In 1982, poker legend Jack Strauss forged his most lasting achievement. As the story goes, on Day 1 of the main event, Strauss shoved his chips to the middle without a verbal all-in declaration. Upon losing his hand, he stood up to leave, grabbed the cocktail napkins strewn about his portion of the table and discovered one remaining chip. He won his next three hands -- going all-in each time -- and came back to win the world championship. It was at that moment that the expression "a chip and a chair" was born.
Paul Ellis/Twitter Poker Tour Down to his final chip, Gualter Salles is now making a run at the main event title.
"I heard that happened," said 39-year-old Gualter Salles of Brazil, a race car driver turned poker player. "He won? Wow!" It's no wonder Salles is excited. He's in contention to repeat Strauss' accomplishment.
Salles was very nearly eliminated in the first level of Day 5 on Wednesday. "On the first level of the day, I started with 180,000 in chips," recalled Salles. "I raised with jacks to 16,000 and the big blind called. The flop came Kc-9c-9d. He led out for 30,000, I put him on a flush draw and called. Then, on the turn, he asked how many chips I had, I said 106,000. He bet 106,000 and I called. He had 8-9 for a set and I lost. I got up to leave and the dealer told me I still had the chip left that was protecting my cards."
So began one of the most improbable comebacks in WSOP history.
"I sat back down and paid my ante with my last chip," he said. "It got raised, I was all-in with pocket 6s and they held up. Then, with 9,000, I folded my next hand, then moved all-in under the gun with Ad-2d. I went all-in, one guy came over top and he had A-J but a 2 hit on the river. That put me to 35,000. The next hand, in the big blind I got A-K, moved all-in and got called by two guys and hit my ace on the flop: 105,000. Two hands later, I got A-K again, moved in again, got called by pocket 7s and hit my ace again, putting me around 250,000. Then I started to play normally again. I got aces and doubled up to 500,000. It went from there."
Salles is incredibly fortunate to be alive at this point (and not just in the tournament but also in real life; watch this video), but that's kind of the story here. In poker, it's not over until you're out of chips, and players need to truly understand that concept, especially in a major tournament like the main event.
"Never give up," Salles insisted. "I know the odds are against you to go very far, but you can never give up, in any sport. I was a race car driver. I had a lot of accidents, but I knew never to give up. When I saw that chip, I thought, 'Well, it's a chip!' And now I have 1.25 million."
That was at the end of the first level of Thursday's play, a remarkable finish to a remarkable 24 hours. So as long as you have a chip and a chair, anything is possible.
Main event update by Andrew Feldman
There are 121 players left in the WSOP main event as players go on their second break of the day. A member of the tournament staff said the magic number for play on Thursday is 81, and if we keep up the pace we're on, there might not be a dinner break tonight.
Michael Mizrachi has taken over the chip lead with 5.6 million, and his nearest opponent, Robert Pisano, is at 5 million. Movers during the second two hours include Hasan Habib (now at 2.6 million), Tony Dunst (from a short stack to 2.1 million and then back to 1 million) and Marcel Cole (1 million to 2.5 million).
David Baker took the biggest hit of the level in one of the toughest hands to watch. At the secondary feature table, Baker was able to get his opponent's chips in the middle holding Q-Q to his opponent's A-J on a jack-high board. With Ray Henson and a number of other friends and family watching, the turn and river would give Andrew Brokos the lucky runner-runner flush and bring Baker down to one of the shortest stacks remaining. Brokos has an impressive record in the main event, and this cash is his fourth main-event money finish in the past five years. He finished 38th in 2008.
The major elimination of the past two hours was Phil Galfond. "OMGClayAiken" struggled during the latter parts of Day 5 and early on Day 6 and would finally go out holding 6-6 to Josue Sauvageau's J-J. Other eliminations included Chuck Norris (insert joke here), David Peters and Ryan Eriquezzo.
Small blinds: Adam Levy doubled through Breeze Zuckerman holding J-J to her K-K to cripple Zuckerman. She'll need to bounce back very early after the break if she wants to continue her already impressive run. Hasan Habib is apparently a Sam Chauhan client. The mindset coach is here offering Habib advice during hands. Michael Mizrachi is now at the feature table. Agents started to try to get patches on players left and right. Alexander Kostritsyn has now cashed in the past three WSOP main events. Jean-Robert Bellande lost a huge pot with A-A versus K-K when a king spiked on the river. He then went into a speech about how unlucky he is, which should make for good TV. Two Mizrachis are left. If Michael Mizrachi happens to win the main event, there would be co-Players of the Year; he'd share the honors with Frank Kassela. Average stack is 1.75 million in chips. Every player eliminated from this point on is guaranteed at least 57,102. The next pay jump is at 99th place. The blinds are currently 12,000/24,000 with a 3,000 ante.