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
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
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

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 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
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..." …'s Bernard Lee finished with 118,400.

Day 2C: Around The Felt

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
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.
The last of the World Series of Poker main event's three starting days featured a huge field of 3,768 players that nearly filled the Rio to capacity. From the tables at Buzios near the entrance of the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino to the Amazon Room in the convention center, the biggest tournament in the world attracted a ton of attention as the best in the world competed on the green felt.

And the best in the world thrived.

Phil Ivey played at a table in the Pavilion Room that was perfect for him. Far away from the rail and the distractions, Ivey was all business during the five-level session and dominated to bag a top-five stack of 187,025 in chips. After a slow start in which he dropped under 20,000, Ivey picked up a number of big hands, including one in the final moments of the day in which he flopped a straight and successfully faded his opponent's draw. For the second year in a row, Day 1 was kind to Ivey, and for the rest of the field, that's not good news. The 10-time bracelet winner has four top-23 main event finishes since 2002.

Those visiting the Amazon Room today had the privilege of seeing former main event champions everywhere they looked. Joe Cada occupied the feature table and put on a show for the fans, building a 66,935-chip stack at the end of the night. Jonathan Duhamel, Carlos Mortensen, Robert Varkonyi and Joe Hachem fared well, too, and advanced to Day 2 with hopes of a second main event title. Phil Hellmuth arrived after the dinner break, and unlike his typical style, he was extremely active at his table. He was also outwardly friendly to his opponents as he's made a conscious decision to limit his negativity at the table. It was refreshing.

"Winning [the main event] would be amazing," said Hellmuth, who finished the night with 49,425. "I know it's doable."

Hellmuth posed for pictures and made some jokes with a few of his competitors throughout the night. For lack of a better description, it was a new Phil, armed with consideration, but despite that outgoing positivity, he reminded everyone that taking his chips won't be easy.

"It's important that people have fun playing with me," he said. "I live my life as a good guy, and everyone in the poker world knows it. I don't want too much whining or berating to make the world think [otherwise]."

Jamie Gold became the first former champion to bust after all members of that elite fraternity advanced in the first two days. Greg Raymer and Jerry Yang also failed to make it through the day.

While the champs competed in an environment that encouraged spectators, the rail following a non-champion remained the strongest of all. Daniel Negreanu, who is freerolling as part of his prize for winning the 2013 WSOP Player of the Year award, was chatty and smiling all day. From the very first orbit Negreanu was in a groove, and that momentum didn't stop. The six-time champion utilized a small-ball approach all day, focused on limiting the size of pots preflop, and finished the day with 129,250 in chips. Negreanu's focus comes from his dedication to a positive mindset.

[+] EnlargeDaniel Negreanu
Courtesy of Andrew FeldmanDaniel Negreanu coasted to a six-figure stack on Day 1C of the 2014 WSOP main event.

"I'm a big believer in clear intention, and being clear about what you want to accomplish," said Negreanu after the day. "My intention is to be in great chip position throughout the tournament and win the tournament. ... I'm just playing my game."

Negreanu has cashed in the main event in two out of the past three years.

The three-day total of 6,683 players made the 2014 edition the fifth-largest main event in WSOP history. It's the first time that the event has grown since 2010, and the guaranteed $10 million for first place will be the storyline for not only the next week, but the next few months. Some may debate the substanial $4.9 million difference between first and second, but it's going to make for a very interesting final table.

"It encourages more fight for first if the tournament is top heavy," said Cada.

Here are the unofficial top 10 chip counts from Day 1C:

1. Eric Tracey (206,175)

2. Phil Ivey (187,025)

3. Ronnie Pease (181,850)

4. Nick Yunis (171,100)

5. Tom Sarra Jr. (168,100)

6. Martin Hansen (167,250)

7. Konstantin Tolokno (161,550)

8. Justin Lunin-Pack (154,925)

9. Justin Swilling (149,275)

10. Anthony Maio (147,500)

Players who advanced on Day 1C will return on Wednesday. Day 1A and 1B survivors play on Tuesday, but as separate fields. Action resumes at noon PT.

Small Blinds: Actor Aaron Paul was hanging out at the Rio all day … taking selfies with fans. Paul said he didn't have any interest in the field, but he was on the rail almost all day just watching the action. He told me he plays a lot of poker, but couldn't play the main event due to a conflict with work. … Paul Pierce didn't feel like hanging out until the end of the day to bag his chips. The NBA star left 15 minutes before the end of the final level of the night with his 60,000 in chips on the table. In that situation, a member of the floor staff bags the chips. … Sunday, Binions will host a charity poker event in tribute to Chad Brown, who died at the age of 52 after a long battle with cancer Wednesday. The event is being organized by his ex-wife Vanessa Rousso, who has dedicated her main event to Brown. She advanced to Day 2. … The UFC's Martin Kampmann advanced to Day 2, as did ESPN contributor Bernard Lee. … It's expected that 2013 main-event champion Ryan Riess will announce Wednesday's "Shuffle up and Deal." … Other notable players eliminated: Jesse Sylvia, Tom Dwan, John Racener, Andy Frankenberger, Sam Trickett and Phil Collins. … Notable players who advanced: JC Tran, Jake Balsiger, Matt Salsberg, Haralabos Voulgaris, Greg Mueller, Amir Lehavot and Barry Greenstein.
The largest starting day in World Series of Poker main event history (3,768 players) led to a main event field of 6,683 contestants. The winner, as guaranteed months ago, will win $10 million and every other member of the final table will earn at least $730,725. This is the fifth-largest main event in history and the first time since 2010 that there's an increase in participation. Why? Online satellites, live satellites and, of course, a little bit of added money in the poker economy thanks to the repayments of the Full Tilt funds earlier this year.

