEGAS – The World Series of Poker wrapped up the fourth of its Day 1s early Monday morning as an opening field of 6,865 players (combined) was whittled down to 4,521. This has been a banner year for the WSOP as it has seemingly seen no ill effects from Black Friday. Whether that trend continues next year remains to be seen. But as far as 2011 is concerned, things have been a major success.

This year’s November Nine won’t be decided until next week but there have been plenty of headlines through the first few days of the Main Event. Here are the top-10 things we’ve learned so far.

10. The saga of Carter Gill

Carter Gill ended Day 1C with a healthy chip stack of 49,000. The Oregon-based poker pro was looking to build on that stack on Day 2A, which was held on Monday. However, he never made it to the Rio, and it wasn’t because he thought he was playing on Tuesday (see below).

Gill was banned from all Caesars properties, which include the Rio, after an alleged incident in a hotel room with a female. According to his Twitter account, Gill said he was banned for “throwing a girls [sic] clothes out the window. Honestly. Thats [sic] why I was banned.” Gill pleaded to WSOP Tournament Jack Effel on Sunday to talk to the powers that be and let him back in.

The pleas were for naught as Effel tweeted that he’s “sorry for [Gill’s] situation, but [his] hands are tied. Did my part as promised.” Gill’s chips were blinded off on Monday.

9. You can't handle The Truth (on Day 1C)

Boston Celtics superstar Paul Pierce surprised a lot of people with his strong poker play on Saturday. “The Truth” finished Day 1C with 62,750 chips, which was well above the field average. He also didn’t try to blend into the crowd. He wore a black hat with "Inglewood" (his birthplace) and a shamrock stitched on the front. The side of his hat had a picture of former Celtics head coach and president Red Auerbach smoking a cigar. The back of his hat had his number, “34.” He wore green Nike shoes and green socks. And he also sported the massive championship ring he earned when the Celtics won the 2008 NBA championship.

8. Language barrier can be an issue

The language barrier has been becoming more of an issue as more and more players entering the WSOP are from outside the United States. Exhibit A of this barrier was seen on Day 1C. As I reported Saturday, a European player with limited English skills inexplicably open-folded a full house. However, he never said the word “fold.” All he said was “no.” A tournament official had to be called over, and he ruled that the player indeed had to fold.

7. WSOP Player of the Year race is shaping up to be a battle

The World Series of Poker “Player of the Year” race will include results from the WSOPE for the first time in its history. That bodes well for Poker Player’s Champion Brian Rast, who did not compete in the Main Event because he was working on getting his fiancée into the United States from Brazil. Ben Lamb, who was in third place in the “POY” standings, finished as the Day 1B chip leader with 188,925. Add in Phil Hellmuth’s tardy entrances (on both Day 1C and Day 2A) and you have three strong players with a legitimate shot of being this year’s best overall player at the WSOP.

6. Where are the patches?

A glaring difference between the 2011 Main Event and Main Events of previous years has been the lack of online poker patches and gear worn by players. PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker used to dominate the attire of Main Event participants. But after Black Friday, you’d be hard-pressed to find many players wearing anything with the Full Tilt logo on it. PokerStars has had a slightly bigger presence, but nowhere close to what it had in the last few Main Events. Most American players were patchless through the first four days. Europeans, on the other hand, were more likely to sport patches from online poker rooms. Which leads to...

5. A (regulated) European invasion

A lot of those European players sported patches from regulated online poker rooms. French and Italian players in particular were likely to wear patches of rooms with .fr and .it domain names. France and Italy have recently regulated their online poker markets and that has resulted in more players coming out to Las Vegas for the Main Event. According to the WSOP, over 100 players from both France and Italy entered this year’s tournament.

4. Doyle's last Main Event?

Doyle Brunson has been a mainstay at the Main Event. And the two-time winner always draws a crowd when he competes. However, he Tweeted before this year’s WSOP that he wasn’t going to enter the tournament because he’s “lost a lot of passion for the game since Black Friday.” Public reaction poured in from fans and players alike, urging Texas Dolly to reconsider. He finally relented and kicked off the Main Event on Day 1A by telling the dealer to "shuffle up and deal." Brunson was seated at the featured TV table and was eliminated later in the day. You have to wonder how many more Main Events the 77-year-old will compete in.

3. Field is younger, more serious

Vin Narayanan wrote after Day 1B that the World Series of Poker had “grown up,” despite the average age of the participants being younger. The post-Moneymaker Main Events had more of a carnival feel to them. Players would dress up and play the part, hoping to get their 15 minutes of TV time. Strippers walked the hallways to urge players to swing by their club after they were done. Online poker rooms threw lavish parties and paid for elaborate lounges in the Rio.

Since the UIGEA in 2006, however, the Main Event became less of a sideshow and more of a serious grind. Players came to Las Vegas to try to win, not to try to get on ESPN. A new group of hungry online grinders has taken over the Main Event, and you only have to look at the last few Main Events to see the effects. All three of the last Main Event winners are under the age of 25. Last year’s November Nine saw eight players under the age of 30.

2. The Poker Brat is MIA

Phil Hellmuth, despite not winning a gold bracelet, has had a year to remember at this year’s WSOP. His three second-place finishes are a new record and he is currently first in the WSOP’s “Player of the Year” standings. His chances to pad his lead took a serious hit on Day 2A when he was more than 90 minutes late to his table and was blinded down to about 5,000 chips. Hellmuth thought he was playing on Tuesday, and it was only after hotel security barged into his room to wake him up did he realize that he was incorrect. Plenty of TV cameras took footage of Hellmuth’s empty seat, and even more were on hand to watch the Poker Brat’s tardy entrance to the Pavilion on Monday.

1. WSOP is a steady force

Following Black Friday there was plenty of discussion on how the effects of the major online poker indictments would impact attendance at this year’s World Series of Poker. A lot of players and media alike speculated field sizes would be severely down in 2011. Daniel Negreanu predicted the Main Event field would fall to lows not seen since 2004, when 2,576 players took the felt and Chris Moneymaker changed the poker world forever. All of these predictions were unequivocally incorrect. Total participation in the WSOP is up 8.5 percent before the Main Event, according to official data from the WSOP. This year's Main Event drew 6,865 players, the third-largest field in its history. The long-term effects of Black Friday won’t be known for awhile, but the WSOP is certainly relishing this year’s attendance.
Top-10 WSOP Main Event storylines so far is republished from