The Five Biggest Storylines From Week One of the 2021 WSOP

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Jesse Klein, George McBride, and Phil Hellmuth were all a big part of the first week of the 2021 WSOP.

We’re just one week into the 2021 World Series of Poker and already so much has happened. Bracelets have been won, the hallways have been packed, and, yes, Phil Hellmuth threw a fit in the Amazon room.

The WSOP is back, it’s different, and so far it’s been fantastic. Not without its difficulties but the final series to take place in the Rio is, in fact, taking place. And with that, plenty of storylines have emerged – here are five of the biggest from the first seven days.

#1. Reports of the WSOP’s Death Were Greatly Exaggerated

No one was quite sure what they were going to find when they first stepped into the Rio this autumn. With the complicated information surrounding COVID’s Delta variant, the vaccination mandate, and the mask-optional exception it’s safe to say that there were plenty of questions as to who and how many players would show up.

It became clear from Day 1 that players were more than willing to show up and show out. The Reunion, with its $5 million guarantee, blew the doors off the Rio as players flooded the hallways, packed the tables, and ended up crushing the guarantee. Masked and (presumably) vaxxed, all three rooms – the Pavilion, Brasilia, and Amazon, were lively and, at times, even rowdy. What could have been a muted sense of excitement, instead still had that electric feel of the summer series of years past.

The FOMO was real for those who wanted to be on hand and those who predicted that the brand would take a big hit are going to have to wait a little longer to see, as the opening weekend concluded with a $600 Deepstack event that exceeded player projections.

Sure, numbers will be down, how could they not. But spirits were not. A case in point is…

#2. This What The WSOP Is All About

Kenna James captured George McBride’s first WSOP cash on camera and everyone who watched it immediately had all the feels.

“It was just everything opening up,” McBride told PokerNews in an interview, getting misty just thinking about his run in The Reunion.

“That was totally uncontrollable,” he said talking about his emotion and how he was playing in memory of friends who couldn’t be there with him and his family history of playing cards. And for many, that’s what the WSOP is all about. A pilgrimage to play with some of the best in the world and taking a shot to live your dream.

#3. Jesse Klein Takes A Shot, Scores Direct Hit

There’s been a handful of bracelets handed out this week from top pros like Jeremy Ausmus and Connor Drinan adding to their resumes to Long Ma outlasting the nearly 13,000 runner Reunion and turning his $500 into $513,604.

But Jesse Klein’s first career gold bracelet win caught everyone off guard because it came in the $25,000 H.O.R.S.E. where he survived a field of 78 runners of mostly elite players to take home the $552,182 first-place prize. It seems Klein, a businessman who plays high-stakes mixed game cash, just flew out with the sole intention of playing this one event – his flight home booked at the end of the weekend.

Along the way, he battled against pros like Ben Yu, David Benyamine, Daniel Negreanu, and Benny Glaser. But he really made headlines after besting 15-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth in a hand and sending Hellmuth into one of his famous rants.

“He just went off and I loved it,” he said. “It made me laugh, all that kind of stuff cracks me up.”

Klein demonstrated the other side of the WSOP – anyone with the will and the buy-in can come and compete. And sometimes, leave a champion.

#4. Phil Hellmuth On A Heater

Phil Hellmuth is off to one of his hottest starts at the World Series of Poker in years. The Poker Brat is on the prowl for gold bracelet #16 and had been making deep runs in every event he’s entered so far.

His first score was in the $25K H.O.R.S.E. where he made the final table, but ultimately fell just a few spots short by busting in sixth place for $95,329. Days later he found himself deep in the $1,500 Dealers Choice where he fell in 18th place for another $4,429. Finally, at the time of this writing, Hellmuth is at yet another final table, this time in the $10K Omaha 8, where he will start the day with the short stack and a guaranteed payday of no less than $80,894.

But for Hellmuth, it’s all about the bracelet and fans will be tuning in to see if he can somehow climb the chip counts and make history once again.

Hellmuth on a heater is decidedly “good for poker.”

#5. Staff In Good Spirits But Lines, Technology Problems Persist

To go along with the fact that the WSOP has been bustling with activity is the downside of that which has been lines. Everywhere you looked over the weekend, there were long – very long – lines. Lines to buy-in, lines to get your vaccination verified, lines to get your credit card registered, and, of course, lines to use the restroom.

Some reports had the most egregious lines lasting three hours as a combination of tech and the players not having everything ready to go meant sometimes just to get a player all set up could take 4-5 (or more) minutes per person. With current conditions leaving some of the cages shorthanded, those waits could take time. Players, for the most part, remained patient with the understanding that once everything was verified, the process would be smoother.

To their credit, the WSOP acknowledged the difficulties. They faced them head-on in morning announcements and worked to get better. The staff seemed to stay in good spirits which helped as well. By Saturday afternoon, if you picked the right time, you could get registered or have a credit card verified with minimal waits.

However, technology problems continue to be an issue. From printers not working on the first day to, as recently as Wednesday, a complete outage when delayed the start time of some events and resulted in the cancelation of some side events, the tech issues have added some unnecessary stressors on WSOP staff.

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