WSOP 2014: Lightning in the middle of a fireworks show on Day 1A

It doesn't rain much in the desert, so when lightning splits the sky open, people take notice. Last night when the Independence Day fireworks shot up from the horizon, the sky responded in kind with explosions of its own. It wasn't just a storm in the desert. It was a light show on a ridiculous scale.

Below it all, the Rio prepared its biggest rooms for its biggest show of the year. The $10,000 buy-in, $10 million guaranteed first prize World Series of Poker Main Event is not the only big buy-in poker tournament in the world, but it's the biggest you'll find on the planet. No matter whether the number of entries goes up or down, it is always, hands down, the biggest, eye-popping, lightning storm/firework show in poker.

This is the tenth year the WSOP has played out at the Rio. It is also the tenth consecutive year the PokerStars Blog has been covering the World Series here. When it began today with a shuffle-up-and-deal from 2005 champion Joe Hachem, WSOP officials said they were expecting a total prize pool in the neighborhood of $60 million. No matter how you slice it, it's a mind-boggling tournament.

There are three Day 1 flights, and as usually happens, the biggest part of the field chose to take Saturday off in favor of playing on Day 1B or 1C. Nevertheless, among the 771 who registered today, there were many big names who showed up, including several previous champions. Ryan Riess, Greg Merson, Tom McEvoy, Johnny Chan, and Team PokerStars Pro Chris Moneymaker all sat down today. We spent a fair amount of time sweating the 2003 champion and found Moneymaker had packed some magic in his WSOP go-bag. He also bagged 70,000 of chips at the end of the night.

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Chris Moneymaker on Day 1A (Photo: Joe Giron/Poker Photo Archive)

Team Pro also sent in Jason Mercier and Jan Heitmann for the first flight. Mercier busted early after getting coolered in a three-bet pot. Heitmann meanwhile is looking to reprise his 26th place finish in the 2012 WSOP Main Event.

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No joy for Jason in Main Event (Photo: Jayne Furman/Poker Photo Archive)

A couple of members of Team Online also turned up looking to show off their live skills. Japan's Naoya Kihara (the first person from Japan to win a WSOP bracelet) and Gabe Nassif (Team Online player for were both in the field. Nassif is looking to see if good form throughout the preliminary events translates to success in the Main.

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Naoya Kihara on Day 1A (Photo: Joe Giron/Poker Photo Archive)

The lighter crowd gave us a chance to keep an eye on some regular faces on the PokerStars Blog, including two-time UKIPT champion Duncan McClellan who had a very good Day 1. We also paid heed to Ole Schemion who may be famous in Europe, but is still a mystery to many people here.

The march to the final table is a long one, and no matter how many chips the remaining Day 1A players bagged up, at least they still have chips to bag and won't be telling bad beat stories in the Poker Kitchen tonight.

Day 2B begins tomorrow at noon and will follow the same schedule as the players did today. We're expecting many PokerStars notables to be in the field, including Liv Boeree and Marcin Horecki.

Until then, goodnight from Las Vegas.

is the PokerStars Head of Blogging

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker