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Main Event Day 1C proves most eventful at World Series of Poker

Jonathan Duhamel and Phil Hellmuth out to become two-time Main Event champions

Image

Justin M. Bowen

Poker pro Phil Hellmuth enters the Rio commentating for ESPN during Day 1C of the World Series of Poker main event at the Rio Las Vegas Saturday, July 9, 2011.

Updated Sunday, July 10, 2011 | 2:14 a.m.

WSOP 07/09/2011

Last years winner, Jonathan Duhamel, folds his hand during Day 1C of the World Series of Poker main event at the Rio Las Vegas Saturday, July 9, 2011. To accommodate all the entries, there are four Launch slideshow »

WSOP: Phil Hellmuth

Poker pro Phil Hellmuth enters the Rio commentating for ESPN during Day 1C of the World Series of Poker main event at the Rio Las Vegas Saturday, July 9, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Notable End of Day 1C Approximate Chip Counts

  • Brad Garrett — 68,000
  • Paul Pierce — 63,000
  • Joe Cada — 58,000
  • Scotty Nguyen — 48,000
  • Dan Harrington — 42,000
  • Jonathan Duhamel — 41,000
  • Daniel Negreanu — 41,000
  • Eric Baldwin — 34,000
  • Jason Mercier — 28,000
  • Erik Seidel — 26,000
  • Lauren Kling — 12,000
  • Phil Hellmuth — 11,000
  • Chris Moneymaker — 0
  • Blair Rodman — 0
  • Ray Romano — 0

If subdued was the best way to describe the atmosphere at the World Series of Poker Main Event during its first two days, then enlivened should suffice for Saturday’s Day 1C.

The WSOP’s slow start in terms of entrants seemed a distant memory Saturday, as more players paid the $10,000 entry fee to enter poker’s world championship in the third of four starting days than had in the first two combined. In total, 2,181 players signed up for Saturday’s proceedings.

“I’m very happy there are still a lot of people playing the Main Event and playing all the tournaments,” 2010 WSOP champion Jonathan Duhamel said. “I think it’s a good thing for poker in general.”

Duhamel’s 2011 Main Event debut was one of several things creating a buzz at the Rio. Phil Hellmuth, who recently came in second in the $50,000 buy-in Poker Player’s Championship, made his annual entrance to much fanfare and a few celebrities tried their hand at the game.

The start to Duhamel’s Main Event was nothing like his experience last year, when he blended in with thousands of players as an unknown 22-year-old from Montreal. On Saturday, Duhamel served as the main attraction at the ESPN featured table in the middle of the Amazon room.

“Last year, I could be aggressive and it was alright because the players didn’t know who I was,” Duhamel said. “But now, I think it’s very different. I have to adjust and find a new style a little bit.”

Duhamel had a rough start Saturday, as it took nearly an hour-and-a-half before he raked in his first pot. But by midday, Duhamel was slightly above average in chips after doubling-up during an action-inducing hand.

Duhamel rivered a full house, eights full of Kings, and went all-in. An opponent called his bet and showed a smaller full house, sixes full of Kings.

Hellmuth had no opportunity to build or decrease his chip stack early, because he made his usual late arrival to the first day of the main event. Hellmuth cruised into the tournament area five hours after play began dressed as an ESPN commentator with a microphone and suit jacket.

Cameras followed in Hellmuth, who holds a record 11 WSOP bracelets, and he filmed multiple takes talking for ESPN before taking his seat.

Many players tease and joke with Hellmuth about his penchant for attention, but he’s the only one laughing this year. Hellmuth leads the WSOP Player of the Year race with three runner-up finishes for a combined $1.6 million.

“No more seconds,” Hellmuth said as he walked in. “Time for No. 12.”

Hellmuth recently said he thought he had played the best poker of his life for the past two years, but didn’t have the results to show for it at the 2010 WSOP. He called his play “phenomenal” last year, but blamed a series of bad beats as the difference between then and now.

“I really loved the way I was playing, but wasn’t hitting hands,” Hellmuth said. “This year, I’ve been catching some cards.”

Hellmuth is fourth all-time in career poker tournament earnings with more than $13 million. All three active members of the top four — Erik Seidel, Daniel Negreanu and Hellmuth — played Saturday.

The man currently in third, Phil Ivey, is skipping this year’s World Series of Poker. Both Seidel and Negreanu had healthy stacks at the dinner break.

Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce and local comedian Brad Garrett were two non-poker personalities with above-average chip counts through six hours of play.

“The tournament is young, but anything can happen,” Duhamel said. “I’m feeling good right now. I still like my chances.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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