World Series of Poker main event begins in Vegas |

World Series of Poker main event begins in Vegas

LAS VEGAS (AP) – A group of 1,125 card players flocked to Las Vegas for the start of the World Series of Poker main event Monday, each gambling $10,000 on hopes of winning millions at the game’s richest no-limit Texas Hold ’em tournament.

The field size beat last year’s opening day by nine entrants. That tournament attracted 6,494 players, creating a prize pool of more than $61 million and a top prize of $8.55 million for winner Joe Cada.

Officials for poker’s most prestigious event hoped a July 5 start would boost the number of entries, as previous tournaments have included sessions during the Fourth of July holiday. This year’s tournament has three more starting days, Tuesday through Thursday.

Greg Raymer, the tournament’s winner in 2004, delivered the famous “shuffle up and deal” order as Monday’s session began, then was promptly eliminated during the first level of play.

Raymer lost the bulk of his chip stack within the first 10 hands, when he gambled on hitting a flush but missed and lost to three 10s. The loss left him with fewer than 2,000 chips from a starting stack of 30,000.

“Decided to play it aggressively – I was actually pretty sure the guy had two aces,” Raymer said. “I thought he’d fold because now it looks so much like I flopped a set, but he actually had the set.”

Raymer would have still been behind had his read been correct, but he would have been favored to win because of the possible hands he could draw.

“Since he actually had (three of a kind) I didn’t expect him to fold,” Raymer said.

Raymer lost the rest of his chips later when his pocket eights couldn’t beat an opponent’s pocket aces.

“When I got short-stacked, I knew I was going to have a hard time getting people to fold,” Raymer said.

Stuart Nitzkin of Northfield, Ill., was the first player eliminated roughly 35 minutes into play, abnormally long for the tournament because of its size. Nitzkin left without speaking to reporters.

Nader Taiym, a 41-year-old liquor store owner from Chicago, said he ended up with most of Nitzkin’s stack after two hands because he made a full house then a straight. The opponent lost first with pocket aces, then with pocket kings.

“I was expecting to fold most hands,” Taiym said.

Players who make it through the tournament will have to avoid cruel moments that cost them all their chips. Chips don’t have monetary value, but a player loses the tournament once his or her stack is gone.

Minimum bets go up every two hours. Players on Monday planned to play nine hours of poker with no breaks.

Mike “The Mouth” Matusow, a three-time gold bracelet winner and fixture on television poker coverage, told his opponents the best strategy early in the tournament is to play conservative.

“I think your best bet to make it to Day 2 is not show up to Day 1,” he said.