Event 51, the $3,000 buy-in Triple Chance No-Limit Hold'em competition entered Day 3 Thursday afternoon with just 12 players, all that was left of the original field of 965.
Jon Eaton held the chip lead, well ahead of his nearest rival Frank Rusnak. By midnight Thursday the winner was not one of the bigger stacks at the start of the day; Ryan Welch, who had begun play on Day 3 around fifth or sixth on the chip list, won his first bracelet and the $559,371 first prize.
When Guillaume Darcourt was sent packing in third place for $223,459 it set the scene for the two hour heads up between Welch and Jon Eaton, a clash that turned out to be more than a little exciting.
Although starting at a 1.5 to 1 disadvantage, Welch clawed his way back into the game as the two players went up and down in chips, vying for the top spot. Around halfway into the heads up Welch began to gain the ascendancy, but by the final hand the players were almost even again.
Welch then initiated a big river shove to force the rest of Eaton's stack into the pot just slightly covered. When he turned over the nuts he ran over to his delighted wife on the rail, leaving Eaton with the second placing consolation of $344,830.
Late Thursday night there were still 20 players slugging it out in event 52, the $25,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold'em Six Handed contest, after a day which started with 69 survivors from the original field of 191.
Alexander Gruibem started the day with the chip lead, pursued by Jason Sommerville and Sam Trickett – all ahead of a hungry pack intent on making the money bubble at position 18, with pros like Isaac Haxton, Daniel Negreanu, John Juanda, Frank Kassela, Vanessa Rousso, Sorel Mizzi, Barry Greenstein, Scott Seiver and Phil Galfond still in the running.
Late night Thursday level 19 had been reached and the money was in sight as 20 players battled to stay in at least as far as position 18, where the cash kicks in at $58 699 in this expensive tournament.
Holding the lead on 2 million was Bryn Kennedy, chased by Abe Mosseri on 1.47 million and Frank Kassela (1 million).
Average chip stacks over the field were 716,250