Late Thursday evening, the 2017 World Series of Poker Championship Event reached its second milestone. After becoming the third-largest WSOP Championship Event of all time (the first milestone), the first players to take a bit of the more than $67 million prize pool (and get a new mark on their Hendon Mob poker resumes) have been determined with the popping of the money bubble.
That didn’t look like it would happen when Day 3 started Thursday morning. 2600 players were still in contention when the cards hit the air, leaving some wondering if they would be able to make it to the money during Thursday’s play. Leading the pack when they went off the line was Artan Dedusha, but that Day 2 overall lead and a $1.50 would get him a cup of coffee and not much more until the money was reached.
More than half of the field that came back on Thursday left the Rio tournament poker arena with nothing more than shattered dreams. Of those that didn’t even come close to the money bubble, former World Champion Greg Raymer was one of the surprises. Coming back from the dinner break with a healthy stack of chips around 300K and looking to drive deep in the Championship Event once again, Raymer would get gutted in back to back hands that led to his demise. First, Raymer’s pocket tens were clipped by a rivered set of sixes to take about 40% of his stack, then saw his pocket Kings get topped by an opponent’s pocket pair of nines that found a third on the flop.
Raymer had plenty of company to join him on the rail to watch the bubble pop. 2005 World Champion Joe Hachem, two-time World Champion Johnny Chan, 1983 World Champion Tom McEvoy, Brandon Shack-Harris, Brian Rast, Mike Matusow, Adrian Mateos, Pierre Neuville, Kristin Bicknell, Juha Helppi, Doug Polk (who will have much more time for commentary on the WSOP broadcasts now), Loni Harwood and Rainer Kempe all would be sent off before the money was in sight. They also weren’t part of the decision that faced WSOP players and officials late in the night.
The original plan for the day was to play five levels (at two hours each) and quit around roughly midnight, but tournament officials decided that, with only 18 players left to the 1084 players who would earn a cash, that one more level on the night would be enough. The players adjusted to this change and, befitting of the decision, battled it out through the two hours of the extra level with several players benefitting from the extra time.
Dominik Nitsche made his statement in the extra level, knocking off Jesus Maceira Gonzales to move his stack up to 745K, while Tom Cannuli aided the field in eliminating another player when his pocket Queens stood over his opponent’s Big Slick on an eight-high board. As the end of the level approached, there were two more players to eliminate to get to the money and WSOP officials decided to go hand-for-hand.
Just before that hand-for-hand process began, there was a particularly interesting hand between, surprisingly, two pros. On a Q-3-2-7-9 board and facing a 63K bet from former “November Niner” Antoine Saout into a healthy pot, Scott Seiver heard the tournament director call for hand-for-hand play as he made his decision. More thought didn’t seem to help Seiver as he could never find the reason for a call as he chucked his cards to the muck. Saout showed some larceny in his soul as he showed Seiver a J-4 for complete air as the table moved on to hand-for-hand action.
The very first deal of hand-for-hand action brought Day 3 to a close. Two players, former WSOP Championship Event final tablist “Tex” Barch and Jason Funke, were able to double up through their hands and stay in the tournament, but two others didn’t. Davidi Kitai rivered an unnecessary full house to eliminate Quan Zhou short of the money and, simultaneously, Roger Campbell couldn’t get a fourth heart on the board for his A? as Kenny Shilh’s Queen-high flush eliminated him from the tournament.
With those two eliminations, the final 1084 were determined as a wild celebration ensued (Zhou and Campbell played one hand for a seat to next year’s WSOP Championship Event – Zhou would win that). As everyone celebrated the fact that they had $15,000 in their pockets, these players were looking to take much more than the minimum cash:
1. Patrick Lavecchia, 1.552 million
2. Pawel Brzeski, 1.546 million
3. Antoine Saout, 1.529 million
4. Jeremiah Fitzpatrick, 1.523 million
5. Derek Bowers, 1.376 million
6. Mickey Craft, 1.345 million
7. Edward Nassif, 1.345 million
8. Scott Blumstein, 1.34 million
9. Artan Dedusha, 1.288 million
10. Greg Dyer, 1.276 million
Bubbling under the Top Ten is one of last year’s “November Nine” combatants Kenny Hallaert (1.256 million, eleventh place), joined by such other notables as Kitai (1.116 million), Ben Lamb (1.016 million) and Andrey Pateychuk (1 million) over the million-chip mark. Sofia Lovgren (997K), Cannuli (990K), Nitsche (829K) and Jared Jaffee (811K) are all in good shape to make a long run.
Day 4 will begin at 11AM (Pacific Time) as the remaining players decide who gets what piece of the monstrous prize pool. While making it to this point is an achievement, all who are surviving – even Jeff Del Castilho, who sits with EXACTLY 2000 in chips to start the day – still have the dream of becoming poker’s next World Champion. That still is a long way away, however, as the 2017 World Series of Poker grinds onward.
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