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Saturday, July 14, 2012
Bubble bursts and Volpe leads after Day 4

LAS VEGAS -- The Amazon Room was filled to near capacity when play began at 3 p.m. ET. The remaining 719 players took their seats, and all eyes were on the same number, 666, the number of players who would walk away from the World Series of Poker main event with some money. Eliminations came at a rapid pace, and in less than 90 minutes the tournament board showed only 669 players remaining in the biggest tournament of the year.

Tournament director Jack Effel took control of the anxious room and announced that hand-for-hand play would begin. He instructed the dealers to complete one hand at their tables, then stand up and wait for the rest of the tables to finish. If there was an all-in situation, dealers would wait for the rest of the field to finish then, when prompted, deal out the board. As the players sat, impatiently waiting for news, the shouts of "all-in" and "call" came from across the room. Five tables had players at risk, and one by one Effel approached the tables to complete the hands.

An elimination occurred at four of the five tables, and the room erupted in applause, as the remaining players had reached the money. As for the players who were knocked out "simultaneously," since the four eliminations brought the total number of players to 665, the four men -- Steve Rosen, Roberto Riva, Dane Lomas and David Kelley -- shared the $19,227 that was awarded for 666th place. They also played out a quick tournament, and Kelley defeated his opponents to win free entry into the 2013 WSOP main event.

As expected, the line for the money at the cage formed instantly after the bubble burst. A third of the field was eliminated during the next two hours of play, and some of the biggest names in the game were among those collecting sums far less than what they had hoped. Jason Mercier, Antonio Esfandiari, Huck Seed, Liv Boeree, J.C. Tran, Shaun Deeb, Chris Moorman, Eric Baldwin, Johnny Chan, Phil Collins, Bernard Lee, Ronnie Bardah and Brock Parker all failed to make it to Day 5.

Paul Volpe's rise to the chip lead was the story of the day. Volpe began Day 4 10th in chips and took over the lead during the last level. He finished with 2.75 million and nearly had substantially more, but he lost a race with J-J to the A-K of Eric Pratt on one of the final hands of the night. Regardless of the result of the final flip, Volpe put up a Day 4 effort to admire.

"It was pretty much amazing," Volpe said. "I was just slowly winning chips the whole day."

Volpe finished 192nd in the main event in 2011 and has eight career WSOP cashes.

Eric Buchman
2009 November Niner Eric Buchman enters Day 5 fifth in chips.

A very familiar face occupies fifth place: Eric Buchman. The 2009 WSOP main event fourth-place finisher had an incredible final two levels in which he doubled his stack to finish with 2.07 million in chips. Since his main event run, Buchman has made three WSOP final tables and earned his first WSOP bracelet. The thought of players who had made deep runs in the past working their way back in 2012 is something that was discussed at length on the Day 4 Poker Edge podcast. From Buchman to Joseph Cheong (third in 2010), Sam Holden (ninth in 2011), Jamie Robbins (11th in 2009), Andrew Lichtenberger (18th in 2008), David Baker (17th in 2010), Kyle Bowker (37th in 2006) and JP Kelly (26th in 2011), the field is packed with players who have experience in this event and know what it takes to continue grinding through this massive field.

Vanessa Selbst is already making her best main event finish in 2012 and enters Day 5 15th in chips. Sitting at the secondary feature table all day, Selbst said she wasn't overly aggressive and utilized a tighter approach to get her through the day. Daniel Negreanu was similarly tight, but the stacks vary greatly as Negreanu has 302,000 in chips compared to Selbst's 1.67 million.

"Started Day 4 with 22 [big blinds]," Negreanu wrote on Twitter. "I'll start Day 5 with 25 [big blinds]. No big deal. Been here before. I'll be tough to bust. That is all."

Negreanu finished 211th in last year's main event. Freddy Deeb, John Juanda, Brent Hanks, Sorel Mizzi, Jeff Gross and Dan Shak are similarly short-stacked to begin the five-level Day 5. Amnon Filippi, Jason Somerville, Matt Marafioti, Marcel Luske and Gavin Smith are all in better shape with above-average stacks. Actor Kevin Pollak enters Day 5 with 530,000 in chips and is thrilled to cash in his first main event attempt.

"I've never worked so hard for so little," joked Pollak, who already has secured $38,453. "It truly is more aggravation and stress than I've faced maybe in my entire life in a one-week period, without compare. And the most rewarding week of my life as well."

Day 5 begins at 3 p.m. ET Saturday with Level 20 (6,000/12,000 with a 2,000 ante).

Here's a look at the unofficial chip leaders:

1. Paul Volpe (2.75 million in chips)
2. Erik Hellman (2.21 million)
3. Dave D'Alesandro (2.09 million)
4. Kyle Bowker (2.08 million)
5. Eric Buchman (2.07 million)
6. Elisabeth Hille (2.01 million)
7. Andras Koroknai (1.97 million)
8. Amit Zulkowitz (1.96 million)
9. Eric Legoff (1.94 million)
10. Nicco Maag (1.89 million)

Small blinds: Poker Edge guests include Volpe, Selbst, Baker and Pollak. … Freddy Deeb wanted to wager $10,000 on an arm wrestling match between his daughter and his opponent, saying his daughter would win. No news if that bet was accepted. … Claudia Crawford finished 84th in 2011 and 290th this year. … 2012 bracelet winners who remain in the field include Baker, Greg Merson, Brian Meinders and Selbst. … The next pay jump takes place at 234th place ($44,655). … The woman with the most chips in the field is Elisabeth Hille. … There are fewer than 10 women remaining in the main event. … Tables and chairs are being removed from the Amazon Room. … Effel said he believes we'll reach the final table at Level 36. When we begin Day 5, the players will be in Level 20.