With a starter field still a-glitter with top names from around the planet Day 3 of the World Series of Poker Main Event was always going to be an exciting experience for the 797 survivors from Day 2A and Day 2B, who combined under the same roof for Day 3 on Thursday afternoon at the Rio in Las Vegas. Six former WSOP champions were still in the starter field - Carlos Mortensen, Scotty Nguyen, Huck Seed, Robert Varkonyi, Chris Ferguson and Berry Johnston.
The added attraction of the money bubble bursting at the 622 elimination mark, offering the prospect of an exciting minimum payout of $20 320 to every player who remained thereafter had the Amazon Room buzzing from both a player and spectator perspective.
Gus Hansen started Day 3 as chip leader, with 622 300 chips against the field average of 159 548. The phenominal Internet multi-tabler Hevad Khan was not far behind at 592 500 followed by Jeff "Mr. Rain" Banghart (570 100) Jeff Weiss (550 000) and Jon Monves (549 800)
The first players were out within minutes and the attrition rate was at a fast steady pace until the money bubble hove into site and play predictably slowed to a crawl. One praiseworthy event pre-bubble occurred at Table 205, where every player committed to donating 1 percent of their future main event winnings to Phil Gordon's charity "Bad Beat on Cancer."
Three hours into play Kenny Tran was the first to hit the million chips mark, surrounded by chips and creating a great photo opportunity for fans and media alike.
A special prize was announced, too - the final nine players to bubble the WSOP Main Event, finishing in positions 622-630 will participate in a single table sit-n-go, where the winner will receive a $10 000 seat into the 2008 WSOP Main Event, along with a year's supply of beer from the official sponsor, Milwaukee's Best.
After over 90 minutes of play it appeared that a Strongsville, OH player called John Sigan was the bubble boy for the 2007 World Series of Poker Main Event. Tournament Director Jack Effel asked everyone to give him a big hand and John was applauded by 621 relieved contestants. After that, the action and eliminations picked up significantly.
Notable eliminations included Gavin Smith (taken out by Christian Togsverd) closely followed by former WSOP tournament director Bob Daily. Top player David Williams, already out of the main event was there to see his mother Shirley give a very creditable performance, lasting well into the game before being taken out in 465th place by Brock Parker to collect $29 883.
Another woman player who gave a good account of herself was Pamela Brunson, who became the last of the famous Brunson poker clan to exit the 2007 main event in 364th place with $39 445 and in good company - 357th Robert Mizrachi and 352nd Christian Toth.
There were inevitably isolated incidents of unpleasantness, thankfully few. Perhaps the most noticable was a player who, facing elimination slammed his fist down on the table so hard that it made the chips on the table jump. There was worse to follow - when the hit came and he knew he'd been eliminated, he tipped the entire table over before being escorted from the venue. Thankfully his fellow players managed to hold on to their chips.
By the end of the day only 337 players - all now in the serious money - remained to go forward to Day 4, including major players like Gus Hansen, Humberto Brenes, Chad Brown, Jason Lester, Lee Watkinson, David Levi, Brandon Adams, and Mimi Tran, and top online players including Sorel 'Imper1um' Mizzi, Jared 'Waco Kid' Hamby, Darrell 'Gigabet' Dicken, Hevad 'Rain' Khan, Matt 'Mattster24' Sterling, and Peter 'Nordberg' Feldman.
Those six former WSOP champs had been whittled down to five following the disappointingly early elimination of 2000 WSOP champ Chris Ferguson by Bill Childs. 2007 WSOP bracelet winners Bill Edler and Alex Kravchenko are still in the hunt for poker's biggest prize money, along with respected veterans like Billy Baxter, Hans 'Tuna' Lund, and Mike Laing.
On the celebrity front, the day started with Spiderman actor Tobey Maguire and Godsmack lead singer Sully Erna, who remain in contention, and movie writer and director Todd Phillips who doesn't - he exited in the money in 380th placing late in the day.
Hal Lubarsky, who is visually impaired and uses a "whisperer" to read the cards is still in there with a chance - the second person with such a disability to play in this year's main event.
In unofficial estimates it looks as if a spectacular Italian player, Dario Minieri from Rome, who is both fearless and aggressive, has emerged as the chip leader with around 2.5 million chips after a day where the million chip mark was often exceeded, firstly by Kenny Tran and then others as fortunes see-sawed.
The remaining 337 players will now play another five levels on Friday, and then play down to the final 27 players on Day 5 (Saturday) Each of those 27 players will receive at least $333 490.
Day 6 (Sunday) will be the deciding day for the nine seats at the final table, where at least $525 934 is guaranteed for each player, five of the finishers will take home over a million dollars, and the winner takes the $8.25 million main prize. Those final table nine will have a rest day Monday to prepare themselves for the final battle for supremacy in this year's main event on Tuesday