Event No. 2 at the 44th annual World Series of Poker kicked off at 5 p.m. on Wednesday evening is Las Vegas, and did so with an all-star roster for the $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em / Eight-Handed event.
A field of 481 players, including all the top dogs of the industry, made their way to the felt for a piece of the massive prize pool. Big names like Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Antonio Esfandiari, Jonathan Duhamel, and so many others gravitated to the first major event of the series.
After two levels of action, PokerNews got the chance to ask a few of them what their goals and expectations were for the summer, if they thought the overall turnout would stand par to previous years, and what events they intended on playing. Here’s what they had to say.
Team PokerStars Pro Jake Cody already holds one WSOP bracelet, which he won in 2011 after taking down the $25,000 Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em Championship. When asked about the hopes for this year he said, “I’m being optimistic and hoping the turnout will be as good as last year, if not better. I just looked at the schedule recently and am hoping to be in as many events as possible. There are 62 on the list, but obviously I can’t do them all. The ones I do partake in, hopefully you’ll see me on the final table of them all.”
Matt Salsberg, famed television producer of Weeds and co-producer of Entourage, showed optimism, expressing, “I’m excited to play a full schedule because I’ve never played a full schedule before this. I plan on just playing in the no-limit events, but either way I just want to play good poker and hopefully go deep in a lot of events. As far as the turnout, I expect it to be slightly smaller playing fields, but it will still be good because everyone just gets excited about the WSOP.”
Everyone follows his commentary and knows him for winning The Big One for One Drop at last year’s Series, and Antonio Esfandiari is looking to make his score again after stating, “I will play in all no-limit events and maybe dabble in others. But for sure, I want to win bracelets and punish people.”
We even had a chance to meet up with the most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, who seemed relaxed on the felt while on the same table with Ivey Poker pros Christian Harder and Andrew Lichtenberger. When asked what his goals and expectations were for the summer he simply said, “I just want to have fun. This is my first WSOP event ever, and so I’m just hanging out and enjoying it. Whatever happens, happens is my mentality of it. In fact, I wasn’t event going to play in today's event, but somehow I got talked into doing it. I might play the $1,000 buy-in event tomorrow, but then again I may not. We’ll see what happens.”
We caught Brian Rast in between breaks and he said, “I hope to play my best and not take any breaks. I expect and want to play a lot of poker this summer. I would like to win a bracelet, but that is not an expectation. I will definitely play in the $111K for One Drop and the Poker Players Championship, and of course the Main Event. Probably the $10K Pot-Limit Omaha and other than that, just see how the series goes. Aside from tournaments, I’ll get involved in the cash games and go from there.”
When asked what he thought the summer turnout would be, Rast said, “I honestly have no idea. My table was actually talking about that, and I just don’t have a guess to it. I think the Series has dropped a lot of the buy-ins on some of the events, which will probably increase turnout, but I’d imagine the overall buy-in dollar amount will be down because there’s no $1 million buy-ins or anything like that this summer.”
We'll surely be reaching out to more and more players throughout the Series, but for more PokerNews coverage of the $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em / Eight-Handed, head over to our live reporting pages.