WSOP 2017: When the play is tight, calling it "action" is loose

It's the first level... again. It's going to be a crazy one, too, with the Day 1C field undoubtedly much bigger than 1A and 1B combined. Players are seated in the Amazon, the Brasilia, the Miranda, and the Pavilion already, and the halls on this side of the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino are buzzing with players arriving and registering.

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Raising the roof on Day 1C

For those reporting on poker tournaments, multiple Day 1 flights always mean starting each day going back down to the bottom of the tournament hill and starting the climb again. And with an especially deep-stacked, slow-structured tournament like the World Series of Poker Main Event, the journey back to the start can feel a little like leaving a frantic, dynamic world where a lot is happening at once (i.e., the end of a Day 1) and returning to one where everything is static and, well... nothing is happening.

That's the impression, anyway. In practice, things do happen during the first level of the Main Event. Yesterday provided us a dramatic example.

You've no doubt heard all about it -- easily the hand of the tournament, so far. After flopping top set with pocket aces, Vanessa Selbst improved to aces full of sevens on the turn before facing an all-in river shove from her opponent, Gaelle Baumann. After talking it through to herself Selbst called, Baumann showed pocket sevens for quads, and barely an hour into the day Selbst was out.

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If you missed it, the Team PokerStars Pro bookended her surprisingly early exit with an excellent sequence of tweets. One came before the start of play when Selbst was letting her followers know she'd be on the TV table. After providing details and telling when to "see me in action," she offered a wry follow-up alluding to the tournament's structure:

Soon after came that feature table craziness, and a little later in the afternoon Selbst added the following -- also wry, and hilariously understated:

There was other, genuine action during Level 1 yesterday as well. Selbst wasn't the only elimination. And there were double-ups and even a big triple when Fatima Nanji rivered quads versus two others who'd made straights.

But such is by far the exception when the starting stacks are 50,000, the blinds are 75/150 (with no ante), and the level a uniquely long 120 minutes. Indeed by the last level of the day (Level 5), the blinds are still only 250/500 (with a 75 ante). In fact, a player could theoretically fold every hand on Day 1 and still come back on Day 2 without even being all that short-stacked.

Last year the WSOP tweaked the structure, giving players 50,000 chips to start instead of 30,000 while also slowing down the blind and ante increases at the start. A predictable consequence was a higher percentage of players from each of the three Day 1 flights making it to Day 2.

Day 1A Day 1B Day 1C 
YearEntriesSurvivors (%)EntriesSurvivors (%)EntriesSurvivors (%)
2015741470 (63.4%)1,7161,154 (67.2%)3,9632,747 (69.3%)
2016764546 (71.5%)1,7331,301 (75.1%)4,2403,252 (76.7%)
2017795576 (72.5%)2,1641,643 (75.9%)??

Before the change to deeper starting stacks and slower increases at the beginning, two-thirds of the players who started Day 1 made it through to Day 2. After the change in 2016, it's more like three-fourths getting through.

YearTotal EntriesStart of Day 2
20156,4204,371 (68.1%)
20166,7375,099 (75.7%)

That's a significant difference -- basically one more player per table making it to the end-of-day bagging. Notice also how on the huge Day 1C's a higher percentage of players get through as well.

All of which suggests that when we invite you to enjoy today's "action," we have to add (like Selbst) that we're using the term loosely.

Because more often than not during Day 1, action really is an abstraction.

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It's just a photo... they are moving

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