Poker: Erik Seidel

LAS VEGAS -- The second of the three starting flights brought a little bit of spirit back to the 2014 World Series of Poker main event. After a lackluster turnout for Day 1A, the tables were packed on Sunday with a group of players ready to turn their $10,000 into $10 million. Featuring a field of 2,144 hopefuls, a field size nearly three times bigger than that of Day 1A, action began with actor Ray Romano uttering the game's most famous words: "Shuffle up and deal." Spread out among the three rooms in the convention center, five levels of play resulted in a number of familiar faces accumulating some of the top stacks. One of them was Erik Seidel, who, from the very start of the day, had complete control over one of the feature tables.

"I'm happy with the way things went today," said Seidel, who finished with 134,000 in chips. "It was a good table. Lots of decent players, but no supernovas to deal with, which helps. Obviously things went my way."

Seated at an adjacent table to Seidel's was's third-ranked player and 2014 bracelet winner, Vanessa Selbst. Known for her impressive tendency to accumulate big stacks on Day 1, Selbst struggled early and was down to 3,000 in chips during the first few levels. Looking to survive, she adjusted with a more conservative approach and made it through the day, finishing with 38,000 in chips.

"I made chips on the day," said Selbst. "I've never been so thrilled to have 38,000 at the end of Day 1 of the main. ... There are certain spots that you just need to play tighter because the value is going to come later."

Scott Seiver made a similar comeback, going from 5,000 in chips to 45,000 at the end of the day. Seiver has 32 career WSOP cashes, but has never made it into the money in the main event. Many pros were among the Day 1B survivors, including the leader of the 2014 WSOP Player of the Year race, Brandon Shack-Harris, multitasker David Williams, Phil Galfond, Matt Affleck, Marvin Rettenmaier, former main-event champions Dan Harrington and Huck Seed, Jeff Madsen, Jonathan Little, actors Romano and Kevin Pollak, NASCAR's Jason White and former Liverpool back John Arne Riise. Romano has yet to cash in any of his previous seven WSOP appearances while Pollak looks to match his run from two years ago, when he finished 134th.

"I'm a nit. I'm a cockroach," said Pollak. "You can't kill me. ... I'm nowhere near chip average, but I'm in it."

Others weren't so fortunate. Russell Thomas and Joseph Cheong, two players who are consistently deep in the main event, failed to make it through. Cheong ran kings into aces in the ultimate cooler while Thomas pushed A-K against his opponent's kings. Bertrand Grospellier, Paul Volpe, David Sands, Scott Clements, Chris Moorman and Vivek Rajkumar also had their runs cut short. Elimination from the main event is often the toughest moment of the year for a poker player, and 716 players were left coping with that disappointment on Day 1B.

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

1. Trey Luxemburger (193,450)

2. Sarkis Hakobian (190,125)

3. Ryan Buckholtz (189,000)

4. Dan Wirgau (173,350)

5. Ryan Julius (165,125)

6. Maxim Panyak (158,425)

7. Jeff Norman (156,625)

8. Julian Stuer (155,200)

9. Steve Ryan (147,500)

10. Richard Moon (146,200)

The 1,428 survivors from Day 1B will return on Tuesday.

Anticipation is at its peak for Day 1C. With more than 3,000 players already registered for the final starting day, it's likely that Day 1C will be the largest single starting day in main-event history. Play is expected to take place all across the Rio, and will not be limited to the convention center. It seems likely that the total field size will hover near the 7,000-player mark, a figure that may signal the re-emergence of poker after a number of challenging years.

Small blinds: The final non-main-event bracelet of the Series was awarded today to Igor Dubinskyy, champion of Event 62. … Players who attended Matt Stout's Charity Series of Poker event offered rave reviews. The tournament benefited the Three Square food bank. … 2008 November Niners Dennis Phillips, Steven Begleiter and Kevin Schaffel all played on Day 1B. … Day 1C participants will include Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Joe Cada, Joseph Hachem and many more, but it won't include Doyle Brunson. In past years there may have been a chance of him showing up, but given his recent tweet, it seems very unlikely. … The satellite room remains busy at 3 a.m. No surprise there. … The Pavilion was emptied into Brasilia during the final level of the night. Very doubtful that it clears on Day 1C. … Daniel Negreanu added "Rounders" into the mix of movies he watches before his main event begins. Typically it's just a lengthy "Rocky" marathon. … Many players have been giving away pieces of their main event action on Twitter to their followers. Quite an interesting time to incentivize fans. Someone could get really, really lucky. … I don't believe any former main-event champion has been eliminated yet. … During the final break of the night I was speaking to Ben Lamb when a fan came up and asked to take a picture. Lamb made room with the expectation of taking the picture with the fan, but no, she just wanted to take a picture of him. She was thrilled as he stood there and posed. … After play concluded, the security-led dogs played fetch and performed tricks in the Amazon Room.

LAS VEGAS -- The bustouts continued at a rapid rate on Day 4, and only 430 players are returning from the Level 17 break. Jay Farber has moved into the lead after a stellar start and, most recently, gathered more chips as an opponent moved all-in against him after he flopped a full house. He began the day with 604,000 in chips and now has 1.6 million. He's currently seated with Marcel Luske and has been moved to one of the featured tables.

Farber might hold the edge, but Max Steinberg continues to maintain his strong position. Steinberg owns a top-five stack (1.4 million in chips) at the moment and has remained rather stoic at the outside feature table on a day when the Amazon Room is simply hectic. Players and tables are being shuffled in and out, but Steinberg's towers just simply continue to grow as he focuses on getting the job done. Coincidentally, Steinberg has worked with mindset coach Jared Tendler in the past.

The fact that four members of last year's final table remain in contention has created some fun table dynamics on Day 4. Doyle Brunson, with 260,000 in chips at the break, spent the first level next to Steven Gee, and when that table broke, the seat next to him was filled by Rob Salaburu. Defending champion Greg Merson (644,000) is now seated next to Gee, and at the table next to them is Russell Thomas, who had a railbird named Jake Balsiger looking on for a while.

While he didn't make the final table last year, Roland Israelashvilli did last to Day 7 in 2012 and is in great position for another run with one million in chips. 2006 Main Event final table member and five-time bracelet winner Allen Cunningham has also made a good move in the chip counts, having started the day with 268,000 and now approaching 550,000. All four guests on the Day 3 Poker Edge podcast, Yevgeniy Timoshenko, Amit Makhija, Melanie Weisner and Steinberg remain in contention. Timoshenko has chipped up most out of that group at a tough secondary feature table that features 2007 WSOP Europe Main Event champion Annette Obrestad.

Day 1C and 2C chip leader Mark Kroon, Michael Mizrachi, Erik Seidel, James Bord, Isaac Haxton, Paul Wasicka, Stephen Chidwick, Bryn Kenney, Rupert Elder and Blair Rodman were among the eliminations during the past level. Mizrachi's run ended with a gradual downswing throughout the day, and, ultimately, King-Jack failed to overcome Ace-King all-in preflop. This was Mizrachi's third WSOP cash this summer, with one final table appearance.

Blinds are now 4,000/8,000 chips with a 1,000-chip ante. There will be one more level before the dinner break.

Small blinds: Thomas is the first former November Niner to approach one million in chips. Guess that Jason Somerville coaching thing worked. … Tables are starting to be removed from the Amazon Room as soon as the tournament staff breaks them. There's more open space on the floor, which helps camera teams get in better positions to cover the action. … Former "Nuts" panelist Court Harrington has been at one of the outside feature tables all day and has 500,000 in chips. Harrington owns a few businesses in North Carolina in addition to playing poker. … According to the WSOP's Jess Welman, 14 women made the money in this year's event, and 12 remain in contention.

Day 2 A/B - Old School

July, 9, 2013
Doyle, Erik and "The Mouth." The iconic names of poker's stars from another generation are proving that their games are still among the elite some four hours into play on Day 2 A/B. Each will bring in at least 125 big blinds into the last level before the dinner break and if you were looking for a picture of comfort at the felt in the WSOP main event, you'll find exactly that at each of their tables.

The fans in attendance can't actually see what's going on at Doyle Brunson's table, but his rail is still significant as the iconic hat signals fans to stop and take notice of the appearance of the greatest legend in the game. Brunson continues to share smiles and conversation with his table, and before the end of the last level, he doubled to 170,000 in chips, enough to place him in the top 1 percent of the field.

"Poker is unlike any other professional game or sport," said Tim Fiorvanti, a senior writer for Bluff magazine. "Doyle Brunson is a living legend who can still participate in the game that he made famous. If he were to make a deep run in the main event it would further solidify his place in the history of the game."

Erik Seidel may not have the glorified history like Brunson's, but he does have eight WSOP bracelets and an immortalized runner-up finish in the WSOP main event in the movie "Rounders." Seidel's stack of 189,000 in chips is among the best right now and his success shouldn't be much of a surprise to anyone. The Mayfair-made star has five WSOP cashes in 2013 and is seated with comedian Ray Romano. Perhaps coincidentally, Romano's stack has dwindled so far on Tuesday.

Mike "The Mouth" Matusow is far from his chirpy self Tuesday and his calm demeanor is far from the boisterous, outgoing Matusow who has graced the ESPN broadcasts for years. Seated with defending main event champion Greg Merson, Matusow has chipped up more than 100,000 and is looking to add to his 2013 success, which already includes a bracelet win and a victory in the 2013 National Heads-Up Poker Championships.

Why have these three been successful so far on Day 2?

"Veteran players are really good at picking off short stacks, and to start Day 2, you have a lot of short stacks," said Vin Narayanan, editor-in-chief of Casino City Times. "There will be periods of consolidation, but there were a lot of short stacks to start the day."

From a mental standpoint, the fear of busting out on Day 1 has been removed and many amateurs are now back in the "living the dream" phase. After so many hours at the table over their careers, the experienced pros definitely recognize these spots and are ready to pounce.

While they may stand out to fans, these three are far from the only ones making the most of their main events:
  • Greg Merson continued to build during the past level thanks to a key win with A-Q>Q-Q.
  • Joe Cada has played relatively conservative but has topped the 40,000-chip mark for the first time this tournament.
  • Sergio Castelluccio is the current leader of the field with 260,000 in chips.
  • Actor Kevin Pollak doubled up his stack from the last level.
  • Annette Obrestad, the first WSOP Europe main event champion, has more than 200,000 in chips.
  • Cricket icon Shane Warne still hasn't drawn any crowds here at the Rio, but continues to chip up. He eclipsed the 150,000 mark during Level 8.
  • Cash game specialist Daniel Cates has never been one for patience and composure in tournaments, but he has nearly 200,000 in the main event.
Small blinds: The tournament staff is removing all the green 25 denominational chips. … Blinds are now 400/800 with a 100 ante. … The orange section in Amazon (Day 2A) is down to its final few tables. This room is starting to feel really big. … Russell Thomas and Jake Balsiger are keeping their dreams of back-to-back final tables alive. … Recent eliminations include Barry Greenstein, Chris Klodnicki, Brian Rast, Martin Staszko, Joe Tehan and Johnny Lodden.