Day 5: Bring on the Red Bull

July, 12, 2014
Jul 12
5:29
PM ET
Tournament Director Jack Effel announced prior to play on Saturday that the field would be in for a lengthy day. Five and a half levels are planned for Day 5 (11 hours) as Effel hoped to bring the field down to around 80-players by the end of the night. Play should conclude just before 2 a.m. PT.
[+] EnlargeKyle Keranen
Courtesy Andrew FeldmanKyle Keranen seized the chip lead during Level 20

Play is expected to slow down dramatically as the day progresses, but that was far from the case during the first level. John Monnette, 2014 bracelet winner Sam Jaddi, Mike Sowers, Kevin MacPhee, Farzad Bonyadi and Paul Tedeschi were among the 60 eliminations during the level. With the average stack more than 60 big blinds deep, short stacks aren't truly "short" at all. Extremely aggressive play is leading to these eliminations and of course, a few coolers.

Kyle Keranen and Griffin Benger continue to top the leaderboard with Keranen having an incredibly success level building from 2.1 million in chips to 3.5 million. Mark Newhouse, whose style doesn't often call for gigantic pots, was involved in a huge one against Munir Shahin. The 2013 November Niner held As-Qs and had a huge flush draw after a flop of 9h-7s-2s. Shahin held K-K and with a two million-chip pot at hand, couldn't fade the spade on the river. Newhouse eliminated Shahin with the dramatic river and handed his opponent his largest career cash ($38,634) with the effort. Newhouse is now in the top 10 in chips.

When players return from break, the blinds will be 8,000/16,000 with a 2,000 ante. Here are the current chip leaders:

1. Kyle Keranen (3.44 million in chips)
2. Griffin Benger (3.42 million)
3. Zach Jiganti 3.07 million)
4. Dan Smith (2.55 million)
5. Leif Force (2.49 million)
6. Trevor Martin (2.49 million)
7. Mark Newhouse (2.36 million)
8. Michael Finstein (2.34 million)
9. Matthew Haugen (2.27 million)
10. Pakinai Lisawad (2.21 million)

Small blinds: Anh Van Nguyen doesn't play much poker anymore, but decided to come to Vegas last week just for a little action. Van Nguyen spends most of his time now with his kids (including a five-month-old) and doesn't pursue poker as actively in the past. He has $1.2 million in career live earnings and finished 46th in 2004 and 106th in 2009. … We don't see a lot of new sponsors appear these days, but PartyPoker has placed one on Brian Hastings. … In extremely too early storylines, Alex Outhred's birthday is November 9th. … John Monnette decided to warm up this morning with some high stakes cash games at the Bellagio. I wonder if he slept. … David Einhorn doubled up in the last level. That's good for charity. … Keranen has moved to the feature table with Maria Ho's table soon to break. … There have been no eliminations at the feature table so far today. … A few players were late to show up today, including Yorane Kerignard who was seated at an outside feature table.
The smiles turned back to stares throughout the course of Day 4 of the World Series of Poker main event. After a raucous celebration rocked the Amazon Room when the remaining players made the money, the field returned to seriousness as positioning for the final stretch became the utmost priority. Matthew Haugen emerged with the lead after Day 4, a familiar situation for the professional poker player from Chicago.

"I'm feeling great," said Haugen. "Being chip leader going into Day 5 of the main event, I can't complain about that."

Haugen began to take the game seriously after he graduated from college. Like many other of the game's rising stars, he started online.

"After I graduated from college, I had a little bit of money and put it online," he said. "I started playing, kept winning and never looked back."
[+] EnlargeDan Smith
Drew Amato/BLUFFDan Smith is sixth in chips after Day 4

In a post-Black Friday world Haugen travels often to play and has found some great success on both the WPT and EPT. He also has twin 18th-place finishes so far this WSOP.

"I'm just going to keep playing my game and see what opportunities present themselves," said Haugen. "$10 million would mean a lot. It would be pretty amazing."

Behind Haugen is a stacked crew of professionals that have been waiting for this opportunity. Griffin Benger, Dan Smith and Kyle Keranen are all part of a strong top 10 this at this stage of the event. Keranen has been here before and was the chip leader after Day 5 in 2012. After fizzling out then, he's not ready to let this second opportunity go.

"I just feel so much more in control than I did two years ago," said Keranen. "I was still pretty new to high stakes tournaments back then and I got a bit nervous on Day 6. ... This year I feel totally composed and ready for it."

Keranen enters Day 5 eighth in chips.

The remaining field includes many players who should feel at home during Day 5 action. Among that group is Keranen (38, 2012), Leif Force (11th, 2006), Pat Madden (64, 2005), Maria Ho (38th, 2007), Alex Outhred (54, 2008), Roland Israelashvilli (25, 2012), Isaac Baron (85th, 2012), Farzad Bonyadi (27th and 41st, 1998 and 2005), David Einhorn (18th, 2006), Ali Eslami (49th, 2004), Ryan Fair (31st, 2009), Mike Wattel (95th, 2005), Kyle Bowker (37th and 84th, 2007 and 2012), Bryan Devonshire (12th, 2011) and most recently Rep Porter (12, 2013) and Mark Newhouse (ninth, 2013) have all made it to the final stages before.

With 291 players remaining, here are the top 10 chip counts after Day 4:
1. Matthew Haugen (2.80 million in chips)
2. Zach Jiganti (2.36 million)
3. Griffin Benger (2.32 million)
4. Michael Finstein (2.31 million)
5. Bruno Politano (2.28 million)
6. Dan Smith (2.22 million)
7. Andoni Larrabe (2.19 million)
8. Kyle Keranen (2.15 million)
9. Farid Fattin (2.12 million)
10. Pakinai Lisawad (2.08 million)

The eliminations came at a rapid pace throughout the action on Friday, but the only one that was truly acknowledged by all players was of the 430th-place finisher: Phil Ivey. The 10-time bracelet winner began the day in a strong position at the feature table, but started to run cold after he lost a quarter of his stack to Kyle Keranen. The bleeding continued until the dinner break, but still, with 340,000 in chips, Ivey was not in dire straights. Almost immediately after the dinner break, Ivey found himself in a hand against two-time WSOP champion John Kabbaj and made an ill-timed all-in on the turn of a 9-9-2-2 board. The shock and frustration came over Ivey's face immediately as his A-K trailed Kabbaj's J-J. Down to his final card, the cameras came over and Ivey's tournament ended with a blank on the river and a sprint to the back doors of the Amazon Room.

Hours before Ivey, Ronnie Bardah's exit marked the end of a historic run. Bardah has cashed in each of the past five WSOP main events, a new record.



Other notable Day 6 eliminations include John Juanda (293rd), NASCAR's Jason White (348th), Michael Binger (353rd) and Jonathan Little (490th).

Action resumes at noon, PT and will most likely continue for five levels or until the field is down to 72 players. The minimum cash for all those that remain is #33,734.

Small blinds: The pre-money elimination of Huck Seed marked the first year since 2002 that a former champion did not make the money. It has happened nine times in the total history of the event. … I've followed "Rainbow Hat Guy" around the WSOP for the past few years and today he had his chance at the feature table. Zach Hall sat directly across from Ivey, who looked at him and said "Are you serious?" Hall was eliminated on the final hand of the night. … Alex Outhred started Day 2 of the main event with 12,000. He bagged 714,000 on Day 4. … Blake Cahail played the last level in one of the $230 Zooop suits that is being sold at the Rio. He didn't buy it, but said if his friend bought it, he'd wear it. … In 2012, Keranen was the chip leader after Day 5. … Take a look at the bracelet. … Plenty of drinks were ordered towards the end of the day. Relatively surprising at this point. That usually ends on Day 2. … David Einhorn is donating his winnings to Robin Hood NYC. … Sam Jaddi and John Kabaaj are the two remaining 2014 bracelet winners in the field. … The highest chipped woman in the field is Mikiyo Aoki who has 1.5 million in 21st place. She was the runner up in the 2014 WSOP Ladies championship. … There are five multiple bracelet winners remaining in the field: Jeff Madsen, Farzad Bonyadi, John Monnette, John Kabbaj and Rep Porter. … Including the main event, Roland Israelashvili now has 10 cashes this WSOP. …
It's been a rough two days for the world's best player. After his incredible Day 2 effort, Phil Ivey faltered over the past two days and was eliminated during the past level in 430th place. Event 25 bracelet winner John Kabbaj led out for 80,000 and Ivey moved all-in for 225,000 more on the turn of a 9-9-2-2 board. Kabaaj called instantly and Ivey reacted stunned, looking on in disbelief. Before the cards were flipped, Ivey said to Kabbaj, "Jacks?" Sure enough, that's what his A-K was up against. The cameras set up as Ivey waited for the river card, then bolted down the back hallways of the Rio upon seeing the 5c. Ivey earned $25,756.
[+] EnlargePhil Ivey
Andrew Feldman/ESPNPhil Ivey (left) stares at the board in disbelief on his final hand.

Nearly 100 players fell during the past two-hour level. NASCAR's Jason White fought for the entire day as a short stack, but couldn't avoid some bad luck.

"I'll be back," said White after his elimination in 350th. He earned $33,374 for the finish that was cut short in a key hand against David Einhorn where his J-J lost to 6-6. David Paredes, Maria Mayrinck, Owen Crowe, Chris DeMaci, Michael Binger and Thayer Rasmussen were also among the casualties.

At 2.3 million, Dan Smith remains the biggest stack, but there are a number of players who are under 800,000 in chips that shouldn't be missed:

  • John Juanda - It's been a slow day for Juanda who has demonstrated great patience. He has 430,000 in chips and is looking to best his 31st-place finish in 2005. Juanda's last main event cash came in 2012 (234th).
  • Brian Hastings - The bracelet winner and high-stakes cash gamer has $1.1 million in live tournament earnings. The only thing that might hurt Hastings is his obsession with Open Face Chinese poker which is he playing on his iPad in between hands.
  • Mark Newhouse - The last member of last year's final table is still fighting. He chipped up early today and had a well above average stack, but has been short for the past few hours. He has 280,000 in chips. If there's anyone who knows how to grind in order to make it to the next level, it's Newhouse.
  • Maria Ho - Ho is seated at the feature table, but she's still under the radar in the reporting. She has 700,000 in chips and is seated with ...
  • Brian Townsend - During poker's zenith, Townsend was one of most prolific onliners in the game. Now he has a shot at a main event title with 800,000 in chips
  • Jon Turner - "PearlJammer" finished 299th in 2013 and 344th in 2011. His resume is strong and all he needs is to win that one flip that has evaded him numerous times over the past few years.
  • Ali Eslami - A high-stakes mixed-game player, Eslami doesn't often player tournaments, but won't miss the main. Oh, and he snuck into the Amazon Room last night.
  • Mukul Pahuja - Reigning World Poker Tour Player of the Year.
  • Taylor Von Kriegenbergh - WPT Champion has $1.4 million in lifetime tournament earnings
  • Matt Waxman - WSOP bracelet winner, WPT champ. Been short for two days now.
  • Mike Sowers - 14 WSOP cashes and five final tables (two runner-ups).
  • Bryan Devonshire - Devo isn't involved in the poker world much at all anymore, but the nature guide loves the main event. He finished 12th in 2011.

There a number of other players that with over 300 to go deserve some attention. From here on out I'll try to highlight the accomplishments of those remaining in contention to paint a better portrait about the field that remains.

Day 4: Finstein leads final 443

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
9:37
PM ET
The flood of players out the door continued during Level 17 and all remaining players have locked up a pay day of at least $25,756. After a period of constant all-ins, the pace has slowed of late as players are now taking this time to position themselves for a deeper run.

Michael Finstein is looking to make his first WSOP main event cash count. The Bright, Mass. native was the first player over two million in chips and has played the role of eliminator throughout the day. He seized the lead when he won a big pot against Rocky McNatt with his 10-10 connecting on a 10-9-3-9-9 board against McNatt's K-K. He added a bit more shortly after knocking out Lisa Tehan, Joe's wife, who just missed her largest career tournament cash by a few hundred dollars.

Dan Smith, now seated at a secondary feature table, has 1.9 million in chips which is good enough for a second-place stack. At the main feature table, Phil Ivey has struggled to gain any momentum since his latest table joined the feature set. His three-bets haven't been getting through and he's now playing with a sub-370,000 stack. Ivey's table broke for the second time today right before the dinner break and a new table, featuring Maria Ho and Jared Bleznick, will take their seats when action resumes

Kenny Tran's elimination represents many of the bustouts right now. With players so deep, it takes real coolers to get all the chips in the center and Tran was unlucky enough to run kings into the aces of Pete Kaemmerlen for all of his stack. Other notable eliminations include Jonathan Little, Abe Mosseri, JJ Liu, Bryan Yoon, Phil Galfond, Daniel Alaei and the five-time consecutive casher, Ronnie Bardah.



Here are the top 10 stacks at the break:

1. Michael Finstein (2.0 million)
2. Dan Smith (1.9 million)
3. Andoni Larrabe (1.7 million)
4. Danny Yousefzadeh (1.7 million)
5. Zach Jiganti (1.6 million)
6. Matthew Leecy (1.4 million)
7. John Gorsuch (1.3 million)
8. Jing Wang (1.3 million)
9. Griffin Benger (1.2 million)
10. Mark Herm (1.2 million)

When players return, blinds will be 4,000/8,000 with a 1,000 ante.

Small blinds: NASCAR driver Jason White doubled towards the end of the level. He has 250,000 and was the recipient of a Phil Hellmuth pep talk in the Orange section. They met last night at Haze. … Leif Force is looking to make a second deep run in the main event to add to his 11th-place finish in 2006. … Two more levels (four more hours) are planned for Friday. … Players received bags of chips at their table this morning courtesy of Ruffles. Players utilized those far more than the stress relief pucks from another WSOP sponsor, Dough. … The WSOP staff did a great job today with the bubble and payouts. I've seen years where it hasn't been so smooth, but this operation was run perfectly.

