Stars go all-in for poker prize

The stars arrived Monday at the World Series of Poker, and they weren’t alone.

After two rather subdued days of the $10,000 buy-in No-limit Texas Hold ’em World Championship, the buzz was back at the Rio Convention Center as a record number of player registered for Day 1C of the Main Event, including some of the game’s biggest names.

Johnny Chan. Phil Hellmuth. Phil Ivey. Daniel Negreanu. They were all there.

So were several former Main Event champions, along with a handful of celebrities, including actress Jennifer Tilly, Ultimate Fighting Championship announcer Bruce Buffer and NHL goaltender Roberto Luongo. And one unidentified player wearing a bright-orange jump suit, who made a spectacular entrance with two women dressed as sexy cops on each arm.

“It’s a different vibe,” Negreanu said. “There’s a lot of people here that are just here for this event only, which is different than what we see every day throughout the Series.”

The final starting flight is traditionally the largest, and this year’s was no exception with players spread across three rooms. WSOP executive director Ty Stewart tweeted Monday morning that more than 3,000 players registered for the third starting day, which is more entrants than the first two starting flights combined.

In all, 3,467 players were in action Monday, topping the record 3,418 that registered for Day 1C last year.

Overall, the Main Event drew 6,352 entrants, down from 6,598 in 2012 and the smallest field since 2005. The winner will receive $8,359,531 from the prize pool of $59,788,800, with 648 places paid.

For this year’s entire 62-tournament series, the WSOP set an attendance record with 79,471 entries, and the total prize pool of $197,041,468 is the second largest in the Series’ 44-year history.

A large number of players waited until the last minute to enter the Main Event as they rested after a long six weeks at the WSOP, were involved in cash games or the $10,000 pot-limit Omaha tournament, which ended early Monday with Daniel Alaei collecting more than $850,000 and his fourth career WSOP bracelet.

The Main Event continues at noon today as the players from Days 1A and 1B return to the Rio. The 1C survivors resume play Wednesday before all the remaining players are brought together Thursday for Day 3. The tournament runs until nine players are left, and the final table takes place Nov. 4 and 5 at the Rio’s Penn & Teller Theater.

“Normally I play the first or the second (day), but this year I had some cash games going on that I was involved in,” said Sammy Farha, the 2003 Main Event runner-up to Chris Moneymaker and one of the early chip leaders before bluffing off a chunk of his chips. “We’re involved in a lot of things other than tournaments, especially myself, and there’s a lot of poker players like me.”

Negreanu, who is second in the WSOP Player of the Year race, was the main attraction in the Amazon Room as the popular Las Vegas resident posed for pictures between hands and entertained the throng of fans standing in the aisle with a story about being mistaken for actor Edward Norton during dinner on Sunday.

However, Negreanu’s stack took an early hit when his straight lost to a flush, and he spent much of the day short-stacked.

Hellmuth made his customary late entrance, although it lacked the circus-like atmosphere of years past. The 13-time bracelet winner arrived in the Brasilia Room just after 5:30 p.m. and had nearly 32,000 chips at the dinner break.

Ivey, a nine-time WSOP bracelet winner, got off to a strong start in his quest for his first Main Event title, and three-time bracelet winner Michael Mizrachi spent most of the day among the chip leaders thanks to his ultra-aggressive style.

Former Main Event champions Jonathan Duhamel (2010) and Huckleberry Seed (1996) were eliminated before the dinner break. Chan, a two-time champion, also was in danger of being sent to the rail Monday night.

Contact reporter David Schoen at dschoen@review or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.