WSOP Main Event: PokerStars qualifiers itching to get started

by Craig Cunningham

Where does the World Series of Poker start for the PokerStars family of players? After your seat is won, you've flown into Vegas, you've schlepped your bags through the taxi stand at McCarron, you check into Treasure Island, PokerStars Central for most players who earned their seat through qualifiers. Scott and Stacey McQuain from Portland, Oregon (above) made hasty plans to be here, leaving two young children behind after Scott won his seat here two weeks ago. He plays on Day1B, Saturday, and he's tried to stay sharp since arriving. He three-way chopped a tourney in the Treasure Island Poker Room last last night, surely a good omen for his first shot in the World Series.

Phil Hellmuth may show up late for WSOP events, but PokerStars morning folks were at the Rio early. Ron Blount from Houston was like most of the field here. He flew in Thursday, checked into Treasure Island, made it to the Rio by 1:00PM to register, then played a satellite at Paris. His gameplan today: figure out his opponents at the table, then do the opposite. He has a novel tourney strategy: fold those big cards. "I used to really love big pairs, but more and more I'll just get rid of them if I run into problems. I figure I'll just move on and keep playing in the tournament rather than busting out." After hopping out of the cab we shared, Ron headed to Buzio's for the breakfast spread provided by PokerStars. Well rested, hot food in the belly, two hours of casual conversation before taking his seat at Table 162.

Derek Schwerzler and his wife are expecting their first child in November. This executive in an aerospace distributor has been here a few days, entering satellites and small tournaments. He's been playing here for many years, hooked since turning his first $50 he brought to Las Vegas into several thousand after winning a small tournament the first time he sat down. His wife wanted to come out, but he discouraged her from flying out until next week. "If she wasn't expecting and could come out with friends, it might be worth it to enjoy herself out here. But all I'll be doing is playing poker for fourteen hours each day then sleeping. I told her, 'Let's wait until next Friday when we're in the money; then I'll need my entourage.'" A couple of Atlanta friends will be joining him through the weekend to play in the Main Event.

For those qualifying through PokerStars, these last couple hours were times to rest, relax, and chat with new friends. Michael Edens, David Daniel, and Hector Garza hail from Iowa, Tennessee, and Texas respectively. The only time they'd huddle together would be learning the game at PokerStars or sitting on a bench waiting for their dreams to become reality.

For players waiting to enter the Main Event, here are the facts: 8,431 entered as of 9:00AM Pacific, with alternates to the Main Event for the first time in history. There are now satellites to become alternates as well. For those not familiar with the term alternate, it's a simple yet fairly mind-boggling concept: an alternate takes the seat of a player who has busted out of a tournament. Juan Carlos Mortensen was the first alterate seated in Event #2 this year, and he ran his 1500 chips into the chip lead for most of the tourney and a final table finish. For those of us who play poker, however, it is hard to fathom a desire so great that one would plunk down $10k to wait for a seat at the Main Event, knowing that once you take the seat you will be below average in chips. With the blinds low, it won't be the disadvantage that it might be at lower buy-in tourney. But who wants any disadvantage when they take their seat? For PokerStars qualifiers, they won't need to worry about that. The Amazon Poker Room has been in lock down mode since 9:00, only players waiting to buy-in allowed to enter. For everyone else, all they can do is wait to get it started.