Money bubble bursts on Day 4

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
6:49
PM ET
A champagne bottle popped inside a packed Amazon Room early on Level 16. Everyone cheered as the remaining players took off their glasses, hoodies and headphones to share a quick handshake or hug. The champagne was distributed to anyone who wanted it, glasses were provided, as others asked waiters for beers or shots of Patron or Jager. A player pulled out his iPad and got on FaceTime, bringing his relatives into the room with him. Cell phones were out, texts were sent and the moment these players had searched for since their starting flight last weekend had finally arrived.

Except for the three people standing with the tournament staff in the center of the room, this was the best moment of the main event for the entire place. Players had made the money in the biggest tournament of the year. They had every right to celebrate and show their excitement and now, it's back to business.
[+] EnlargeRonnie Bardah
Andrew Feldman/ESPNRonnie Bardah has cashed in the main event for five consecutive years.

Day 4 play began with 746 players looking to survive the bubble and earn a minimum of $18,406. As short stacks hoped to make it, the stalling became brutal. The floor staff -- which issues warnings and threatens to start 10-second countdowns for all those trying to make each hand last as long as possible -- was called repeatedly to tables. Players were, rightfully, getting frustrated.

With 695 players left, tournament director Jack Effel declared that hand-for-hand action would begin. Dealers would deal one hand, then stand up at its completion. If there was an all-in and a call, the hands would remain covered until ESPN cameras were in place to cover the action. On the first hand of this effort, there were five players at risk and with two players needing to go home, it seemed likely that we'd be one and done.

The first hand had reached the river by the time its action was picked up by Effel who walked from table to table calling the progress. A roar came over the Amazon Room as Mark Newhouse rolled over 5-5 for quads to eliminate John Dwyer who held queens full. One down.

At the next table Zhen Cai waited for the cameras, but he already knew he was trailing with Q-Q to the A-A of Darren Keyes. The aces held and players were in the money.

There were now three more hopes for Cai and Dwyer to not go away empty-handed. All they needed was one more elimination and they'd share the purse for 693rd, or multiple spots if more players were knocked out. They got their wish on the next hand as Harry Kaczka cracked Kori Hunter's aces with 8d-9d with a rivered two pair. The other two players, Stuart Rutter and Paul Tedeschi, doubled through and kept their dreams alive.

Cai, Dywer and Hunter each received $6,135 for their tie in 693rd place. Cai also won a seat into the 2015 WSOP main event by picking out a high card in a stunt presented by WSOP.com.

Ronnie Bardah was all smiles as the bubble broke, and it's that smile we've seen at this very moment in the tournament for each of the past five years. This was a record-setting finish for Bardah who has finished 24th, 453rd, 540th and 124th in this event since 2010. He's one of the shortest stacks in the field now, but nobody left can compete with his experience.

Well, maybe a few players. Specifically Phil Ivey and Mark Newhouse. Ivey lost a big pot to Kyle Keranen recently and dropped to 646,000 after a strong start. Dan Smith leads with 1.8 million with the blinds at 2,500/5,000 with a 500 ante. Smith earned $2 million from his victory in the $100,000 event at the Bellagio just before the main and has 16 career WSOP cashes that include three WSOP final tables.

Small blinds: The line for payouts has expectedly been busy with 90 players already heading home in the first hour since the bubble burst. … Want to re-live the bubble? Go here. … tournament director Effel was wearing a GoPro camera today. Not sure how it will play into coverage, but definitely a new angle. … Brothers Mukul and Vinny Pahuja cashed in the main event. … Lots of foot traffic in Amazon today. Definitely one of the best days to come and watch. … Purple (500) chips are getting colored up during the break. … NASCAR's Jason White survived the bubble. … Players out, but in the money: Olivier Busquet, Randy Ohel and Ben Yu. … Rainbow Hat guy (Zach Hall) made it through. … Faraz Jaka seated on an outside feature. At the table next to him is Phil Galfond. … These new outside feature tables are RFID equipped.

Day 3 of the World Series of Poker main event was unexpectedly halted Thursday with 746 players remaining and 53 minutes remaining in Level 15. With the money bubble approaching rapidly, the tournament staff needed to have all hands on deck to handle payouts and the hectic nature of the moment. As the clock approached midnight, it wasn't feasible to organize and the decision was made to stop the action. The bubble also will serve as the start of ESPN's WSOP main event coverage this year, which begins Sept. 28.

On a day when many of the biggest stars and former champions faltered, Andrew Liporace seized the Day 3 chip lead. Liporace bagged 1.1 million in chips, just one big blind over the second-place stack of Danny Yousefzadeh.
[+] EnlargeMehrdad Yousefzadeh
Andrew Feldman/ESPNDanny Yousefzadeh was the first player over 1 million in chips on Day 3.

"I feel crazy lucky," Liporace said to ESPN.com over Twitter. The New Orleans native has had big chips in the main event before, owning a top-five stack on Day 2 in 2010. In that effort he failed to cash, but was victorious in a $5,000 event at the Seminole Hard Rock Showdown in 2012. Yousefzadeh was the first player over 1 million in chips and managed to get there with Phil Ivey to his right. Being chip leader isn't anything new to the man with over $700,000 in tournament cashes and a WSOP Circuit main event title to his name.

"I feel wonderful. I was running good all day and was playing well today," Yousefzadeh said. "It's a good start. I got my trophies, I'm in it for the money. The deeper I go, the better I'm going to feel about it. All I'm going to care about is my daughter. That fame stuff is not for me. I have a 7-year-old daughter, Ariella, who means everything to me."

Ivey didn't fare well against Yousefzadeh, but still managed to bag 552,500 for the night thanks to a strong finish. He'll begin Day 4 with two other half-million stacks, held by 2012's 38th-place finisher Kyle Keranen and Jing Wang.

A total of 1,125 players were sent home short of the money Thursday and some of them were the most prolific stars of the game. Daniel Negrenau didn't make it out of the first level of the day and defending champion Ryan Riess couldn't reach the dinner break. Johnny Chan, Robert Varkonyi and Chris Moneymaker's eliminations left Huck Seed as the only former champion still alive in the event. Antonio Esfandiari, Erik Seidel, Marvin Rettenmaier, Barry Greenstein, Gavin Smith, Dan Kelly and Layne Flack were just a few of the pros to fall and the celebrities didn't do any better.

One of the most dramatic eliminations came at the end of the night. For obvious reasons, Paul Pierce wasn't just another player in the main event, but the focus of much attention since he sat down at the felt a few days ago. The NBA star put up a real fight despite a number of tough table draws, and ultimately fell during the final level of play Thursday. On his last hand, Pierce called a three-bet from Christopher Smith in the cutoff. After a flop of As-Jh-3d, Pierce checked and Smith bet 15,000. Pierce called, leading to a turn 6s where he checked-called a bet of 35,000. A river 4s enticed an all-in from Pierce and sent Smith into the tank. After some time, Smith ultimately called and showed A-J for a better two pair than Pierce's A-4.

Pierce was eliminated in approximately 800th place out of the 6,683 players.

