Poker: Day 3

If you're a short stack right now in the 2013 World Series of Poker main event, getting to sleep after Day 3 isn't going to be very easy. Another five levels of play concluded early Friday morning with 666 players remaining in the biggest tournament of the world. The field sits just 18 spots from the money, and when players return at noon PT on Friday, one of the biggest moments of the year will arrive with a significant amount of excitement and anxiety for all who sit at the WSOP's felt.

The bubble dynamic is always fantastic. The short stacks do anything to try to hold on for as long as they can, and the big stacks love it as they try to punish the scared money. The opportunity to build a stack presents itself only at a few key junctures of the event, with the bubble being the first. The pros also will be active as the $19,106 (the minimum cash) isn't what they're searching for. As professional rounders, the goal is always the final table, and that approach is only magnified in the main event.

Max Steinberg won't be worried at all on the bubble. Neither will chips leader Maxx Coleman, legend Doyle Brunson, defending champion Greg Merson or Michael Mizrachi.

Steinberg ended Day 3 third in chips and with a smile on his face.

"I started out with 39,000 and now I have 987,000," he said. "I would say this day went much better than expected. ... I'm just happy that I had a day that players dream of, from going from such a short stack to such a big stack."

Steinberg's status in the main event changed when he eliminated Phil Ivey in a set-over-set situation. Armed with 1 million in chips at that point, he coasted for the rest of the day and finished with 987,500 in chips. Some in the Amazon Room, stunned by the result, debated whether Ivey could've saved his stack so early in the tournament.

"I don't think he can really get away from the hand," Steinberg said of Ivey's elimination. "When I called I thought he could've had a combo draw ... I don't think there's anything wrong with the way he played it."

Steinberg, a bracelet winner in 2012, had two runner-up finishes in bracelet events this year. He has $1.8 million in career tournament earnings.

After Steinberg's table was moved off feature, he sat next to the player who attracted a strong rail pretty much the entire day: Brunson.

Earlier this week, Ty Stewart unveiled a bronze bust of Brunson as a way to honor his illustrious career. What he didn't realize was that Brunson had no intentions for his career to end anytime soon. For the third day in a row, Brunson put on a clinic. The 79-year-old looked tired during the fourth level of play, but when he returned for the final session, he looked like a young kid with a big grin as he knocked out two players in the first half hour to increase his stack and ultimately end the night with 626,000 in chips. Attempting to get a little bit of extra rest, Brunson did leave with 18 minutes left in the level.

"I have so much respect for Doyle," Steinberg said. "He was the poker player who before there were coaching sites, he figured out how to play poker well, by himself. He created ideas that lasted years and years. He didn't have computer programs to tell him anything, like hard math. I have all the respect in the world for him. He has a lot of chips. If I get out, I'm cheering for Doyle."

Brunson is one of three main event champions remaining after Day 3, and while it's nice that Carlos Mortensen is still in contention, Merson, deservingly, is getting the most attention. Merson sat in front of the cameras all day, and his stack fluctuated greatly until the final level of the night when he settled down as the action around him escalated. He finished with 390,500, and if he's able to last through the bubble, he'd be the first main event champion to cash in the year after winning since Peter Eastgate in 2009.

Merson is one of four members of last year's final table to make Day 4 (Russell Thomas, Steven Gee and Rob Salaburu are the others), and the trend of former November Niners making deep runs once again is something to watch. In addition to the four from 2012, Ivan Demidov and Michael Mizrachi are representing their final tables. Before the November Nine format, Day 3 survivors Paul Wasicka, Russell Rosenbloom and Allen Cunningham made the final table of the big one.

Among the 1,087 eliminations on Day 3 were many of the game's stars. Phil Hellmuth exited quietly before dinner, as did Johnny Chan, Ivey, Daniel Cates and Liv Boeree. Jean-Robert Bellande's elimination just 40 minutes into the day was the most surprising one of all given his 21st-place chip count at the end of Day 2, and his result simply displayed the unpredictability of the game. Actor Kevin Pollak, Elisabeth Hille, Kenny Tran, Andy Frankenberger, Scott Seiver, Phil Collins, Jason Senti, Sam Holden, Jeremy Ausmus and Eoghan O'Dea also fell short of a main event cash.

Day 4 will begin with the blinds at 2,500/5,000 with a 500 ante.

Here are the unofficial chip leaders after Day 3:
1. Maxx Coleman (1.0 million)
2. Joshua Prager (993,000)
3. Max Steinberg (987,500)
4. Dick van Luijk (940,000)
5. Vladimir Geshkenbein (900,000)
6. Nick Schwarmann (893,000)
7. Matthew Huey (885,500)
8. Chris Johnson (862,000)
9. Umang Dattani (848,000)
10. Kevin Williams (808,500)

Small blinds: Tournament director Jack Effel announced to the field late on Day 3 that the champion was in the Amazon Room since all the players were finally in one place. There was a lack of an ovation, but the players did take to Twitter to share the news. ... Eliminations came at a rate of 1.81 players per minute. ... Greg Merson finished Day 3 in 2013 with 24,500 more than what he had at the end of Day 3 last year. ... Both Brandon Steven and Greg Mueller got massages the entire day. Steven joked he needed to make the final day to break even on the cost. ... Mark Kroon entered the day with 507,000 and finished with 343,000. ... Mike McClain spent time with Doyle Brunson and Humberto Brenes during the last level. If that name sounds familiar, he was "agony of defeat" guy in our WSOP broadcasts in 2004 or 2005. Oh, and he also has $1.1 million in tournament earnings. ... Third-place Max Steinberg and fourth-place Dirk von Luijk are seated together to start Day 4. ... There was no way the players were going to make the money Thursday night. Even if the number got closer, the WSOP staff would've stopped the action. ... The Day 3 Poker Edge podcast features Steinberg, Amit Makhija, Yevgeniy Timoshenko and Melanie Weisner. ... Bubble day is probably my favorite day of the main event. If you're in Vegas, come by around noon for one of the most fun/intense moments of the entire WSOP.
LAS VEGAS -- Phil Hellmuth has been eliminated from the main event, and for those that wished for an exciting blow up during his elimination, this was not your day. Seated at the secondary feature table, Hellmuth found his 10-10 to be no good against his opponent's J-J and failed to make the money in the main event for the fourth consecutive year. Already standing, Hellmuth dejectedly sighed and walked around to every one of his opponents to shake their hands. After the lap around the table, with fans applauding, he headed over to ESPN's Kara Scott for a quick interview in which he shared how tough a summer it's been for him. For the past two years, Hellmuth was the runner-up in the Player of the Year race -- he was due for a down year. Until he's able to get back on the felt at WSOP Europe, Hellmuth will remain at 99 career WSOP cashes.

Hellmuth's exit leaves only four main event champions left in the field: Greg Merson (who built his stack to 326,000 from 125,000 during the past level), Doyle Brunson (who continues to chip up with minimal major confrontations), Tom McEvoy (who has played a steady, quiet game today) and Carlos Mortensen (who is building massive towers with his 300,000 in chips). Merson, Russell Thomas, Rob Salaburu and Steven Gee are the remaining players from last year's final table and have about 200,000 in chips.

The feature table today is going to present some of the best televised poker we've seen in a while. Phil Ivey has been there all day, but due to the breaking of some tables recently, he's been joined by Michael Mizrachi, $111,111 High Roller champion Anthony Gregg and bracelet winner Max Seinberg, who has two runner-up finishes in bracelet events this year. Each of them have already tangled in huge pots, and the likelihood of all of them making it through to Day 4 is very slim. I'm expecting one of those players to emerge with a monster stack at the end of the night.

The players are now on their 90-minute dinner break. When they return, the blinds will be 1,500/3,000 with a 500 ante.

Small blinds: The 100 denominational chips have been removed from play. ... Melanie Weisner and Annette Obrestad are both at more than 400,000 in chips. ... The chip leader entering today, Mark Kroon is hovering around 300,000 in chips. The current chip leader Dick van Luijk has 1 million in chips. ... Matt Stout won his main event entry from the sign-up raffle. He started the day with 40,000 and now has 300,000. ... The new bar in the Amazon Room has been relatively quiet. Maybe it'll pick up late night or over the weekend. ... A number of the poker-themed booths at the Rio have started to close as the main event field begins to dwindle. ... With fewer than 1,000 players left, the field will be very close to the money at the start of play tomorrow. I think the earlier that bubble approaches, the longer it might take. When players are fresh, they likely to hold off as long as they can. ... Ronnie Bardah is trying to cash in his fourth consecutive WSOP main event. ... Recent eliminations include Jon Aguiar, Liv Boeree, Matt Berkey, Phil Collins and Chris Tryba.

LAS VEGAS -- The pace of eliminations remained steady over the past level and only 1,197 players have returned from their second break of the day with main event dreams still alive. The aggressive nature of the tournament continues to create massive swings for players all over the chip counts, but none was bigger than the impact on Day 1C and 2 chip leader Mark Kroon. After chipping up near 700,000 in chips, Kroon found himself sending nearly half his stack over to Somar Al-Darwich, who is the new chip leader.

Al-Darwich opened the pot and received calls from Matt Affleck and Kroon. After a Ah-6d-5h flop, Kroon checked, Al-Darwich bet and Affleck folded. Kroon called and after a turn 7c, the action was repeated with a check, bet and call. A 10s hit the river and Kroon checked for the third time. Al-Darwich bet, Kroon raised, Al-Darwich reraised, Kroon re-reraised and finally Al-Darwich went all-in for 339,500. Kroon called and mucked in shock as Al-Darwich showed the nuts (9-8).

Kroon has since settled back in, but still looks a little unnerved, even after the break. He'll have to get his mindset back together and hopefully for him, the break came at the right time for him to do so.

Michael Mizrachi had a similar swing last night, but he's been on top of his game on Thursday to continue to build in the right direction. Mizrachi holds a top-10 stack, along with Day 2A chip leader Nick Schwarmann. It was also a strong level for Greg Mueller, Melanie Weisner, Ludovic Lacay and Jake Cody, who have emerged as contenders midway through Day 3.

Not much went Phil Ivey's way during Level 12, but things are turning around in Level 13. The nine-time WSOP champion got rivered for a 450,000-chip pot after flopping two pair against his opponent's overpair, then lost a race, then got reraised postflop numerous times to lose nearly 120,000 during the past two hours. He appeared to be frustrated momentarily, but then he sat back and put on the patented Ivey stare and went back to work. In one of his first hands after returning from the break, Ivey had K-J on a jack-high board with two hearts. Bill Phillips held Kh-8h and called all-in, needing a heart or two running eights to top Ivey once again. The turn came an eight, keeping Ivey in the lead, and a queen on the river awarded the 100,000-chip pot to one of the game's best. He continued with his aggression after that and built to nearly 300,000 in chips after being down to only 120,000 less than two hours earlier.

Players will go on a 90-minute dinner break after this next level.

Small blinds: Phil Hellmuth has maintained a stack below 100,000 all day and seems to be comfortable playing small ball. He's been moved to the secondary feature table, taking the spot of Doyle Brunson, who currently has over 350,000 in chips. ... Greg Merson is wearing a Jose Bautista jersey today. He's had a tough day so far and is under 200,000 in chips. ... Michael Mizrachi has been moved to the feature table with Phil Ivey. ... Recent eliminations include Jeff Shulman, Scott Seiver, Tony Dunst, Johnny Chan, Ray Romano, Shane Warne, Jason Senti, Daniel Cates and Jeremy Ausmus.



Day 3: Bellande back to broke

July, 11, 2013
LAS VEGAS -- Well, that was surprising. Day 3 began with 1,753 players and over 250 were escorted to the rail during the first level of play. One of those players entered Day 3 with a top 20 stack and had a history of main event success, but for Jean-Robert Bellande, his dreams of another deep run fell apart quickly and left him devastated on his way home.

"There just aren't words to describe this agony," said Bellande on Twitter. "Don't wish this on anyone. #brokedevastation."

Bellande's breakdown began as his A-K lost to his opponent's K-10. On the very next hand, he picked up kings and ran those into aces. Finally, with only 40,000 of his starting 320,000 chips left, he lost a race with 5-5 to A-K. Bellande did not cash in the 2013 WSOP.

Actor Kevin Pollak was equally crushed as his main event ended early during Level II, moving all-in with a flush draw and failing to hit against his opponent's two pair. Pollak made Day 5 a year ago and went out on a brutal Q-Q versus Q-Q bad beat. He was content with that run ending so deep in the money, but this year was altogether different as he felt he made a mistake that ultimately resulted in his exit.

Jeremy Ausmus, Sam Holden, Xuan Liu, Robert Mizrachi and John Racener were among the other eliminations during the first level of play today.

Mark Kroon and Michael Mizrachi continue to set the pace in the main event as they push 600,000 in chips. Former main event champs Carlos Mortensen and Doyle Brunson also had strong starts, while Johnny Chan, Greg Merson and Tom McEvoy lost a bit during early play.

Small blinds: There will be five levels played today. ... There is a bar and radio studio now located in the Amazon Room. The bar is a popular attraction. The radio booth? Not so much. ... Phil Ivey is sitting at the feature table today. Doyle Brunson, Minh Ly and Shawn Sheikhan are at the secondary feature table. ... There is one table in the Amazon Room that began the day with 1.1 million in chips. ... There are no tables in Pavilion left, and the room will no longer be used for main event action. ... The Humphries are here to cheer on Phil Ivey holding their "Go Phil Ivey" sign as always. ... The big stacks seem to all be in Amazon today. ... There are televisions located over each of the secondary feature tables which allows fans to have a better view of the action. ... I say it every year, but man, these guys are relentlessly aggressive. ... Only Greg Merson, Rob Salaburu, Steve Gee and Russell Thomas remain from last year's main event final table. ... Blinds will be 1,000/2,000 with a 300 ante when players return from their first break.