LAS VEGAS -- The World Series of Poker main event has reached the final day of play in July and only 27 players will take their seats with hopes of becoming members of the final table.
All remaining players have secured a pay day of at least $294,601. However, they'll tell you that at this point, the jump in pay levels isn't the focus. It's all about October's final table and making their dreams of becoming the next world champion a reality.
Many players throughout the first six days have cited experience as the key to their repeat main event success. This year more than ever, we've watched as those who have made deep runs in the past continue to grind their way into the later days. Some of the players who advanced to this stage of the main event before, such as former November Niners Eric Buchman and Sam Holden, fell short on Day 6, but there was one player who reached Day 6 in 2011 and made sure another bust on this day wasn't in the cards.
Marc-Andre Ladouceur finished 63rd a year ago and emerged with the chip lead after the end of Day 6 action early Monday morning. Ladoucer won an early coin flip to chip up, then picked his spots well to build his stack without risking too much at any point. His key hand came after the dinner break, when he simultaneously eliminated both David Baker and Bobby Law.
"It means a lot," Ladouceur said of the opportunity to make the final table. "I'm very happy to start the day in that position and the goal is still to win. It's not going to change my game to make November Nine, but at the same time, November Nine would be an awesome achievement."
Outside of poker, Ladouceur is an accountant. He has 15.8 million in chips entering Day 7.
At 22 years old, Daniel Strelitz is heading into the biggest day of his professional poker career and he'll be second in chips when action resumes Monday at 4 p.m. ET. Strelitz began playing poker with a group of friends in high school who studied the game. During his freshman year of college, he hit a six-figure score online and left school to pursue the game full-time. With his dad by his side here in Las Vegas, Strelitz's life is about to change.
Strelitz started the day with 1.98 million in chips and surged into the chip lead after his pocket kings held against the A-K of Wilfried Haerig. From that moment on, he dominated. Strelitz chipped away at his tighter opponents as the table dynamics changed with about 45 players left. He peaked at nearly 16 million in chips, but after losing a few pots late in the night, he ended the day with 12.79 million.
The California native doesn't have a lot of experience getting through the main event, but one of his housemates can give him some advice.
"I'm good friends with Pius Heinz," said Strelitz. "We lived together last summer. We live together this summer. … We all have the same group of friends, so if they're all back for back-to-back final tables it would be absurd."
Jeremy Ausmus was well-positioned in second place for most of the day, but fell to 10th at the end of the night. Robert Salaburu was involved in hardly any major confrontations, but earned third place regardless.
Yuval Bronshtein, a true talent in the online world playing under the alias "yuvee04," will enter Day 7 in sixth. He cashed in the WSOP 20 times, including a final table just weeks ago. Given his experience in tournament play, if there's someone out of this field who knows the endgame strategy best, it might be Bronshtein.
Two women still remain in the final 27, Gaelle Baumann and Elisabeth Hille. Both occupied seats at the feature tables all day and both had dramatic moments that offered fans a peek into their brilliance. Hille's six-bet all-in against Jean Malherbe was the talk of the Amazon Room for a few hours and Baumann's 4.5 million chip pot against Haerig showed her fearlessness to make a big call on a big river bet. Both have impressed the rest of the field, and now, they'll both try to become the first woman to make the final table since Barbara Enright accomplished the feat in 1995. Hille enters Day 7 fifth in chips (9.77 million) while Baumann is one of the shorter stacks with 5.53 million.
Even though he doesn't have all the chips (5.52 million), Roland Israelashvili has the experience. Israelashvili has 25 WSOP cashes, a WSOP Circuit ring and more than $1.1 million in earnings on the WSOP felt. He finished 37th in the 2005 WSOP main event, but the 54-year-old is still missing a bracelet. Earlier this WSOP, Israelashvili finished fifth in the $50,000 Poker Players' Championship. Bracelet winners Greg Merson and Steven Gee are hoping to have a shot at their second bracelet, and Jamie Robbins, the 11th-place finisher in the 2009 WSOP main event, and World Poker Tour champion Andras Koroknai are hoping to secure their first.
There is a ton of talent remaining in the main event, and although the field remains strong, some of the most recognizable faces in the field were felted on Day 6. It took nearly 11 hours of play to reduce the 97 starters to 27, and Gavin Smith, Vanessa Selbst, Baker, Amnon Filippi, Amit Makhija, Leo Wolpert, Jason Somerville, Isaac Baron and Erik Cajelais were among the devastated after their main event eliminations.
Here's a look at the chip leaders:
1. Marc Ladouceur (15.87 million in chips)
2. Daniel Strelitz (12.79 million)
3. Robert Salaburu (10.91 million)
4. Russell Thomas (9.98 million)
5. Elisabeth Hille (9.77 million)
6. Yuval Bronshtein (9.73 million)
7. Jamie Robbins (8.75 million)
8. Robert Corcione (8.74 million)
9. Cylus Watson (8.50 million)
10. Jeremy Ausmus (8.30 million)
When action resumes, the blinds will be 60,000/120,000 with a 15,000 ante.