"It's a great atmosphere that has a lot of cool people," Pierce said. "This is the world of poker right here in the Rio. This is the whole world coming to one spot for the last two months and you get a chance to enjoy it. I get a chance to be amongst the best."



After Riess' exit, only one member of the 2014 WSOP main event final table remained: Mark Newhouse. The 2013 ninth-place finisher finished the day with 423,500, an amount he believed he didn't come close to having at this point a year ago.

"I feel just having been this far, I definitely have more experience than the rest of them," Newhouse said. "It should put me ahead of them."

Some other Day 3 survivors include Faraz Jaka, Allen Cunningham, Michael Binger, Ali Eslami, Kenny Tran, Martin Jacobson, Maria Ho, Brett Richey, Matt Waxman and three-time WSOP champion Jeff Madsen.

"My game has just come a long way. I've been playing well," Madsen said. "It goes without saying that nothing compares to the [main event bracelet]. It would be the sickest thing ever to be the world champion. It's becoming more of a thought, but there's a lot of work for it. That would be amazing."

Here are the top 10 chip counts from Day 3:
1. Andrew Liporace (1.12 million)
2. Danny Yousefzadeh (1.12 million)
3. Raul Mestre (988,500)
4. Jesse Wilke (975,500)
5. Scott Blackman (935,000)
6. Andoni Larrabesanchez (923,000)
7. Stephen Graner (911,000)
8. Rasmus Larsen (883,000)
9. David Tuthill (850,500)
10. Roman Valerstein (850,500)

Play resumes at noon PT with the blinds at 2,000/4,000 with a 500 ante. The final 693 players will earn at least $18,406 and the one who survives the rest will pocket $10 million.
Mehrdad Yousefzadeh was the first player to reach seven figures in chips during Level 14. Yousefzadeh has spent a few hours in Phil Ivey's big blind and the chips have headed in his direction steadily throughout the last level. Ivey, who has about 400,000, has a frustrated scowl on his face, much different (and more expected) than the casual, smiling Ivey who was in the Amazon Room on Day 2.
[+] EnlargeMehrdad Yousefzadeh
Andrew Feldman/ESPNDanny Yousefzadeh was the first player over 1 million in chips on Day 3.

Yousefzadeh is the only player over 1 million, but a number of players are cruising with monster stacks as well. With approximately 850 players remaining there are six players over 800,000 in chips, including Raul Mestre who finished Day 2 overall second in chips. Isaac Baron held the lead during early play, and remains a contender with a ninth-place stack of 725,000 in chips.

Huck Seed doesn't have a huge stack, but he is the last former main event champion playing after Chris Moneymaker went down in frustrating fashion. Even after running into quads, Moneymaker sat healthily with more than 50 big blinds. Late in the leve, he flopped a set of eights on a board of 8s-7h-3s and after the betting escalated to where over 320,000 was in the center of the table, Raymond Ezzie seized it all as his As-Ks hit the Js on the turn to give him the winning flush. A disappointed Moneymaker bolted out the door and down the hallway as quickly as possible, failing to make the money in this event once again.

Seed has approximately 200,000 at the final break of the night. He last cashed in the main event in 2012.

The biggest rail by far belongs to Paul Pierce who is putting up a fight on Day 2. Seated at a table filled with successful live and online pros, including Michael Binger and Harry "ugotabanana" Kaczka, Pierce has held his own and currently sits on a stack of 180,000 in chips. He desperately wants to cash in this event. For him, it's not about the money, but validation.

"It would be great," Pierce said of the potential of making money. "It's showing me how far I've come over the years as a poker player and learning the game. It's more than the cards. You have to endure the atmosphere. You have to endure a lot of things when you come to a big tournament like this."

The atmosphere for Pierce includes added pressure. With ESPN cameras ready to capture every hand and a number of members of the media ready to report on his every step, concentrating on what's in front of him is key. To keep him focused he's utilized a constant massage, sunglasses and headphones ... just like any other seasoned pro.

Other recent eliminations include John Hennigan, Christina Lindley, Marvin Rettenmaier, Haralabos Voulgaris, Steven Dannenmann and Kyle Cartwright. Players have one more two-hour level to play tonight, but it's possible that action will be stopped earlier if the tournament staff believes the money bubble is approaching too quickly.

Small blinds: Earl Barron busted out from the event, but is hanging around the Amazon Room keeping an eye on Paul Pierce. Derek Gregory, too. … Jeff Madsen has an autographed picture of Phil Hellmuth with him. … Blinds are now 2,000/4,000 with a 500 ante. … 2013 main event final table member Mark Newhouse has over 600,000. … Raj Vohra is among the leaders. He's been in this spot before. Let's see if he's learned to slow down. … The green 25,000 chip is being introduced during this level.

Day 3: Ryan Riess eliminated

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
9:14
PM ET
More than a third of the players that started Day 3 are now tasked with the challenge of forgetting the main event exits. One of those players is 2013 WSOP main event champion Ryan Riess. The defending champ put up a fight on Day 3, squeezing out small pots with a short stack for most of the day. Riess got his last chips in with 4-4 against Steve Brecher's 9-9 and couldn't get there.



It's always interesting to see how former champions approach the main event after their victory. Riess approached it with true class and offered such positivity throughout the process. Forever included with the game's victors, Riess wanted this. He wanted to have another deep run. In his eyes, it was his event and, really, you can't blame him for that. There's a difference between having pride and being cocky about your achievements. Constantly playing the modest card, Riess was a great representative over the past year and will continue to be moving forward.

There are only two former champions left in the field: Huck Seed and Chris Moneymaker.

The eliminations piled up over the past few hours with many familiar faces walking out the door. Johnny Chan is one of them. Robert Varkyoni too. Actor Kevin Pollak, Matthew Ashton, Erik Seidel, Greg Mueller, Earl Barron, Billy Baxter, Ole Schemion, Jake Cody and Blair Hinkle as well. They're burning through tables in Brasilia and there's a real strong possibility that everyone will reach their final stop in the Amazon Room later this evening.

The pace of play is picking up, but will slow down before the night is over as the money bubble approaches. The minimum payout of $18,406 isn't the world to everyone in the field, but to many still in contention, a min-cash would mean everything. The field is still scattered with a good amount of amateurs just having a good time. You can see it in their faces and the enjoyment they display of emotion when they're talking to their friends and family on the rail. You can hear it in their voices as they're talking at the table or asking for an autograph during a break. This is their dream and it is alive and well.

Then there are those who have been here before.

Since the November Nine concept was implemented in 2008, we've learned much about the competitors that make it to the biggest final table in the world. We learned about their backgrounds, their passions and their motivations. Here's a look at the players who have made post-boom final tables and are trying to get back in 2014:
  • 2013 - Mark Newhouse and Amir Lehavot are the only players left. Newhouse began the day with a 200,000 stack and has increased it to 325,000. Lehavot is hovering below average.
  • 2012 - If anyone is still in it, it's Andras Koroknai, but I haven't seen him in a few hours.
  • 2011 - Eighth-place finisher Anton Makiievskyi has 125,000. Runner-up Martin Staszko has 60,000. Pius Heinz did not play.
  • 2010 - None
  • 2009 - Some guy named Ivey made this one. He's hovering at about 400,000.
  • 2008 - None
  • 2007 - None
  • 2006 - Allen Cunningham and Michael Binger are the sole representatives from this year's final table. I still think it's harder to find anyone who has more patience in this event than Cunningham. He has 210,000 in chips. Binger is seated with Paul Pierce.
  • 2005 - Steven Dannenmann was seated with Riess and lost more than half his stack so far today. Dannenmann hasn't cashed in the main since his runner-up finish.
  • 2004 - None
  • 2003 - Chris Moneymaker is trying to make the money in the main event for the first time since his win.

Players will go on dinner break at 6:40 p.m. PT. After a 90-minute break, they'll return for two more levels.

Small Blinds: Paul Pierce was signing autographs for players at another table in between hands. ... A few notables with chips: Antonio Esfandiari, Joe Kuether, Martin Jacobson and Dan Smith. ... Mukul and Vinny Pahuja are sitting with their backs to each other. ... Nearly half of the Brasilia Room is empty. ... The filming of the "Side Action" segments concluded to the enjoyment of many in the Amazon Room that felt there was too much noise. ... There are no available masseuses in the Amazon Room. ... Bernard Lee ran J-J into 10-10. After seeing a 10 on the flop, Lee is on his way out of Vegas. ... There have been a few moments of audible celebration. That's more than OK at this point. ... Day 3 ended last year with 666 players. There were fewer players then, and that number isn't attainable this year since the money bubble comes at 693 and must be part of the television broadcast. ... There are lots of tired faces out there, and remember players don't have another day off until Tuesday. ... Haralabos Voulgaris has been trying to get the WSOP staff to get Paul Pierce a more comfortable chair. I honestly don't think a chair will make him more comfortable. Maybe another massage?.
 
For the first time in the 2014 WSOP main event, every remaining player was in attendance. The 1,871 players that returned to Day 3 action were spread out among the Amazon, Pavilion and Brasilia Rooms, but 300 of them were quickly sent packing, and with it, closed up the Pavilion Room for the rest of the tournament.

The biggest elimination of the level came in the form of Daniel Negreanu. The 2013 WSOP Player of the Year had a rough Day 2C, going from one of the chip leaders to one of the shortest stacks at the end of the day. Despite a plan for patient play on Thursday, Negreanu ran into a bit of a cooler and lost most of his chips in on a Q-high board holding A-Q. His opponent, Jeffrey Chang, held K-K to win that pot. He was eliminated shortly after.

Negreanu's WSOP featured some good runs and of course an $8 million score from the Big One For Drop. He said he wanted to be transparent about his efforts and posted his results on Twitter.



Also eliminated during this past level was 2013 WSOP main event runner-up Jay Farber, Gavin Smith, Theo Jorgensen, Humberto Brenes and Dan Kelly.

Phil Ivey continued to build his stack, but he lost the overall lead to Isaac Baron, who has cashed twice in this event in the past four years. He finished 85h in the 2012 main event and earlier this year finished third in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure main event. Baron chipped up over 850,000 so far today and recently eliminated Andrew Lichtenberger.

On the celebrity front, Paul Pierce has struggled on Day 3 and is one of the shortest stacks in the field heading into Level 12. Kevin Pollak, seated with Olivier Busquet and Maria Mayrinck, has dropped nearly a third of his stack since the start of the day.

With the blinds at 1,000/2,000 with a 300 ante, the current chip leaders are:
1. Isaac Baron (875,000)
2. Munir Shahin (640,000)
3. Steve Tripp (615,000)
4. Phil Ivey (583,600)
5. Raul Mestre (528,000)
6. Michael Aron (512,000)
7. Barry Hutter (500,000)
8. Tim Stansifer (471,000)
9. Morgan Popham (458,000)
10. Chanracy Khun (450,000)


Small Blinds: Ivey's table broke early during the second level, and he's now in the Amazon Orange section where he should be for the rest of the day. … Defending champion Ryan Riess is seated with 2005 main event runner-up Steven Dannenmann and is down to about 40,000. … Chris Moneymaker has more than 200,000. … There was a joker dealt during a hand today. The WSOP tournament staff decided to deal another card to allow the hand to continue. … Our ESPN team is shooting our Side Action segments Thursday. Without giving too much away, it is going to be a rather entertaining crew of players doing a variety of entertaining poker-related activities.
Three starting flights and two Day 2s have left 1,864 players in contention for the 2014 World Series of Poker main event title and $10 million.

And everyone is chasing Phil Ivey.

Ivey had a main event day that every poker player in the world dreams of. The 10-time bracelet winner started the day among the leaders, but separated himself from the pack to become the biggest stack in the room just a few hours in. The hand that padded Ivey's stack featured a three-way all-in after a flop of 10-9-6. Ivey flopped bottom set and trailed the flopped straight of Lazaro Hernandez. As the table stared at the 300,000-chip pot, Hernandez, holding the best hand, said "good game" and Ivey asked him why. His reply: "You're Phil Ivey."

Hernandez was right. Ivey made a full house on the river to knock out his opponents and move into the chip lead. The Amazon Room began to buzz with talk of Ivey's chip count and while the comments weren't filled with desperation, the acknowledgement of Ivey in this position was comical to many.



"I'm feeling pretty good. I had a pretty big day," said Ivey at the end of Day 2C. "This is the most chips I've ever had after Day 2."

Ivey was the first and only player to have more than 500,000 in chips. He peaked at approximately 520,000 and loosened up at the end of the night, which resulted in a small setback. Still, Ivey was in command of a table whose total chips of the other eight players may not have equaled Ivey's stack.

"$10 million means a lot. It's a lot of money. I'm trying to win it, but more importantly I want to win the main event," Ivey said in an interview for the Day 2C Poker Edge podcast. "It's been my dream since I first started watching poker. As you get older you and start playing more tournaments, and you start thinking about your place in poker history. To win the main event would be a big part [of my legacy]. Hopefully I get it done this year."

Despite the chip lead, it's Day 3 and we can't crown Ivey just yet. A number of other players had some big success on Day 2C, including Raul Mestre, who finished the day with 477,900, good for second overall.

"It’s obviously been an incredibly good day for me. I haven't won many huge pots, it's just when I've been bluffing, they’ve worked -- I've been lucky they didn't have a strong hand," Mestre said to BLUFF. "I just managed to win almost every medium pot, which is crazy. I understand I've been running like a demon here."

Mestre finished 427th in 2009, the same year Ivey made the final table.

Others advancing to Day 3 with above-average stacks include Poker Players Championship winner John Hennigan, Griffin Benger, Daniel Alaei, Tom Marchese and Greg Mueller.

"The main event is a roller coaster mentally and emotionally and you have to stay composed," Mueller said. "You can't get too rattled ... You just have to try and plug away. The main event is the sickest tournament ever."

Mueller finished 226th in 2013 and after that event he spent nine months trying to get himself back into mental and physical shape for the WSOP. Five cashes and numerous cash game successes later, he's happy with his progress.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, it was a rough day to be a world champion. Phil Hellmuth, Joe Cada, Jonathan Duhamel, Joseph Hachem, Berry Johnston, Carlos Mortensen and Scotty Nguyen all busted, leaving Robert Varkonyi as the sole former champ survivor on the day. Hellmuth's elimination was the result of a few questionable plays and as he said on Twitter, he "Busted myself in #WSOPMainEvent."

