The 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event opened strong with the best Day 1a turnout in years on Saturday, and Sunday proved to be no different.
The biggest Day 1b field in the past six years showed up to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, as 2,164 filled enough seats to overflow the Amazon and Brasilia Rooms and push the tournament into Miranda. That turnout brought the two-day total to 2,959.
About 1,700 players made it to the bag-up in a day that started off with an explosive hand, one that everyone who saw won't soon forget.
Usually, Level 1 at the WSOP is a sleepy time, with bleary-eyed players settling into their seats, munching on breakfast, and sipping coffee as they play cautious, 300-big-blind poker. However, when a star goes bust with aces full, everyone perks up in a hurry.
Vanessa Selbst got the action started with a raise holding pocket aces and received calls from Gaelle Baumann, with pocket sevens, and Noah Schwartz, defending his big blind with jack-eight. The ace-seven-three flop that followed promised some action, although with a trio of clubs out there, it could be expected to be somewhat muted.
However, when the last seven in the deck fell on the turn. Selbst's fate was all but sealed. Facing a river shove over her overbet, she sensed the cooler and did not snap-call, as many would. After delivering a resigned speech, she reluctantly called with the second nuts, and Baumann delivered the bad news.
"I felt sorry for her," Baumann said of her immediate reaction. "It was just a sick beat. Then I was happy she wasn't around the table anymore, because she's tough. It's sick for her.
"After that, I had a huge stack, and then I lost half my stack again on this table, and I ended the day with 87,100."
The hand made the rounds on social media, and Baumann said she got reactions aplenty from back home.
"I got so many messages, it's crazy," she said. "My twitter went crazy. I didn't even read everything. Everyone was saying it was such a sick hand."
One of the players who had a heap of chips throughout the day and wound up bagging a pile was Albert Daher. The Lebanese pro had over two starting stacks by the time Level 2 got going, and he only moved up from there. He found an opponent who wouldn't get away from aces on a three-spade board, but luckily for Daher, he hit a fourth spade on the river, holding ace-jack with the ace of spades.
Making flushes against players who didn't want to fold was something of a theme for Daher, he said.
"I was value-betting very big, and they were hero-calling me with one pair all the time," he said. "They just never folded the river to me, and I had it most of the times."
Splashing around in a lot of pots contributed to Daher's ability to get paid off when he made hands.
"I think, in general, the field is pretty soft, so it's better to play more hands than when you play, like, a tougher tournament with all the pros," he said. "I guess I'm playing looser. Nothing too crazy, I just ran really good."
Other players to bag at least 200,000 included chip leader Richard Dubini (254,500), Alan Schein (229,800), Brandon Meyers (215,700), Tobias Ziegler (215,300), Brandon Adams (205,000) and 2005 WSOP Main Event third-place finisher Tex Barch (200,000).
Abe Mosseri, Justin Bonomo, Ben Yu, Dan O'Brien, Jesse Sylvia and 2012 Main Event champ Greg Merson were among the players who busted out during the five-level day.
Merson was below the starting stack for seemingly the entire day. Although that doesn't necessarily mean doom in the ultra-slow structure of the Main Event, he found himself in a tough spot when he three-bet an opener with aces, and someone else came into the pot with tens and flopped top set. Merson was unable to get away when he made aces up on the river.
The players who did punch tickets to Day 2 are scheduled for an 11 a.m. restart on Tuesday. That coincides with the return of the survivors from Day 1a, but note that the Day 2a and Day 2b fields will play out separately.
Next up for the Main Event is the final starting day, Day 1c. That's traditionally been the largest of the starting days by far, but it will be interesting to see if that holds true given the larger-than-normal turnouts for Days 1a and 1b. Find out what's in store on Day 1c by coming right back to PokerNews for more live coverage throughout the day.