Welcome to the 2014 World Series of Poker here at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
For another year, PokerNews Live Reporting team will bring you up-to-the-minute updates as the WSOP enters its 45th year with comprehensive coverage of all 65 gold bracelet events over the next 50 consecutive days.
The first event on the schedule is the $500 Casino Employees No-Limit Hold’em, which will get underway at 12 p.m. local time. Last year, this event attracted 898 entries, with the winner, PokerNews' own Chad Holloway, taking home an $84,915 payday and the coveted gold bracelet. Out of the 90 players who cashed, only five were not from the U.S., including three Canadians, one Italian and one Brit.
This is a two-day event with the players receiving a 3,000-chip starting stack with blinds starting at 25/50. Day 1 will play 11 levels of 60 minutes each, and there will be a 20-minute break at the end of every second level and a 90-minute dinner break after the end of Level 6.
The money bubble is likely to burst at some point today. When play finishes for the night, the remaining players will bag up their chips and return tomorrow at 1 p.m. to play down to the first bracelet winner at this year’s WSOP.
We caught up with the defending champion ahead of the start of play to get his thoughts on his victory and the tournament to come.
What did it mean to you winning the WSOP bracelet last year?
Winning the bracelet meant the world to me. I love the history of the game, so to be a part of it as a player is priceless. The last year has been fantastic, and if I can’t win it again, I’m glad that someone else will get to experience the same joy and excitement that comes with winning the first event.
How are you feeling ahead of your title defense?
I’m excited to play and attempt a title defense, but I know the odds are not in my favor. The field is going to be huge, and with an accelerated structure, I’m going to need some luck. I’ll just do my best and see what the cards bring.
Do you think the other players will be gunning for you, and if so do you plan to adjust your strategy?
I doubt it, unless it’s Ty Stewart, as he and I have a last-longer bet. Whichever one of us falls first has to buy the other breakfast at Hash House A-Go-Go, and I know from experience that when Ty is ordering, the appetizers come fast and furious. That’s not a bill I want to foot, so my first strategy is to outlast him.
Any tips for players trying to bag their first bracelet this year?
The Casino Employees Event is a lot of fun, but the structure doesn’t afford you the opportunity to coast for too long. Within the first 20 minutes last year, I had lost two-thirds of my stack. Fortunately, I managed some doubles and put myself right back into contention. My best advice is to pay attention to the structure and shift gears accordingly.
And with that, it's almost time for the event to begin. The atmosphere is electric for the start of the 2014 WSOP, and the cards will be in the air for the first event in just a little bit, so stay tuned!