LAS VEGAS -- Day 1A of the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event drew just 771 players. Day 1C, to be played Monday, could see upwards of 4,000. That’s a vast gap.
But the divide makes sense. Many players avoid buying into the Main Event until the last minute because they'd like to gain entry through a cheaper satellite tournament. And because many of the players who win the satellites are amateurs, it dictates that the pros would also wait until Day 1C to play in a softer field.
But Day 1A has some allure, too. It's the real first day of the tournament. And some players like the idea of knowing where they stand in a tournament as soon as possible.
Which all makes Day 1B a bit of an enigma. On Sunday, 2,144 players gathered at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino to play their first day of the Main Event. The field included several top pros, including Phil Galfond, Erik Seidel, Dan Harrington and Huckleberry Seed, among others. And it had familiar celebrities Kevin Pollak and Ray Romano. Romano kicked the day off with the ceremonial "shuffle up and deal" announcement...
I wanted to get a better understanding of why players decided to play 1B, or rather, why they didn't play Days 1A or 1C. So I asked around, and here's what I heard.
Ray Romano: "1A I couldn't do because I was coming in from out of town. 1C my buddy couldn't do, and it's also really the most crowded."
Vanessa Selbst: "Because butterflies are my favorite insect." Me: Got anything better than that? "What else could be better than that? Actually, my birthday is on Day 2[C] and I didn't want to have to play that day."
Jason Somerville: "I played today because yesterday was the UFC fight and tomorrow I've got some of my Run it UP! guys playing, so I wanted to support them and not be playing."
Scott Seiver: "To me, I honestly think they're all the same, and I just chose the one I felt freshest for."
Andy Black: "Day 1A I reckon would have too few people. They're keeping Day 2A and 2B separate, even though they're playing them together. And then I reckon that Day 1C would be just too many people. You could be sitting anywhere, you could be moving."
Phil Galfond: "There's no good reason for me. I just decided, honestly. I know tomorrow is going to be really crowded, so I wanted to avoid that. But no, nothing strategy wise."
Dan Harrington: "I just happened to come in this day, that's all. I would play either of the first two days as opposed to the third day, though. Because when you look ahead, you get an extra day off."
Ben Lamb: "Well, I was hungover on Day 1A. And on Day 1C it sounds like they're going to play 10-handed, and that sounds awful. It's nine-handed today; easy choice."
Allen Cunningham: "I did it because of the breaking order. There's one day off after Day 2, as opposed to two or zero."
Kevin Pollak: "Well, Day 1A was impossible because of the Fourth of July for me. Day 1C is five million players, which is not interesting. So, this is kind of a no-brainer."
Erik Seidel: "I like the days off. I don't have the energy these other guys have. I like to play [Day 1A or 1B]. Plus if you bust, you're free, you know?"
Dan Podheiser has covered the gambling industry since 2013, but he has been an avid poker player for more than a decade, starting when he was just 14 years old. When he turned 18, he played online poker regularly on U.S.-friendly sites until Black Friday in April 2011. Follow him on Twitter @danpodheiser.