Here are the unofficial top 10 chip counts from Day 2C:
1. Phil Ivey (505,000)
2. Raul Mestre (477,900)
3. Morgan Popham (407,600)
4. Peter Neff (389,200)
5. Isaac Baron (387,200)
6. Steve Tripp (380,400)
7. Brian Townsend (361,700)
8. Horacio Chaves Cortes (350,300)
9. Paul Bennett (343,700)
10. John Hennigan (342,700)

The entire field resumes as one beginning at noon PT Thursday. Another 10 hours will leave a field ready to make the money Friday and get one stop closer to winning the $10 million first-place prize.

Small blinds: Paul Pierce survived the day with 48,600 in chips. … Touching story by BLUFF about Phil Hui and his dedication of the main event. … Both Gerard Pique and Martin Kampmann busted during the last level of the night. The UFC fighter and soccer star sat next to each other for a few hours Wednesday. … The outside feature tables aren't drawing too many fans. Players were complaining about the depth of the rail, which is understandable given the different table dimensions that are necessary for the television broadcast. … This year, 693 players make the money. … Beers were flowing at Ivey's table at the end of the night. Corona was the beer of choice. … Congrats to Gaelle Baumann, the last woman standing from the 2012 WSOP, for winning the media tournament. Yup, a pro won the media event. Again. A few pros played with bounties on their heads, and they crushed us. My Q-Q lost to Q-J all-in preflop. Fun game. … The grinder of the day award goes to David Baker, who fought for most of the day under 20,000 before finally getting chips later in the the night. … Kareem Marshall leads Sean Yu, Christian Harder and Scott Clements in the final four of the WPT 500. The event, held at Aria, had a $1 million guarantee that was crushed to the tune of $1.8 million. … Last year's final table is down to just defending champion Ryan Riess, Jay Farber and Mark Newhouse. … Daniel Negreanu had a "horrendous last level of day 2 WSOP main event. Down to 39,800..." … ESPN.com's Bernard Lee finished with 118,400.

Day 2C: Around The Felt

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
12:40
AM ET
LAS VEGAS -- I often use the "Around The Felt" tag in the blog as a way to give a big-world picture on a variety of stories. Here, on Day 2C, it's easy to miss many of the storylines in play, so I decided to utilize Twitter and hear what the players are saying for themselves as the action continues late Wednesday night.

From the chip leader, Phil Ivey:


In case you were wondering, Ivey had 421,000 in that picture. He has held steady around that range for a few hours and can essentially blind out from this point on and still make the money. Obviously that will never happen. Ivey is seated in Amazon, far away from the rail. He probably can't be much happier.



Tucked in the back corner of the Amazon Room behind the stage, Negreanu has a strong stack of about 150,000 in chips. The woman that he references, Bridget Fredericks, is among the Day 2C leaders. She has five small cashes in her career, but Negreanu is impressed nonetheless.



Phil Hellmuth version 2.0, or more realistically, 18.4, has chipped up since this tweet and has about 55,000 midway through the ninth level. He's seated at an outside feature table and is chatting up those that he's sitting with, including bracelet winner and WPT champion Matt Waxman.



Pierce arrived with Derek Gregory for Day 1 and went their separate ways. Both survived the day and returned on Day 2C to be seated together. Pierce has had a strong day, chipping up into six figures, but still has trouble staying in his seat while the levels progress. The NBA star has a tendency to walk around while play continues, which apparently keeps him focused but costs him a number of hands.



He's not doing any interviews, but Gerard Pique, the 27-year-old defender from Spain, has been taking care of business at the felt. He chipped up slightly after the dinner break to 160,000 and is wearing custom Barcelona-styled Beats that are drawing a lot of conversation in the Brasilia Room.

"In Spain, a major portion of the population thinks that poker is the same as roulette," said Guillermo Sanz, a member of the Spanish poker media. "They don't understand it." He continued to explain that if Pique, who has a poker room in his house, started to do interviews about poker, it would go a long way toward helping his countrymen to become interested in the game.



The 2009 WSOP main event champ had a great summer, capturing his second WSOP bracelet. He won't get a third one. Another November Niner, Jake Balsiger, also fell short of Level 10.



I'm lucky enough to be part of the committee for this. Who do you think should be inducted this year?
Crowds are forming in pockets of the Amazon Room. It's not for Daniel Negreanu. Or Phil Hellmuth. Or Joseph Hachem, Phil Ivey, Paul Pierce, Joe Cada, or anyone else you can think of. In fact, the players and cards on the felt are apparently the side show on Day 2C. The crowds stand motionless with a blank stare across their faces. Don't ask them to move. Their eyes are locked on what's directly in front of them.

I stop to look down at my phone, probably to tweet. A player yells out to me and waves his hands furiously as if there was a gigantic bee swarming around his stack. It looks awkward, but I understand. My bad. I quickly take a step to the left. He gives a nod.

What was behind me was perhaps the most important thing in the room to hundreds of those in my view ... the television screen that was locked onto ESPN and showing the World Cup. Apparently that's a pretty big deal.
[+] EnlargePhil Ivey
Andrew Feldman/ESPNPhil Ivey leads after the first two levels on Day 2C

If there ever was the ultimate distraction for players as they compete for the chance to win $10 million, it's the Netherlands/Argentina game. The WSOP main event is an international spectacle that featured players from 83 countries. The majority of players didn't have a true vested interest in the game, but it has been all that everyone is talking about on Wednesday. Poker criticism turned to criticism of coaching and styles. Players were sporting jerseys and rocked with anxiety as if they were sweating the most pivotal river card in the world. Despite so much on the line in the event that could change their lives, the masses of players acted as if they were in a bar with their best friends.

They were watching a game and if they could, they'd try to chip up, too.

For a few hours, the social engagement that's commonly seen around the world in home games was replicated here in the biggest tournament in the world. This event is known for the quiet, meticulous behaviors, filled with hoodies, glaring stares and only a mumble or two per hand. Sunglasses were removed and smiles were seen. Leave it to the World Cup to bring out the best in the main event.

Then the game ended and players went back to business. Except for Phil Ivey, who never stopped being all business.

It's a scary thought that Ivey is not only playing like the best player in the world, but also running good too. Ivey began the day as one of the chip leaders and left for the second break of Day 2C with a stack nearly 150,000 bigger than his closest competitor. Ivey eclipsed the 400,000-chip mark nearly five hours before anyone in the field from Day 2AB attained it, and is seated in the middle of Amazon at a table that, when he sat down, looked up and him and asked how they could be so lucky to sit with the greatest of all time.

Bumps to Ivey's stack came a few times during the level, but a hand with just minutes to go put him well over the top of the competition. Ivey flopped bottom set of sixes on a board of 10h-9d-6s and led out in a three-player pot. Lazaro Hernandez called and Fabian Scherle moved all-in for 44,000. Ivey moved all-in over the top and Hernandez, holding the nuts 7-8, called all-in for 130,000. Scherle, holding kings, was in big trouble and began to get up. Even though he had the nuts, Hernandez joked that he was going home and Ivey looked at him incredulously. Then came the 5h. Then the 10c. Ivey had filled up and won a massive pot. Hernandez was going home.

Right as play was beginning, I joked that Ivey would have 700,000. Now that joke doesn't seem so farfetched.

Small blinds: The Amazon is filled with notables, but hidden in a back corner is Daniel Negreanu and a sub-100,000 stack. … Phil Hellmuth is back in his survival mode with 38,000 in chips. … Paul Pierce has 96,000 at the break. … Earl Barron is right behind him with 90,000. … Two 2013 November Niners went down so far today, JC Tran and Sylvain Loosli, as well as two former champions, Jonathan Duhamel and Scotty Nguyen. … Nguyen told me that now that he's in the Hall of Fame he feels old. He was also drinking a Michelob at noon. … UFC fighter Martin Kampmann has 70,000 at the break. … The green chips are being colored up during the second break of the day. … Bruce Buffer did the Shuffle Up and Deal on Day 2C. … Sully Erna, Eric Baldwin, Matt Stout, Jesse Martin and Paul Wasicka will have to wait until next year. … One of the players sitting with Paul Pierce, is wearing a Paul Pierce jersey. … The media event begins at the dinner break. … Tables are breaking from Pavilion into the other rooms. Should be cleared out by the end of the night. … The Day 2AB Poker Edge daily podcast, featuring Chris Moneymaker, Antonio Esfandiari and Mukul Pahuja, can be found here. … Dennis Phillips was standing in the hallway outside of the Amazon Room watching his final table on the televisions.






LAS VEGAS -- The 1,933 survivors from Day 1A and Day 1B returned to action Tuesday for another five two-hour levels of play. As intended, the fields were kept in separate playing areas with 1A occupying Amazon and 1B in Brasilia and Pavilion. By the end of the fourth level all that remained was the Purple section in Amazon (about a quarter of the room) and three-fourths of Brasilia. Eliminations came rapidly, and a total of 1,115 players were sent home on Day 2AB with 2013 WSOP main event champion Greg Merson being one of the first. Some took it better than others.

Day 1 is all about survival and Day 2 is about accumulation. Players first broke the 250,000 chip barrier before dinner. Then came 300,000. Then four players attained 400,000 (250 big blinds). Tim Stansifer bagged a substantial chip lead for the night, trailed closely by Tom Cannuli, Tony Ruberto and Joe Kuether. Out of that group, Ruberto and Kuether have found a few successes this Series. Ruberto earned three cashes and a third-place finish in the six-handed Event 15 and Kuether had five cashes, with his best being a 17th-place result in the turbo Event 23. Stansifer, on the other hand, is looking for his first career tournament cash. A Day 2 chip lead doesn't mean much, but it's a strong step on the path toward the money.

Besides Merson, four of the other former main event champions advanced to Day 3. Defending champion Ryan Riess, 1987 and 1988 champion Johnny Chan, 1996 champion Huck Seed and 2003 champion Chris Moneymaker are all looking to make history. Dan Harrington can not. Moneymaker had the best day of the group and finished with 222,000.

"Going in I knew it was going to be a very tough day," Moneymaker said. "I dropped all the way down to 24,000 at my low point. ... But now the tournament really starts. It really starts on Day 3. I'm in a position now where I can hopefully use my experience and grow this stack as we get closer to the money and really put myself in a position to do something. The biggest thing in this tournament is getting to Day 3, with a stack, and using it effectively."

Moneymaker hasn't cashed in the main event since his victory in 2003.

As for the other champs, Riess (84,900) coasted most of the day before having a tough last level. "I made my first mistake," he said during a break in the action. Chan suffered a similar setback, chipping up well above average before ultimately losing a few key pots to finish with 46,600. Seed, who has final tabled this event twice, ended with 96,500.

The other worldwide star stayed silent for the most part in Amazon on Day 2AB. Antonio Esfandiari was focused on the grind for most of the day, but a big hand with aces against A-Q gave him a boost at the end of the night. Finishing with 277,800, he looks to cash for the third time in six years.

"I ran good," he said of his final few hours. "What can I do? When the cards come they come. I ran good, I played pretty good and I'm very fortunate to have a good stack to enter Day 3."

Esfandiari was part of the Day 1A contingent that played in a reserved fashion in the Amazon Room. Across the hall, Brasilia's atmosphere was like a loud party with chatter, smiles and drinks during the final level of the night. Given the smaller space and nearly three times the players, there was a clear emotional distinction between the two rooms. The chip leaders above all built their stacks in Brasilia, as did Erik Seidel, Faraz Jaka, Allen Cunningham, Ole Schemion, Jeff Madsen, Marvin Rettenmaier and Phil Galfond.

Here are the unofficial top 10 chip counts from Day 2AB:
1. Tim Stansifer (481,500)
2. Tom Cannuli (407,800)
3. Tony Ruberto (402,700)
4. Joe Kuether (401,200)
5. Zhen Cai (367,900)
6. John Sacha (364,400)
7. Munir Shahin (361,900)
8. Tom Roupe (349,600)
9. Martin Jacobson (342,700)
10. Jon DeGeorge (342,200)

When the field combines after Day 2C, blinds will begin Day 3 at 800/1,600 with a 200 ante.

Small blinds: Only 215 of the original 771 Day 1A players remain. … Jacob Zalewski advanced to Day 3 with 64,200 in chips. … Actor Kevin Pollak has made Day 3 for the second time in three years. … The media tournament will be held during the dinner break Wednesday night. … Mike Matusow didn't take his elimination too well. He tweeted: "Out if main event this concludes the worst 6 weeks of poker in my life thanks for [all] your support #illbeback." … Vanessa Selbst, Annette Obrestad, Mike Sexton, Dennis Phillips, Josh Arieh, Ray Romano, Yevgeniy Timoshenko and last year's seventh-place finisher Michiel Brummelhuis were eliminated on Day 2AB. … NASCAR's Jason White bagged 157,100.






LAS VEGAS -- Seven hours into Day 2AB and the Amazon Room is beginning to look a little barren. While surviving players from both Day 1A and 1B are both in action on Tuesday, they play as if they are part of two separate tournaments until Day 3 on Thursday. As a result, the Amazon Room has cleared out its largest Orange section with a significant portion of the small Day 1A field hitting the rail during play on Tuesday. Of the 505 players that began the day in Amazon, only about 320 remain.

Scattered throughout the tables in Amazon are three former champions -- Chris Moneymaker, Ryan Riess and Johnny Chan. Moneymaker has been treading water all day, never able to build a stack while seated at the feature table area. Riess eclipsed the six-figure mark before dinner and sits casually at his table with a just a few on his rail. He doesn't seem to mind.

After wearing a black T-shirt with a bright gold emblem on Day 1A, Chan has gone for a more casual, hidden approach on Tuesday. He is sporting a hoodie and doing his best to remain inconspicuous during Day 2AB action. The only problem is that he also has 100,000 stacked in front of him, and keeping a low profile with those chips is going to be hard.

Martin Jacobson began the day as the chip leader and still holds strong with 260,000 in chips. Also scattered at tables throughout the Day 1 contingent is 2013 WSOP main event runner-up Jay Farber, Antoio Esfandiari, David Bach, Mukul Pahuja Brian Hastings, Kyle Cartwright, Annette Obrestad and Ted Forrest. Jacob Zalewski, seated with Esfandiari, has nearly quadrupled his stack on the day.

The Day 1B contestants have also been reduced to one room. With the Pavilion emptied, the Brasilia room is nearly filled to capacity and seems to have most of the chip leaders from the day. Joe Kuether, looking for his sixth cash of the 2014 WSOP, is one of five people with more than 300,000 chips. Brasilia also features some big stacks belonging to Marvin Rettenmaier, Kevin MacPhee, Dan Kelly and Erik Seidel.

Small Blinds: Comedian Kevin Pollak remains in contention and successfully made it through six hours of competition against Phil Galfond, Michael Binger and Matt Vengrin. That table broke shortly after dinner. Pollak does some impersonations of Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth here. … NASCAR's Jason White has just less than 100,000 in chips. … Ryan Riess's dad and girlfriend have pulled up chairs along the defending champion's rail. … Greg Merson was eliminated during the first level on Tuesday. … The two players that lead the WSOP Player of the Year race, Brandon Shack-Harris and George Danzer, both fell on Tuesday. With plenty of points for first to the main event champion, along with 10 more bracelet events in WSOP-APAC, the race is far from over. … Michael Binger told me he's happy to be out of the poker world. "I take the subway to work," he said of his "normal" lifestyle. Binger lives in Brooklyn, still pursuing his passion of science. … The WSOP asked first-timers to stand up and be recognized at their table Tuesday to show a similarity to how they could all be like Riess a year ago. Some players stood up. Some players didn't. Some criticized them for making that request, but there's no guarantee that anyone who stood up was actually a first-timer. It's a game of information, so wouldn't you want to take advantage there? … Johnny Chan is taking a quick walk through the Amazon room, listening to something and dancing. Yes, a dancing Johnny Chan. I have no idea what he's listening to, but it's pumping up the two-time champ. … The WSOP had a record-setting 82,360 entries in 65 events. It awarded the largest prize pool in WSOP history: $225,584,873. &133; A total of 107 countries are represented in the 2014 WSOP. … Of the main event participants, 4.2 percent were women. It was 4.7 percent in 2013. … The average age in the main event was 39.2. There average age last year was 38.1.

Tournament Director Jack Effel is walking through the Amazon Room on Day 2A. With a cheery demeanor he looks out at a few members of his staff, hard at work inside the ropes. He gives them a look and a nod. They respond with a smile. Effel continues to make his way through the room and assists a player. He heads my direction.

"Happy Day 2," I say to Effel, attempting to acknowledge the baby steps taken thus far in the main event.

"Day 2 was May 28th," he replies without hesitation.

He's right.

The main event is the cap of the World Series, but since May 27, Effel has been on the floor day in and day out doing his best to make sure every event goes off without a hitch. Of course the spotlight is on the main event, but when it comes to the World Series of Poker, every hand that is dealt is important and the planning that goes into it begins even before the previous edition's conclusion.
[+] EnlargeJack Effel
Andrew Feldman/ESPNTournament Director Jack Effel stands in front of the action on Day 2AB

"The WSOP comes together nicely. It's a year-round project," Effel said during a break in action. "Everyone does their part. We're cognizant of timelines and we always have the sense of urgency so that the show can open."

Before play begins each day, either Executive Director Ty Stewart or Effel takes the microphone with a goal of providing instruction or hype for the field in attendance. Effel has become the front man, but he's the first to admit that it's those by his side who constantly make a difference. The team organizes everything from table service to payouts to the floor plan and aims to make the players' experience as optimal as possible.

"All of us are standing up there at once," Effel says about the times he's talking to the masses. "I may be the voice representing us, but the whole team is standing up there together making it happen. ... But it's the players' event."

The focus on the players is a common theme since Effel joined the WSOP as tournament director in 2005. Always looking to fill the next niche and satisfy a need, Effel has worked with players both in person and through social media to create the right opportunities that will lead the event to greater success.

"This event belongs to the players," he said. "As long as we keep giving them the best competition and the best experience, the WSOP will continue to be successful."

While there were many, two of the biggest successes of the 2014 WSOP were Effel's innovations: the Monster Stack and the Dealer's Choice events. The Monster Stack offered players the ability to buy into a $1,500 event and receive 15,000 in starting chips, far more than the 4,500 that they would receive in another similar buy-in event. It was a way to provide players the opportunity to compete in a different structure, similar to the depth of the main event, and play for a huge prize pool. It was a stunt that Effel and team expected to work and attract a field of around 4,000-5,000. Then 7,862 players showed up. Effel was floored.

"I wasn't doing a dance when everyone showed up," he said when I asked if he was excited by the incredible field. "I tried to get everyone in."

The structure wasn't conducive to the alternate system since players weren't busting out quick enough, so Effel decided to add a second starting flight that began at 5 p.m. that day. By the end of the sixth level, every player had been seated and a new record for a field on a single starting day had been set.

"I thought it would be popular, but I had no idea it would do what it did. We had one extreme with the turbo event, so we needed one on the other extreme. There were lots of players and lots of chips. When they all showed up I had no idea what I was going to do with them."

The thing is, the more you talk to Effel, the more you realize that his determination and creativity are what make him tick. He knew exactly what he wanted to do and figured out a solution that could handle it. His vision also led to what some players have called the best event of all time: Dealer's Choice.

"Players could try all of the 16 games for a small buy-in," he said. "It was a way to introduce new games into the mix and gauge what would be most popular. It also gave mixed-game specialists the poker game of poker games."

The item that scared many prior to the start of the event was the capabilities of the dealers. However, Effel and his staff handpicked the crew for this event and said those dealers loved having the opportunity.

"This is all you are going to be doing for the next three days," Effel said he told his crew. "They were all good and they were role models who looked forward to this event. They were all excited and it was an honor for them to be part of this being dealt for the first time."

Dealer's Choice went off without a hitch and was another notch in the belt of a very successful summer. With only a week left of the main event, Effel knows that more time with his wife and kids is just around the corner. He also knows that the magnifying glass is in place on the main event and that any mistake in the main can overshadow the success of the past six weeks. The truth is that Effel is ready for anything, and ready to handle anything that may come his way. He believes he needs to, and that with every passing day, he's still building the legacy of the WSOP.

"The train stopped to pick us up and we're all on it for a ride," he said. "Poker is a great game. We know what it means to us and want to do all we can to get everyone in the seats and keep them here for years to come. We want to inspire new players and have people say that they're glad these guys did what they did. I'm proud of where the WSOP is, and where it's going."

In a week the Amazon Room will be empty. The players will have moved on and the media will have left the city, but Effel will be back in his office. More innovation is coming for 2015, and for his team, there's plenty of work to do.

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