In what turned out to be a day of bombshells at the Rio All Suites Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, the 42nd Annual World Series of Poker kicked off on Tuesday amid the usual pomp and circumstance befitting the greatest poker tournament in the world. What wasn’t expected as the cards flew and the chips clattered were some of the activities that went on away from the felt.
Perhaps the biggest bombshell in recent tournament poker history is that one of the biggest players in the game, eight time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Ivey, will not be in attendance this year at the WSOP and has moved to file suit against the ownership behind Full Tilt Poker, of which he was a member of Team Full Tilt. The story was originally broken by the entities that comprise Wicked Chops Poker and was officially confirmed by a statement on Ivey’s Facebook page.
The announcement on Facebook read as such:
For many years, I have been proud to call myself a poker player. This great sport has taken me to places I only imagined going and I have been blessed with much success. It is therefore with deep regret that I believe I am compelled to release the following statement.
I am deeply disappointed and embarrassed that Full Tilt players have not been paid money they are owed. I am equally embarrassed that as a result many players cannot compete in tournaments and have suffered economic harm.
I am not playing in the World Series of Poker as I do not believe it is fair that I compete when others cannot. I am doing everything I can to seek a solution to the problem as quickly as possible.
My name and reputation have been dragged through the mud, through the inactivity and indecision of others and on behalf of all poker players I refuse to remain silent any longer. I have electronically filed a lawsuit against Tiltware related to the unsettled player accounts. As I am sure the public can imagine, this was not an easy decision for me.
I wholeheartedly refuse to accept non-action as to repayment of players’ funds and I am angered that people who have supported me throughout my career have been treated so poorly.
I sincerely hope this statement will ignite those capable of resolving the problems into immediate action and would like to clarify that until a solution is reached that cements the security of all players, both U. S. and International, I will, as I have for the last six weeks, dedicate the entirety of my time and efforts to finding a solution for those who have been wronged by the painfully slow process of repayment.
The decision by Ivey to abstain from playing the WSOP – and his decision to aggressively move against his (former?) employer in Tiltware and Full Tilt Poker – removes one of the most accomplished tournament poker professionals from the game at the peak of his powers. Without Ivey as a part of the WSOP, there are thousands of fans who will likely join Phil in his self-imposed boycott of the action.
Just prior to the bombshell announcement from Ivey, the WSOP also had its first dustup of the year, and many have ascertained that it may be as a result of Full Tilt Poker’s actions following “Black Friday.” Following his defeat in the first round of the $25,000 Heads Up Championship, defending WSOP Europe champion James Bord hung around long enough to have some words with John Juanda, another member of the Team Full Tilt stable. What had previously been viewed as just a disagreement between the two – after some comments from Bord – quickly escalated into a full out argument bordering on physical action.
According to the WSOP official live update team, Bord used such phrases as, “You’re a thieving prick,”“You’re a disgrace,” and “You’re a fake and disgusting human being,”in the discussion with a Full Tilt Poker patch-wearing Juanda, who couldn’t seem to diffuse the situation by himself. After Bord mentioned something about physical violence in the parking lot, Juanda called the floor and security and the two men were escorted away from the floor. At this moment, no further information has emerged as to the eventual outcome of the situation.
With all of the bombshells out of the way, there was some actual poker played on Tuesday!
Event #1 – $500 Casino Employees Event – Day One
True to its nature, the $500 Casino Employees Event didn’t disappoint when it came to the final numbers. 850 players showed up for the first day of the two day tournament, eclipsing last year’s field of 721 players. The field was quickly winnowed down to 77 players by the end of the night, with those players finishing 78-81 picking up some change from the $382,500 prize pool.
There were notable names that played in the event on Day One but did not survive to see today’s Day Two action. Tournament directors Matt Savage and Jack McClelland, WSOP official Ty Stewart, poker pro Jean Robert Bellande and defending champion Hoai Pham all were eliminated before the money bubble burst. Jordon Dhooghe leads the field when play begins today with 129,800 and the first bracelet of the 58-event WSOP schedule will be awarded this evening in this event, with the winner earning an $82,292 payday along with the hardware.
Event #2 – $25,000 Heads Up No Limit Hold’em Championship – Day One
Set to be a four day event with a maximum field of 256 players, the $25K Heads Up event could only coax out 128 players to pony up the money for the tournament. Still, the prize pool for this tournament will exceed its comparable event from 2010 due to the factor that the buy in last year was a mere $10,000.
It wasn’t a good day for some of the Canadians in the field. Both Daniel Negreanu and Jonathan Duhamel were eliminated during Day One play, with Negreanu out in Round One and Duhamel falling in Round Two. Picking up the Canadian banner is WSOP bracelet holder Erik Cajelais, who has made the Round of 32 and will face Nikolay Evdakov this afternoon. The remaining field is star-studded, with such players as Gus Hansen, John Duthie, Dani “Ansky” Stern, Andrew Robl and David Benyamine (among others) still alive for the bracelet.
Currently, the plan is for the event to remain on a four day schedule, meaning that it is possible that only one round of Event #2 could be played today.
STARTING TODAY: Event #3 – $1500 Limit Omaha Hi/Lo
At Noon Pacific Time today, Event #3, the $1500 Limit Omaha Hi/Lo tournament, takes to the felt for the first day of a three day tournament. With the lower buy in, it is possible that this tournament may meet or exceed last year’s 818 players. This tournament could well be an indicator as to how the player numbers will be for the remainder of the 2011 WSOP.
Last year, Michael Chow defeated Dan Heimiller heads up to take home his first WSOP bracelet and the $237,140 payday. Canadian Shawn Buchanan picked up what would be the first of his remarkable eight cashes in last year’s WSOP in this event, finishing 21st out of the massive field. Two more Canadians, Daniel Klein and Cam McKinley, also earned recognition by earning cash among the 81 players paid in the tournament.
With the stunning news from Phil Ivey and the dustup between James Bord and John Juanda seizing the headlines, poker seems to have taken a back seat at the 2011 WSOP. Perhaps the tensions will calm somewhat and the game with take center stage over the next few days.