World Series Main Event: PokerStars' movie star

wsop2009_thn.gifI can't pretend any different: I was first interested in tracking down the PokerStars qualifier Bill Murray because his name is Bill Murray. Not many of the names appearing on our long list stand out at the moment -- huge stacks are yet to develop and we don't yet know the identities of the new Moneymakers. But Bill Murray, well, it's Bill Murray isn't it, and if nothing else there was huge potential for puns and headline writing centred on the hugely quotable films of his movie-star namesake.

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Bill Murray

Imagine he stole the blinds twice in consecutive hands: we could unleash some Groundhog Day references! And what about if he received a phone call at the table? "Who you gonna call...?" Etc., etc., and so forth.

I'm happy to report, however, that all that padding isn't going to be necessary. I swung by Murray's table moments ago to find him making it 1,500 pre-flop, getting one caller and then checking the Q♠7♠3♠ board. His opponent bet 3,000 and Murray announced raise, bumping it up to 10,000. That was good. "I didn't like the spades," Murray confided later. "I had a set of queens."

Murray also filled in a few biographical details. He's from Cottonwood, AZ, where he plays the only game available in the casinos: a capped hold 'em game for stakes significantly lower than he's playing for today. He plays online at PokerStars "too much" (in his own words), but one suspects there'll be no such thing as "too much" should he be able to translate his $80 total outlay in a satellite into a major payday here. He's in Las Vegas with his wife and two children, staying at the Palms Hotel alongside all the other PokerStars qualifiers and is "having a blast". Murray's children are not quite that: both are in their teens, which must be a frustrating age to be in Sin City. They're old enough to know how much fun is going on with those chips and cards, but not allowed yet to join in.

Still, Murray met the family during the recent break for some dinner and a few stories from the opening exchanges of his first World Series. It's all going according to plan. He has a few thousand more than his starting stack and is easing into the biggest game in town. We'll check back on Murray's progress through today and hopefully into day two, where it will be almost exactly the same as today, only with different personnel and action. It will be like Groundh... No. I said I wouldn't.

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Unknown player outside the Amazon Room: "The flop was queen, three, four and I had five six. I only needed a two or a seven, so I went all in. (Pause). Well, he had pocket queens."

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QUOTE OF THE HOUR (from the "Well, That's Cleared That Up" department)

Benjamin Gallen, French media reporter:
"How many players do you think will play tomorrow?"
Unnamed poker reporter one: I think there will be the same, or more, than today.
Unnamed poker reporter two: Or less.
Unnamed poker reporter one: Yeah. Or less.

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Steve Paul-Ambrose has two short-stacked former champions sitting at his table. Both Johnny Chan and Jerry Yang are down below 10,000 chips apiece. Yang came in for a raise to 900 and Paul-Ambrose re-raised to 2,150.  Yang made the call, not leaving himself much behind. The flop came down 8♥K♣2♠. Yang checked, Paul-Ambrose led out, and Yang moved all-in for a nominal amount more. Paul-Ambrose made the required call and flipped over 9♣9♠.  Yang proudly turned over 8♣8♠ for the flopped set. The turn and river didn't produce a nine and Yang got the courtesy double-up. Paul-Ambrose still has around 45,000.

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Jason Alexander ponders a tough call. Brad Garrett, foreground, doesn't