Regardless of how or why everyone showed up, this is a win for the WSOP.

"With all-time records for both entrants and prize pool and the first main event increase in years, it's got to be the best summer in the 45-year history of the WSOP," said Ty Stewart, executive director of the WSOP. "We all want to have a story. And there's few stories better than heading to Vegas for a shot at 10 million [dollars]."

Stewart is spot on, and with a flawless main event thus far, players are thrilled as well. One of the bigger concerns voiced socially was the potential to play 10-handed, but the event never reached that point. In fact, there were still tables in the Pavilion Room offering cash games that can be closed when the WSOP needs additional space. Looking out a year, there's no reason to think that the magic 4,000 number won't be hit on the final starting day of the 2015 WSOP main event.

"There's a ton of pressure on that closing entrant number," Stewart said. "It's the barometer of the industry. It's the crystal ball. It's sort of like sweating whether Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow and send poker back to the hole or we can stay happily in the sun."

Stewart's second thoughts echo something I've stated repeatedly on the Poker Edge podcast. People look at the WSOP main event as the end-all, be-all. Especially outsiders who don't follow the game at any point besides these two weeks. I've stressed the aspect of growth, and I do that as a reiteration of what most people believe: A healthy main event means a healthy industry. That part is true and incredibly important. I know that when I go back to Bristol, Connecticut, they'll talk about the numbers being up and that poker is making a comeback. This number matters.

What's also true is that there's a big poker world out there besides the WSOP. There are a number of tours around the world that go through the same growth and decline cycles. How the "minors" do is almost as important as the main event, because that dictates those that play the game at a casual level. Then we need to take into consideration online poker, the World Poker Tour, the European Poker Tour, the APPT ... you get the point.

All that said, this is a huge success and nothing should be taken away from that. This is the biggest and best event in the world and there's still a long way to go until someone wins $10 million.

Here are the payouts for the 2014 WSOP main event:

1. $10,000,000

2. $5,145,968

3. $3,806,402

4. $2,848,833

5. $2,143,174

6. $1,622,080

7. $1,235,862

8. $947,077

9. $730,725

10-12: $565,193

13-15: $441,940

16-18: $347,521

19-27: $286,900

28-36: $230,487

37-45: $186,388

46-54: $152,025

55-63: $124,447

64-72: $103,025

73-81: $85,812

82-90: $72,369

91-99: $61,313

100-162: $52,141

163-225: $44,728

226-288: $38,634

289-351: $33,734

352-414: $29,400

415-477: $25,756

478-549: $22,678

550-621: $20,228

622-693: $18,406

The money bubble will burst on Day 4, which will also be the first day of coverage on our ESPN broadcasts this year. Coverage of the main event will begin on Sunday, Sept. 28, at 9 p.m. ET.

Small blinds: There were a few new faces after the dinner break, including a number of former champions. Phil Hellmuth, Scotty Nguyen and Joseph Hachem began their main events a few levels in and Nguyen hasn't fared well thus far. Other additions include Tom Dwan and Gus Hansen, who were probably crowbarred away from the cash games to get to the Rio. Once here, Dwan continued to seek more action from anyone who wanted to partake. Shocker. Hansen nearly doubled-up in his first two hours. … Then there's the story of Michael Nelson. Standing near the banner of Jonathan Duhamel in the Amazon Room, I hear a bit of commotion. There are two players standing and a member of the floor staff beside them. One of the two players, Sean Winter, takes his seat. The other, Nelson, is escorted to a chair by the floorperson and asked for ID. Nelson hands over his license and the floorperson walks away. He sits down in the chair and begins to rock, either falling asleep or passing out intermittently. Nelson, apparently intoxicated, mumbles a few words about the players who were at his table before and yells as the floorperson returns, telling them they need to stop messing with him. More of the floor staff shows up and escorts him through the Purple section in Amazon, asking him if anything looks familiar. He says yes. They stop by the doors to the side of the room and they continue the discussion. Nelson begins to get frustrated and things aren't going anywhere. I'm actively tweeting about the situation and I receive a tweet from Matthew Haugen that says, "@AFeldmanESPN table 309 is missing a drunk player." I show the tweet the staff who escort him into the Pavilion Room and to the tweeted table, which is immediately recognized. Nelson then proceeds to sit in his seat and play, sloppily, and bets out of turn on the first hand. He's given a penalty for doing so, but before he can observe it, his table is broken and he is once again sent to stumble back to the Amazon Room. He makes it to his new table, sits down, falls asleep, wakes up mid-hand and begins to ramble. Long story made even shorter, Nelson didn't make it through the next half hour. … Paul Pierce has a tendency to get up and walk around outside in the hallway during levels. It makes it a slightly harder challenge to figure out if he's eliminated. Which he is not. … Greg Raymer was the second main event champion to fall on Monday. … The last woman standing from 2013, Jackie Glazier, is out, along with Sam Trickett, Phil Collins, Melanie Weisner, Davidi Kitai and Men Nguyen. … There was a Tuan Lam sighting at the WSOP, but it didn't last long. The 2006 WSOP main event runner-up was eliminated early Monday. … A few main event champions that didn't play this year: Pius Heinz, Peter Eastgate and Chris Ferguson.