WSOP 2017: Morten Mortensen secures top stack to conclude Day 1A
There's nothing quite like the start of the World Series of Poker Main Event. It's the beginning, sure. But it's also a climax of sorts, marking the end of many months of anticipation by players and fans alike.
It was just after 11 a.m. this morning when the directive to "shuffle up and deal" was finally heard. At last, the Main Event had arrived.
What had been long imagined suddenly had become real. And as long as we're getting real, let's note together how there's a long, long way to go before this year's Main Event narrative will reach its climax with the crowning of another champion.
A real long way.
Last year's World Series of Poker Main Event didn't end until well into Level 43. In other words, there were more than 85 hours' worth of poker played before the 6,737 players who started the tournament had been reduced to just one.
Let the anticipating begin... again.
A total of 795 players turned out for today's Day 1A, the most for an initial WSOP Main Event starting flight since 2013. From that group approximately 500 made it through to play their Day 2 on Tuesday, with Denmark's Morten Mortensen the one making the most of the first 10 hours of poker by bagging a leading stack of 276,000.
Following a pre-poker announcement from the WSOP of a new partnership and plan to expand to China, the tournament began with great fanfare with Jerry Chen (representing the WSOP's new partner in Asia, Tencent) being the one kicking things off.
Players were divided between the Amazon and Brasilia ballrooms. As happens every year, there were early casualties in the very first level. And as also happens, big stacks soon emerged as well.
Two-time bracelet winner and original member of the Hendon Mob Barny Boatman was earliest out of the gate, enjoying a spot at the top of the counts during the day's first hours.
Meanwhile most Team PokerStars Pros and members of Team Online chose to wait for Sunday or Monday to get involved after having racked up an impressive collection of cashes already this summer.
An exception was Team PokerStars Pro Jennifer Shahade. She represented the red spade alone today, though was "playing for two" following the birth of her first child earlier this year. Shahade made a deep run in the Main Event last year (finishing 204th), and she's made Day 2 again this time around, ending the night with 50,100 -- almost exactly the starting stack.
As the night drew to a close the first-day eliminations steadily continued, with Sorel Mizzi, Dan Shak, Anton Morgenstern, Leon Tsoukernik, and Matt Savage among the fallen.
That's when other players pushed ahead of Boatman to take turns hovering near the top of the counts, among them Ryan Hall, Nick Schwarmann, and Jonathan Little. And for a time it appeared Sam Grafton -- known as "SamSquid" on PokerStars -- had surged ahead of all to end the night in front.
But in the last hand of the night Mortensen turned a nine-high straight to crack an opponent's pair of kings, enabling him to secure a huge pot and the top stack among Day 1A players.
Also of note, former WSOP Main Event champion Jerry Yang (2007) was knocked out near the end of the night, while his fellow champs Martin Jacobson (2014) and Qui Nguyen (2016) both survived.
It all starts again tomorrow at 11 a.m. local time, when a larger group no doubt will add further to the overall 2017 WSOP Main Event turnout. Over recent years, Day 1B has consistently attracted fields more than twice the size of Day 1A, and Day 1C fields have been considerably more than the first two starting flights combined.
Again tomorrow, those 50,000-chip starting stacks will look deep when the dealers are told to "shuffle up and deal." But the one who wins poker's most coveted tournament title more than two weeks from now will likely sport a finishing stack of 330 million or more.
Like we said, it's a long way to go. A real long way. So much so that to last all of the way to the end might today seem a superhuman feat.
It can be done, however. We've seen it before. Come back tomorrow and join us as we watch it happen again.
WSOP photos by PokerPhotoArchive.com.