WSOP Main Event: Day 1C Wrap-up

Raymer Makes Late Run -- Five Billion Hand Freeroller goes big

Five Billion Hand Freeroller goes big

When we met him today, he was a longshot. It's not that we didn't believe. Believing is part of what we do, after all. Still, if we were to put ourselves out as Vegas bookmakers, we might have set some long odds on Arnold Blenner finishing the day. Understand, we do believe. At the same time, we knew that some of the top professionals in the world wouldn't survive Day 1C of the 2006 WSOP. So, how could anyone bet Blenner would finish the day?

We liked Blenner from the beginning. Why? Well, he was happily here on a freeoll. And not just a freeroll. He won a freeroll from a play money game. As Team Blog's Craig Cunningham wrote in his first report on Arnold Blenner:

Arnold "jwblack100" Blenner was playing one day on, engrossed in one of his favorites pursuits: Pot-Limit Holdem. He'd built his 1,000 in play money up to 700,000 virtual chips over the span of several months, and he enjoyed the challenges of pot-limit as a way to wind down from a long day as a utility worker in Queens, NY. As he was playing, his table was notified that they had been selected as part of PokerStars' 5 Billionth Hand freeroll tournament. "I thought there would be thousands of people in the tournament, but I say that there were only 238 players with three seats to the Main Event," said Arnold. "When the fourth player was eliminated on the bubble and everyone was congratulating each other, I didn't think it was real. When I got a check for $1,000 from PokerStars for travel expenses, that's when I believed."

That was a breakfast-time conversation. Who knew? Seriously. Who knew that toward the end of the day, Blenner would have nearly three times the average stack in the 2006 World Series of Poker main event? He finished with $38,000. It was a rough hit, but he is still sitting in good shape.

Arnold Blenner, PokerStars Five Billionth Hand Freeroll Winner

To be sure, there would be other stacks bigger than his when the day was over. At the same time, Blenner had beat not only the odds. He had outlasted more than 1000 people in Day 1C.

In the last break of the day, Brenner took time to talk to Team Blog's Craig Cunningham. It's a story you don't want to miss.

Five Billion Hand Freeroller Arnold Blenner Riding High

Raymer makes late run

The day had been one of so little excitement on The Fossilman Front, I had almost forgotten Raymer's storybook run to the final three tables of the 2005 WSOP. I had almost forgotten the excitement of Raymer ending one important day last year with the chip lead. I had almost forgotten the heart-sucking beat he suffered to end his 2005 run.

As the night neared its end, I wandered by Greg Raymer's table. He'd managed to work his stack up from $6,000 to $17,000. While impressive, it was no reason for celebration. He didn't seem at all worried.

As I stood next to him, he kept stealing glance at the rail. There, 20 yards away, his wife stood, looking tired, but determined to sweat her man.

"I'm looking for a chance to go kiss her goodnight," Greg said. "As soon as four people limp into a pot, I'm going over there."

I offered, "I'll go tell her you'll be over as soon as you can."

"Oh, she knows," Greg said. "But what you could do is stand here while I go and yell at me when the dealer starts to shuffle."

"Sure," I said.

I figured it would be a while. Instead, Greg folded under the gun, stood, and headed for the rail.

Suddenly, I felt a little sick. What if everyone folded? What if I couldn't yell loud enough--or soon enough--to get him back? What if he lost his big blind and it was my fault?

I breathed one sigh of relief as a player limped. Then another player limped. My pancreas rose into my throat. I knew what was going to happen.

In came a raise. Panic set in. I was sure everyone else would fold and Greg would be far away. To calm myself, I took a picture of Raymer's stack.

Just as I was about to start screaming, Raymer appeared from nowhere. To be frank, his speed scared me a little bit.

"Hmmph," he said. "Back before the flop. I could've stayed longer."

I wished Greg luck and went away to less pressure-filled duties. I figured Greg would end the day with around $17,000 and have a lot of work to do in Day 2.

Maybe it was that goodnight kiss. Maybe it was the knowledge that he had showed his wife he loved her enough to potentially sacrifice his big blind. Regardless, within the next two hours, Raymer had proved me wrong again. After hitting a lucky card to crack aces, Raymer went on a tear and worked his stack up to around $50,000.

Indeed, we'll all be on Fossilman Front come Day 2.


While Blenner and Raymer were our favorite stories of the day, there were tons of great tales that jumped out from Team Blog's coverage.

Comedian Louie Anderson was playing under the PokerStars' flag today. His day had barely started before he was walking around in the hallway outside. He hadn't lost his chips. He's lost control of his mouth. As Dr. Pauly quoted Anderson:

"I didn't think I did anything wrong. I muttered it under my breath and didn't think it was loud enough that anyone heard."

(Read Dr. Pauly's Louie Anderson story here)

After recovering from his early WSOP departure and a bout with a stomach bug, Wil Wheaton came back strong today and turned out some great tales for us today. He started by begging the game of Poker to forgive him and beating himself about the head and shoulders. Why? Well, that's just what Wil does sometimes.

I looked at my calendar and said, "Hey, I just realized that I've been here twenty-one days, today!"

Pauly and Otis looked up at me like the greenhorn I am, before they turned their bloodshot eyes back to their laptops.

"You're looking really great," Pauly said, dryly. "You haven't put on any weight, you don't have that one thousand yard stare . . ." rookie.

After a long day of reflection, Wil rebounded and turned out one of the best stories of the day. Together we met PokerStars qualifier Bret Atiyeh. Alone, Wil wrote, in part...

And that's when I found out that seat three of table forty is Bret "bati99" Atiyeh. Bret is a self-made man who earned enough money to retire at the age of 39. Rather than sit on his pile of money, or have money fights with his friends, or build forts in his living room with stacks of cash[1], Bret turned his attention to poker, a passion he developed over thirty years, since he started playing in home games for baseball cards in the seventies.

Here are all Wil's reports from the day:

Forgive me, Poker, for I have sinned (by Wil Wheaton)
The Frogurt is Also Cursed (by Wil Wheaton)
Meeting bati99, while Fossilman and Pokertrip Build their Stacks (by Wil Wheaton

In my favorite headline of the day, Howard Swains found a young Italian sitting next to one of America's better-known poker-talkers. He titled it:

Minneapolis meets Italia in Rio

Indeed, the stories from the day were many. Team Blog's C.J. Hoyt once again found the tables that were full of PokerStars players. Mad Harper tracked down Barry Greenstein and a host of other qualifiers. Ali Lightman found out the Hachem family has quite a reunion going on here at the Rio. And Max Shapiro discovered there's almost most as much fictional poker going on as the real stuff. If you have some spare time, I'd suggest going back to read all the tales from the day.

A PokerStars Record - Eight Stars at Same Table (by C.J. Hoyt)
The PokerStars Seven? (by C.J. Hoyt)
Barry Greenstein on TV (by Mad Harper)
Michael Matthews (by Mad Harper)
Mike "mman status" Meredith (by Dr Pauly)
Bobby Paine (by Craig Cunningham)
European Day at the WSOP (by Howard Swains)
You go your way, I'll go mine (by Howard Swains)
Tony Hachem and Rosa Bennett (by Ali Lightman)
Max Shapiro Goes to the Movies

Tomorrow (okay, today) we will shove aside the silly rumors and believe that Day 1D is, in fact, the final day of Day 1 play. By the time the event starts at noon, we will have finally seen all of the more than 8,600 players competing in the 2006 WSOP Main Event. Perhaps the biggest news heading into Monday will be 2005 WSOP champion's Joe Hachem's entrance into the room. Ali Lightman will be on the case all day Monday and will be tracking Hachem's play all day long.

Once again, congratulations to Arnold Blenner for taking his freeroll entry into Day 2 of the WSOP.
Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker