Saturday, July 4, 2009 Updated: July 5, 11:01 AM ET
A quick main event for Doyle Brunson 3:05 a.m. ET: OK, I'll be honest. I headed out of the Rio on July 4, but it was still work as usual as I headed to Phil Gordon's yearly BBQ to get some great content for the Poker Edge podcast. The BBQ featured many professional poker players, media members and even the commissioner of the World Series of Poker, Jeffrey Pollack. Besides the food, there were some entertaining pool matches between Gordon and Gavin Smith, beanbag competitions with Mark Vos and Andy Bloch, and of course the World Series of Roshambo. I had to leave before the $10,000 first-place prize was awarded, but believe me, winning that event is all about the bragging rights.
Doyle Brunson was eliminated during the third level of Day 1B.
Back at the Rio the field size was the major discussion. Only 873 players decided to play July 4, giving a two-day total of 1,989. The fact that less than 200 players hit the rail on Saturday might raise eyebrows and concerns about only playing four levels on the two larger starting days. In any case, the decision to play more levels hasn't been made, but I'm expecting that change to be announced before play begins tomorrow. I spoke to Jack Effel about the decision on the podcast and he was simply adamant that it was in the players' benefit to have these shorter starting days.
July 4 was the day of champions, with seven former WSOP main event winners participating, but the two who were eliminated -- Chris Moneymaker and Doyle Brunson -- were big ones. Notables making it through to Day 2 include past champions (Greg Raymer, Carlos Mortensen, Jim Bechtel, Chris Ferguson, Amarillo Slim Preston), Barry Greenstein, Joe Sebok, Mike Matusow, Bill Edler and Erik Seidel. While most pros took the four-level day relatively easy, a couple didn't make it through to Day 2. Ralph Perry, David Pham and Jeremiah Smith (who doubled up in the first half hour of play), were eliminated.
Sunday's play should feature a huge field with another set of hopefuls ready to start their main-event experience. Joe Hachem, Dennis Phillips and Phil Hellmuth will most likely steal the focus of the feature tables. Hellmuth mentioned on Friday's Poker Edge about his plans to enter and let's just say that even Caesar himself would be impressed with the effort Hellmuth is going through this year. Play begins at noon PT, which means Hellmuth should finally take his seat by 3 p.m. With such little time to play on these starting days, it would be shocking if he didn't make it to Day 2.
Small blinds: A player made the mistake of removing his chips from the tournament area. Yes, that's a $10,000 mistake. He left behind a $100 chip and was quickly blinded out thereafter. Brunson was eliminated holding bottom set while his opponent turned a straight. Marlon Shirley was eliminated during the third level of Day 1B. ESPN Poker Club winner Eric Mullen arrived in Las Vegas. He will play on Day 1D. Even the dealer chairs are sponsored this year. Sunday is the final day of Poker Palooza, the poker convention just a few steps away from the Amazon Room. I walked by the satellite room this afternoon and every table was filled.