Saturday, August 8, 2009

WSOP: First Day of Stimulus Special Loses 4.36 Players per Minute

The following article appeared on at and was written during my time at the 2009 World Series of Poker.

WSOP: First Day of Stimulus Special Loses 4.36 Players per Minute

Amateur Kevin Volk, from Wisconsin, tries to navigate his way through the massive Day 1A field of the $$1,000 buy-in Stimulus Special event.
Amateur Kevin Volk, from Wisconsin, tries to navigate his way through the massive Day 1a field of the $1,000 buy-in Stimulus Special event.

Harrah’s predicted there would be a large turn out for Event #4 ($1,000 No Limit Hold’em) of the 2009 World Series of Poker and they were right.

Day 1a of the tournament dubbed the “Stimulus Special” began with 2,992 hopefuls, amateur and pro alike, who were looking to claim their share of an almost $6 million prize pool. The field was so large that the Rio’s Amazon Room couldn’t hold all the action; both the Brasilia and Miranda Rooms were used to house the overflow.

Some of the bigger poker names attracted to the event included Chris Ferguson, Shaun Deeb, Kevin Saul, Billy Baxter, Eric Froelich, Barry Greenstein, Teddy “Iceman” Monroe, Dewey Tomko and Vanessa Rousso. Along with all the big guns, another recognizable name showed-up to play, R & B sensation Nelly.

Although some big name pros turned out for the event, the cheap buy-in made for a minefield of amateurs who came from far and wide for their affordable shot at poker immortality. One such player was Kevin “Smoker” Volk from Reedsburg, Wisconsin. Volk was attracted by the modest buy-in and made the trip with some friends.

“I’ve always wanted to do it and this is the event we picked. I would have went $1,500 at the most, but its something I definitely want to do every year [now].” Although he is clearly excited to be playing the WSOP, Volk is also realistic when it comes to his chances of winning. “Everybody says, ‘You’re gonna win,’ but you don’t even think that. I did set a goal, I did want to make the second day. After today if I make it to Monday, I’ll be happy. ”

Ruffling chips and shouts of “Seat Open” permeated throughout the room during the first few levels as players were constantly exiting the tournament. Amateur players were sent to the rail by the dozens with nothing more than a story to tell. Many of the big name pros also made their exits early. Greenstein had to autograph a copy of Ace on the River, his custom when busting out of a tournament, when his K-8 failed to improve against his opponent’s pocket threes. Likewise, Rousso was sent packing when her pocket tens failed to hold up against A-2.

By the time Level 6 rolled around, putting the blinds at 100-200 with a 25 ante, things started to thin down. The Miranda room contained a mere fraction of the tables it did at the start of the day. It seemed as though the remaining players continued to play aggressively. It was at this time that the music star Nelly found himself all-in with K-K against his opponent’s K-Q and was in great position to double-up; however, the board ran out 8 T J 9 3 and the celebrity made his exit with bodyguard in tow. By the dinner break, the Day 1A field had been narrowed to 1,100 players or so with two-thirds of those registered eliminated in the first six hours of play. Players continued to bust throughout the next four levels of play at a much higher rate than anticipated; in fact, the numbers speak for themselves.

There were 10 hours of play and a total of 2,616 players eliminated for an average of 4.36 people sent home per minute throughout play Saturday.

Toward the end of the night a few fan favorites were sent to the rail. Marco Traniello, husband of Jennifer Harman, was all-in with A Q against his opponent’s J J and failed to improve when the board ran out T T 6 3 J. David Williams was eliminated 40 minutes from the day’s end when his Ax-10x couldn’t win a race against the 9 9. Shortly thereafter, Jeff Williams was sent packing when his pocket fours lost to a river flush.

Day 1a of the Stimulus Special was long and arduous where more than 2,600 players who started met their demise. Volk, the amateur from Wisconsin who had high hopes of making it to Day 2, failed to do so. On the other hand, some players were fortunate to survive the day including Tom Franklin, Dan Heimiller and Billy Baxter. While the end came for many, the tournament hasn’t even started for some. The other half of the field will return tomorrow for Day 1b and will play through ten levels of their own.

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