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Best of Vin Narayanan

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Ivey stalking the leaders at the WSOP Main Event

15 July 2009

LAS VEGAS -- The World Series of Poker Main Event played down from 64 players to 27 players Tuesday, and two of its brightest stars are still alive.

Phil Ivey and Antonio Esfandiari survived nearly eight grueling hours of play to advance and will play for a seat in the final table Wednesday. The current chip leaders are Darvin Moon (20.16 million) and Billy Kopp (15.97 million). Ivey has 11.35 million in chips while Esfandiari has 4.47 million.

Dennis Phillips finished in 45th place and won $178,857. He also earned the right to never listen to another bad beat story again. In his final hand of the Main Event, Phillips called an all-in bet with the ace and king of diamonds. His opponent, Francois Balmigere, held the ace and king of spades. Two spades hit on the flop, and another on the river to give Balmigere a flush and send Phillips to the rail.

A crestfallen Phillips stopped to pose for pictures with fans as he left the Amazon Room in the Rio.

Dennis Phillips

Dennis Phillips followed up his third-place finish in the 2008 WSOP Main Event with a 45th-place finish in 2009. (Photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

"I love the Main Event," Phillips said. "I'll be back next year."

"There are about 6,400 players that would trade places with me," Phillips added before leaving for a private suite.

As Phillips was busting out of the Main Event, Ivey was stalking the chip leaders.

The Ivey experience

Watching Ivey play is a very different experience than watching, say, Daniel Negreanu. Both are extremely entertaining, but in vastly different ways. Negreanu is downright funny at the table. His non-stop conversation is fun to listen too, and can make hours of poker go by quickly.

Ivey is equally entertaining. But he doesn't do it by talking up a storm. Instead, his betting and facial expressions speak for themselves.

Ivey is a whirlwind of aggression at the table. He doesn't just bet and call. He raises, and re-raises and re-raises. The pressure he places on opponents is constant and fierce. And most players do crack under the pressure. They look at Ivey, then they look at their cards, then they look at Ivey, and then they muck with an utterly defeated look on their faces. If it wasn't so painful for the players that lost their chips to Ivey, the whole routine would be comical.

But as entertaining as it is to watch Ivey bet, watching his facial expressions throughout the day is even more fun.

He's a perpetual yawner at the table -- and sometimes, it becomes contagious. At one table late in the day, three or four players at the table started yawning after Ivey did.

He also has the patented sideways stare, where he sizes up players out of the corner his eyes. And then there's the look he gives people right in front of him. His eyeballs move up and down rapidly as he tries to get a read on his opponent.

Ivey is quite congenial as well. He was laughing with other players at the table Tuesday. He jokingly blamed losing a pot on fans cheering for his opponent. And he teased a player who was trying to trade some 25,000 chips in for Ivey's orange 5,000 chips. Ivey stacked the chips for the trade and slowly slid them over, and then pulled them back. He pushed the chips over again, and then pulled them back before finally releasing them to his fellow player with a laugh.

And when the fans chant "Ivey, Ivey, Ivey" after he wins a pot, he offers up a wry smile or grin in thanks.

With more than 11 million in chips, Ivey is certainly in position to entertain poker fans at the World Series for quite a while longer. Let's hope he stays around long enough to do so.

Photos: The many faces of Phil Ivey (All photos by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)


Phil Ivey
Phil Ivey
Phil Ivey
Phil Ivey
Phil Ivey
Phil Ivey
Ivey stalking the leaders at the WSOP Main Event is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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Best of Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan

Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.

Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.