Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Poker [Print without images]

Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Updated: January 18, 9:05 AM ET
Marquez and Moneymaker hold top spots


A short day of action was expected on Day 4 at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, as the field would drop to 24 players. And the field did drop to 24 … then 23 … then 22. On the final hand of the night, three players were knocked out, leaving 22 players to battle for the $2.3 million first-place prize and some coveted air time on ESPN this weekend.

Marquez
Meet your Day 4 chip leader, Ana Marquez.

There's a traffic jam at the top of the chip counts, but leading the way, albeit slightly, is Ana Marquez, the last woman left standing in the field. Marquez started the day in 11th place with 1.3 million in chips and ended it with 3.8 million in chips, the envy of every other player in the room. She picked up most of those chips in a few key pots, but her momentum began with a successful set-over-set confrontation with Philippe Plouffe. From then on, she coasted, building her stack by at least 20 percent during the final few levels.

Less than a big blind behind Marquez is Chris Moneymaker, and there is nobody in the room who wants to win this tournament more than he does. During the Poker Edge podcast ( found here), Moneymaker talked about his tournament rut and how he's worked to change his game. He had a tough table draw with Chris Oliver sitting just two seats away, but Moneymaker handled the aggressive Oliver and picked his spots well to take advantage and the edge in the chips.

One of the biggest hands of the day from Moneymaker came from one of his boldest moves. The 2003 WSOP champion opened the hand with a raise, and as expected, Oliver three-bet. Oliver three-betting was as natural as breathing Wednesday, and needless to say, his aggression was predictable and Moneymaker made the call. The flop came K-J-8, Oliver bet and Moneymaker called. A 10 hit the turn, and after Moneymaker checked, Oliver bet and Moneymaker moved all-in. Oliver instantly folded, and Moneymaker revealed to me after the day was over that he held only 9-9. That took a bit out of Oliver's stack, but he continued to keep the pressure on all his opponents and ended the day fourth with 3.2 million in chips. Dmitry Stelmak is the player in the middle of these two, in third with 3.3 million.

Mike Sowers and Sam Stein are the final two players above the 3 million mark, and both have the experience in past tournaments to make a difference here at PCA. Sowers started his career with a nearly $400,000 victory in 2008 at the Borgata. In 2009 he made the final table at the LAPC, earning some face time on the WPT and finished third for $654,797. Sowers is looking to re-establish his game after facing some difficult times, which he spoke about on the Poker Edge. Stein had an amazing 2010, which included a runner-up finish at NAPT Venetian for more than half a million. Stein doesn't have the big win just yet, but he's playing amazingly well and picked up cards in key spots, including busting pro Eric Froehlich, holding K-K to Froehlich's 4-4.

Leading the 2 million chip crew is Bolivar Palacios, the runner-up at the 2010 LAPT Grand Finale. Joining Palacios in the 2 million chip club are Plouffe, Martin Mathis (who likes singing and dancing to "One More Time" when he goes all-in), Galen Hall, Michael Pesek and Rafael Golka. There are 10 players under 2 million, and with the blinds at 25,000/50,000 with a 5,000 ante, they'll be looking for opportunities to double up during the first part of action Thursday.

Play begins at noon Thursday, and action will continue until we're down to eight players. Everyone remaining is guaranteed $75,000 in prize money, and anyone who advances to the final day of play will earn at least $202,000.

Small blinds: Binglaha. Yes, that is a game. The $600 Binglaha event kicked off this afternoon on three tables, and nine of those 24 players said they had no idea what the game was before registering. Considering that Binglaha is nowhere near a common game, it is pot-limit Omaha preflop. After the flop, there is a round of betting, and once that has been completed, the player on the button rolls a die. If the die shows 1-3, the game becomes Omaha high-low. If the die shows 4-6, it remains Omaha hi. Pretty crazy, but everyone playing loved the game. … In the $5,000 heads-up event, three rounds were scheduled to be played Wednesday, and 2009 WSOP main event champion Joe Cada was one of the casualties during that final round of the day. … Eric Baldwin finished seventh in the $1,000 pot-limit Omaha side event. … PokerStars Home Games went live tonight. Innovative idea in which you can create your own home game on its site. … Viktor "Isildur1" Blom is not doing any interviews with the media right now. Hopefully soon. … The $5,000 Bounty Shootout begins Thursday and was sold out early Wednesday morning with a capacity of 216 players. A number of PokerStars Pros have told me they aren't able to get in, which makes me believe the field will be different than the typical Bounty Shootout events on the NAPT and will be filled with many unrecognizable players.