WSOP 2011: Doyle Brunson gets WSOP rocking

wsop2011-thumb-blog.pngThose of a certain age will have heard of the Electric Light Orchestra, the band that blended modern rock, or as modern as it was back in the 1970s and 80s, with classical overtones. Their live shows were a hi-tech phenomenon, featuring a spaceship seemingly hovering over the stage. That set has apparently been transported forward in time to influence this year's World Series of Poker main stage area. Glowing red, with a menacing circular construction above the feature table, you expect steps to tumble down in a plume of smoke and ET to emerge at any moment.

It's no wonder the media here have dubbed it The Mothership.

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The WSOP main stage

This was the backdrop for the start today of the 2011 WSOP Main Event, a day when players arrive with big dreams of fame and fortune, only for most to leave early with nothing.

This being Las Vegas, we have become accustomed to glitzy opening ceremonies. Back in 2008, it was Mr Las Vegas himself, the singing superstar Wayne Newton, who performed the opening ceremony, accompanied by a marching brass band. Enjoyable? Yes. But for me it was a little out of place for the biggest poker tournament in the world.

There was no showbiz extravaganza today. Instead the WSOP went back to its roots, with Doyle Brunson, once described as the number one most influential force in the world of poker, giving the shuffle-up-and-deal announcement. It's been a tough year for the poker industry, so there was something comforting about having Texas Dolly, a man who has been there throughout and seen it all, getting things underway.

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Doyle Brunson

Ten WSOP bracelets, including two back-to-back world championships, saw Brunson rise to fame in the 1970s, the decade in which he published his number one bestseller, Super System. I'd like to think that back in those days he played in some smokey poker rooms with ELO's Sweet Talkin' Woman belting out in the background.

Brunson was a man of few words today. After tournament director Jack Effel ran through the usual rules, regulations and timings, he introduced "an icon of the game" who then stood up on the stage, waving his familiar cowboy hat above his head to shrieks of delights from the crowd. "I'd just like to say welcome to all players," Brunson said. "Let's shuffle up and deal." That was it. Short and to the point.

With that, the 2011 main event began with little fuss. With all players crammed into the Amazon Room (there was no overspill into the Pavilion area today), the button started in seat 10. They will play five two-hour levels, trying to work their 30,000 starting chips in the right direction. Blinds begin at 50-100 and they will move down to nine-handed play when numbers allow.

Team PokerStars Pros and PokerStars qualifiers are in the mix somewhere. So, too, this gentleman who grabbed a little shut eye just before the Amazon Room doors were flung open for the start of play...

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Players takes a nap in the hallway

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TEAM PROS OF THE HOUR
Spotted in the Day 1 field: Jude Ainsworth, Vanessa Selbst, Fatima Moreira de Melo, George Danzer, Team Online's Randy "nanonoko" Lew, Friend of PokerStars Bill Chen, Pat Pezzin, and Lex Veldhuis.

TWEET OF THE HOUR
Lex " RaSZI" Veldhuis: "Wooot just started. Table seems pretty tough, especially for main event. Tucked away in a corner of the room so going to peacefully grind."

MAYBE IRONIC, MAYBE NOT ENDORSEMENT HAT OF THE HOUR
"Marriage and Family Works."

KEEN EYE OF THE HOUR
Bluff Magazine's Tim Fiorvanti who, instead of marveling at Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Selbst, spotted Kevin McBride, 1998 runner-up to Scotty Nguyen, and target for Nguyen's now famous, "If you call, it's all over baby."

MOST BLATANT ATTEMPT TO GET ON TV OF THE HOUR
The player who arrived wearing both a red bath robe and a red top hat.

THE LAS VEGAS TAX PAYERS' 'THIS IS WHERE YOUR MONEY GOES' AUDIT OF THE HOUR
There are currently two LVMPD officers standing outside the Amazon Room.

RANDOM SUGGESTED SAFETY TIP OF THE HOUR
"It's better if you put it up here."