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There was a mixture of excitement and nervousness etched on the face of everyone who made the short bus trip, from the Palazzo to the Rio, to participate in Day 1a of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event. The tables and rail were fit to burst and it was very fitting that Doyle Brunson was the man who kicked everything off. Shuffle up and Deal mouthed the Texan after wishing everyone the very best of luck.

The playing area in the Amazon room is divided up into different coloured sections. As we waded through the purple section the white hoodies of the Party Poker Qualifiers shone through like a beacon of light. Frederick Deguzman and Marjo Nikkinen sharing table space with the likes of Marty Smyth, Jeff Williams, Jude Ainsworth and the 2004 Champion Greg “The Fossilman” Raymer.

Purple then turned into Orange, and it seemed a fitting colour given the large number of Dutch players who had the seats. The luminaries in orange included Rob Hollink, Fatima Moreira de Melo and Lex Veldhuis. Amongst the Party Poker qualifiers were Kevin Howe, Marco Galanti, Marc Goschel and Jeremy Mayeur. Goschel and Mayeur finding themselves seated right next to each other and it stayed that way for much of the day.

Other Party Poker qualifiers seated in the orange area were Roch Cousineau and 2007 3rd place finisher Raymond Rahme. Rahme won $3,048,025 in the year that Jerry Yang took home the title and at the end of the first break the South African was second in chips with 51,000.

Looking as cool as a young Clint Eastwood

As the players returned for the start of the second level we crept over to the blue section. Sebastian Ruthenberg was having a rub down whilst staring into the luscious eyes of Maria Ho, Vladimir Geshkenbein was flicking chips around the felt looking as cool as a young Clint Eastwood and Johnny Lodden was looking as equally sharp.

The Party Poker contingent seemed to be having some success as well, Sindri Ludviksson was holding his own and still had his starting stack size, Clement Tripoldi had grown his stack to 45,000 and seemed like the table captain, and in a bizarre twist of fate the Carpenter brothers, Ben and Tom, were sat back-to-back in a field of nearly 900-runners.

At the start of level two Marjo Nikkinen cut a forlonged figure with 14,000 chips but even after losing half of her starting stack still had 70 big blinds, but the man leading the Party Poker group was Raymond Rahme who had managed to amass over 80,000 chips to put him right into contention at the top of the leaderboard just behind the likes of Eli Elezra and Jani Sointula. Early notable casualties were the former champion Jerry Yang and WPT Vienna High Roller winner McLean Karr.

The attendance was confirmed as 897 players for day 1a as we patrolled the ocean during level 3. This figure was 20% down from last year so the revised predicted total attendance changed to a potential 5,855 runners. Marc Goschel and Jeremy Mayeur continued to do battle on table 300 and were neck and neck with Goschel on 40,000 and Mayeur on 38,000.

Fokke Beukers knows the way through a main event field after cashing in both 2008 and 2010 and he was sat on 45,000 chips. Ben Carpenter had a stack of 32,000 and Kevin Howe 38,000. Kevin Howe’s best friend Marco Galanti was having a tough morning and he had 15,000.

Marjo Nikkinen looked absolutely radiant over at table 350. She called me over to tell me that the player on her immediate left was just too good. It was none other than Filippo Candio who finished 4th last year. Jay Kinkade was sharing a table with Manuel Bevand and had a stack of 26,000, and still pounding away, albeit on a different table was Clement Tripoldi with 70,000 chips. Tom Carpenter had been moved to a very tough table. He had Greg Raymer to his immediate left and directly opposite him, with a monster stack, was Olivier Busquet.

Unless they have Dr Dre headphones…

“You have a nice easy table,” we said as we passed.

“Unless they have Dr Dre headphones on I don’t know who they are,” replied Tom.

Carpenter the younger was sitting on 35,000 chips.

The food break really hits people hard in these gruelling events. The poker tables resemble tube trains at rush hour with people nodding off all over the place.

One person who unfortunately found time to sleep was Marco Galanti, the Scot had found himself with 7,000 chips when he made a raise with . The small blind asked for a count before betting 5,000 and Galanti made the call. The big blind had and Galanti was in a world of hurt until the flop came to his salvation . Then just as hope sprang eternal it sprang a leak on the turn when the was slammed face down by the dealer.

The last remaining ace had already been folded and Galanti was left with a Las Vegas itinerary to sort out. Galanti had travelled to Vegas with his good friend Kevin Howe and just as Galanti was being eliminated Howe was stacking his 50,000 chip stack after winning a pot holding pocket jacks on a low board.

Tom Carpenter’s table had gotten a little softer after Olivier Busquet was moved to another table and Greg Raymer ran his set into a flush for a level 3 elimination. Carpenter, a little gutted that his brother had also been eliminated, was sat with 41,000 chips.

Roman Gwildies was in the limelight but not for his poker. He was sat next to former Seinfield star Jason Alexander and the cameras were a permanent fixture at table 362, Gwildies had 31,000 with 30-minutes of level four passed into the annals of history.

Our only lady qualifier playing today, Marjo Nikkinen, had still not succumbed to the Candio magic. The Italian was still giving her all sorts of grief on her left, but she was still smiling and sitting on a chip stack of 22,000.

Cedric Annen (55,000), Sindri Ludviksson (37,000), Marc Goschel (32,000) and Jeremy Mayeur (26,000) were all still in with a shout of surviving the day but there were two players in particular who continued to stand out. The first was Clement Tripodi who had 55,000 chips and Raymond Rahme who was 6th in chips overall with an impressive 110,000.

556 players survived day 1a

As the hand edged ever closer to midnight the goal of making it to Day 2 started to become a reality for a lot of players. Tom Carpenter was still holding on to his 42,000 stack, Jay Kinkade had increased his stack to 34,000, Roman Gwildies was also on the up and up with 46,000, Marjo Nikkinen won back-to-back pots while we were watching her and the extra confidence was added to her 28,000 stack, Phillipe Bouchard was suddenly found in the crowd and he had a healthy looking stack of 55,000, Jeremy Mayeur had finally parted company with Marc Goschel and had 34,000, Thomas Gicquel was another player who had avoided our gaze today but when found had 36,000, Sindri Ludviksson must have had a good level because he had risen to 63,000 but the top three Party Poker qualifiers going into the final 30-minutes were Kevin Howe (72,000), Clement Tripodi (80,000) and Raymond Rahme (110,000).

Then out of nowhere Cedric Annen found himself in a hand with Johnny Lodden that catapulted him to the top of the Party Poker qualifier pile and 4th in chips overall. On a board of Lodden made a bet of 8,500 and was instantly raised by Annen who made it 19,000 to play. Lodden then decided to raise the stakes a little and he made it 40,000 and Annen called. The river was the and both players got the rest of the money in the middle and it was Annen who was celebrating after his beat the of Lodden.

556 players survived day 1a from a starting field of 897. The Party Poker qualifiers who made it through to day 2 were:

  • Cedric Annen 155,400,
  • Raymond Rahme 105,950,
  • Clement Tripodi 81,025,
  • Phillipe Bouchard 73,575,
  • Ryan Smith 66,075,
  • Frederick Deguzman 54,150,
  • Marc Goschel 49,300,
  • Tom Carpenter 46,500,
  • Kevin Howe 44,625,
  • Dennis Frankenberger 44,575,
  • Ludvik Ludviksson 42,600,
  • Roman Gwildies 39,500,
  • Jay Kinkade 38,825,
  • Jeremy Mayeur 23,800,
  • Marjo Nikkinen 22,175.

Congratulations to them all.

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