Friday saw the 337 survivors from the World Series of Poker Days 1 A through D, Days 2 A and B and Day 3 in the big payouts range and eager to get started in the Amazon Room at the Rio in Las Vegas.
Top of the leader board was the daring and aggressive 22 year old Italian Internet whizz kid Dario Minieri on 2 398 000, trailed by Jeff Weiss (1 533 000) Jon Kalmar (1 410 000) another Internet player Hevad Khan (1 319 000) Kenny Tran (1 175 000) Steven Jacobs (1 127 000) and a few others in the million chip league, including Gus Hansen.
On the first hand after the "Shuffle Up and Deal" call there were casualties, setting the tone for the hard, fast poker that characterised the day. Daniel Schleben immediately fell victim to Tuan Lam, and Eddie Ray Stutts was bundled out by Alex Michaels.
And in the first hour Robert Starkey took out Simpson's creator Sam Simon in position 329 for which he earned a good return of $39 445 on his $10 000 buy-in.
Big names were soon falling like leaves in autumn, including Darrell Gigabet Dicken, taken out by Jim Kasputis. By the end of the day two thirds of the field would have exited this year's main event, with three former World Champions among them.
Robert Varkonyi, Carlos Mortensen and Berry Johnston all headed for the exit on Day 4, leaving Scotty Nguyen and Huck Seed still in the race for the $8.25 million main prize and the respect that goes with a WSOP main event winner's bracelet.
In the first 50 minutes of play there were 39 eliminations, whittling the field down to 298. Later in the contest, Spiderman actor Tobey Maguire was taken out shortly after being crippled by Donnacha O'Dea, leaving the main event in position 292 with a check for his efforts of $39 445. He left Godsmack singer Sully Erna as the sole remaining non-poker celebrity, but he too eventually succumbed in the 237th spot with $45 422.
The visually impaired player Hal Lubarsky's luck ran out on Day 4, too – he was eliminated by Scott Freeman after surviving all the way through. Tournament director Nolan Dalla called the gutsy player up onto the podium as a gesture of respect for truimphing over some 6 000 sighted players during the tournament, and commented that the man was an inspiration.
Sadly, some of the quality Internet players exited on Day 4, including Sorel ‘Imper1um' Mizzi, eliminated by Ed Betlow.
The organisers used Day 4 to additionally set up the promised money-bubble sit-‘n'-go, a consolation prize tournament for those who just missed cashing this year. Lee Dryer took the single-table tournament to win a $10 000 entry into the 2008 WSOP Main Event, plus a year's supply of Milwaukee's Best Light.
By the end of the busy day's play only 112 players remained, headed by the chip leader from Day 1B, Dag Martin Mikkelsen on 3 740 000 – a comfortable lead over the following closest opponents:
Charis Anastasiou 2 672 000
Richard Harris 2 662 000
Avi Cohen 2 392 000
Jeff Tunkel 2 323 000
Alex Kravchenko 2 274 000
Hevad Khan 2 200 000
Ryan Elson 2 137 000
Day 5 promises more of the same as the field is whittled down to 27 and some of the best known and respected names in international poker close in on seats at the final table and the $8.25 million main prize.
Watch out for some of these names in action on Saturday in Day 5: Dario Minieri – the Italian top dog from Day 3 is a little trimmed but still in contention, 2007 WSOP bracelet winners Bill Edler and Alex Kravchenko, Gus Hansen, John Spadavecchia, Lee Watkinson, former champs Huck Seed and Scotty Nguyen, Kirk Morrison, Rep Porter, Evad ‘Rain' Khan, Jeff ‘Mr. Rain' Banghart, Julian Gardner, Cory Carroll, Humberto Brenes, Mikkel Madsen and Chad Brown