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September 17, 2014

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Cards fly at World Series of Poker main event

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Sam Morris

Actor Jason Alexander and rapper Nelly chat during the first day of the main event hold ‘em tournament at the World Series of Poker in The Rio in July 2009.

Updated Saturday, July 4, 2009 | midnight

Scene and Heard

    Stud of the Day: Aleksandr Bolotin, who was honored in a ceremony Friday after winning $177,730 in the third annual "Ante Up for Africa" celebrity and charity poker tournament on Thursday. Bolotin donated $88,865 _ half his winnings _ to a charity that focuses on the western Darfur region of Sudan, where up to 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million displaced.

    The tournament was co-organized by actor Don Cheadle and poker player and "Celebrity Apprentice" contestant Annie Duke.

    Up Next: Another set of players begin their main event Saturday, when tournament officials often expect a slower day at the series because of the July 4 holiday.

    Poker Talk: Muck — When a player folds his or her cards. Rapper Nelly mucked his cards during a hand in the first level with a jack, a five and a two showing on the flop and two other players in the hand.

    He said What?: "That's like siesta time in Mexico, not dinner time in America. I'm steamed, therefore I raise." _ Phil Laak, a high-stakes poker pro, complaining after learning about an early dinner break. Laak raised with a pair of eights and the rest of the table folded.

Cardplayers, celebrities and amateurs with deep pockets are back in Las Vegas and hoping for a handsome score as the World Series of Poker main event begins.

More than 1,100 players packed a conference room at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino at the start of the $10,000 buy-in no-limit Texas Hold 'em tournament, with the richest prize in poker.

Last year's winner, Peter Eastgate, took home $9.15 million after topping a field of 6,844 players — including eight others who had a four month break before the final table in November.

Players had until roughly six hours after the cards hit the air Friday to buy into the tournament that day, and three more days to enter the fray as the opening rounds of the tournament were split up.

The tournament had 1,297 entries on its first day last year.

Among those hitting the felt was former Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser, who regaled his table with tales from his days on the mound and complained about an early dinner break.

"Only in Vegas do you have a dinner break at 4:20," he said.

Actor Jason Alexander and rapper Nelly attracted gawkers as they sat side by side early on, while actress Jennifer Tilly and actor Brad Garrett focused on working their tables across the room. After the tournament's first break, Alexander joined Garrett at an empty seat at his table.

Raphael Zimmerman, a 27-year-old poker player from Oneonta, N.Y., was the first player eliminated from the tournament when his aggressive play on a straight draw ran into three queens after the first three community cards were dealt.

Zimmerman hit his straight on the turn, but his opponent hit a full house on the river to end Zimmerman's tournament.

"Next year, I'm going to be last out," said Zimmerman, who said he regularly plays cash games with $50 and $100 blinds. "For a minute, I thought I was going to win anyway."

Jerry Yang, who won the main event in 2007, built an early chip lead at his table but lost most of it on one hand when his pocket pair of kings squared off against pocket aces — the best starting hand in no-limit Texas Hold 'em. With all the chips in the middle, Yang and his opponent each hit a set on the flop.

"I've still only been playing for three years," said Yang, who won $8.25 million for beating 6,357 players at the main event in 2007. "I still have a lot to learn."

Early chip leads meant little on Friday as players simply hoped to move on to a second day of play. Each player started with 30,000 chips, which have no monetary value and are simply used to measure the position of players.

To win the tournament, one player will win all the tournament chips in play.

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