Just before midnight Vegas time Saturday night the 41st World Series of Poker main event was down to the wire as we went press. Only ten players remained, playing in the knowledge that a place at the final table of nine and a crack at the really big money was in the balance.
Day 8 of the main event had started midday Saturday with just 27 players - all that was left of an original entry field of 4,319 after days of tough main event poker that started July 5th involving virtually every famous name in poker and thousands of amateurs.
Please note that beginning today we are running a 2011 WSOP early qualifier. Yes it says 2011. View all the info here.
At stake is millions of dollars in prize money, including an almost $9 million bonanza for the uiltimate winner. Joseph Cheong (24), a psychology graduate from UC San Diego who was born in South Korea but lives in La Mirada, California held the chip lead at the start of the day, playing only his second WSOP main event.
Top WSOP official Jack Effel introduced MMA fighter Kevin Randelman for the shuffle up and deal call in what will be the last day of play before the final nine players are decided. "You guys are all very talented," said Randleman. "I hope you have good luck along with that talent. Dealers, shuffle up and deal!"
It took only 30 minutes for the first man to go down when Pokerstars pro Johnny Lodden saw his hopes disappear after a clash with Matt Affleck. By the three-and-a-half hour mark attrition had claimed another 7 players, including Ronnie Bardah, Matthew Bucaric, Mads Wissing and Robert Pisano, each winning $317,161, and the field was down to 19.
Two of those eliminated fell to the only Italian left standing, Filippo Candio (29) who has enjoyed a very successful run in the main event this year and went on to rake in a huge pot on a bad beat against Cheong to take the lead at one point on 27 million chips.
By late night Saturday at level 34 the $635,011 eliminations of Adam Levy in 12th place and Pascal LeFrancois in 11th had brought membership of the nine place final table to the bubble, with the chip count average at 21,957,000 and the survivors as follows:
1 Jonathan Duhamel 49,350,000
2 Joseph Cheong 39,305,000
3 John Racener 32,625,000
4 John Dolan 24,550,000
5 Matthew Jarvis 20,075,000
6 Soi Nguyen 17,415,000
7 Filippo Candio 13,260,000
8 Jason Senti 12,495,000
9 Michael Mizrachi 7,780,000
10 Brandon Steven 3,305,000
At that point Jack Effel advised the players and railbirds: "The play from ten players down to nine will probably be some of the most exciting poker you'll watch in your entire life. The next couple of hours - or however long it takes - will be intense."