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Best of Vin Narayanan

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J.C. Tran the chip leader at the final table of the WSOP Main Event

16 July 2013

LAS VEGAS -- The World Series of Poker Main Event final table is set and there are some familiar faces that will be returning to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in November to play for $8,359,531. J.C. Tran is the chip leader with 38 million. Amir Lehavot (29.7 million), Marc McLaughlin (26.525 million), Jay Farber (25.975 million), Ryan Riess (25.875 million), Sylvain Loosli (19.6 million), Michiel Brummelhuis (11.275 million), Mark Newhouse (7.35 million) and David Benefield (6.375 million) round out the final nine.

2001 Main Event champion Carlos Mortensen finished in 10th place after Tran knocked him out. Mortensen won $573,204 for finishing 10th.

Players at the final table are guaranteed to win at least $733,224. The Main Event champion will win $8,359,531. This year's Main Event had 6,352 entrants.

The final nine players in the tournament will now get a three-and-a-half-month break to allow ESPN's taped coverage of the Main Event to catch up. The tournament will resume on Nov. 4 and be aired plausibly live with a 15-minute delay.

When 10-handed play began, it looked to all the world like Mortensen would be advancing to the final table and Newhouse would finish in 10th. Newhouse had just a few big blinds left in his stack, but he caught an early double up through Loosli to get out of the danger zone. Then Mortensen started running into trouble as players began betting big against him. Mortensen finally made a stand when he called Tran's all-in bet on a board reading 10c-6c-3s-9c. Tran, who was already the chip leader at that point, pushed all in and Mortensen called. The Spaniard needed a club to save his tournament life, but the two of diamonds hit on the river and the Main Event was down to 10 players.

The November Nine celebrates making the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event.

The November Nine celebrates making the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

"We were waiting for the shortest stack to go," Mortensen said after his elimination. "He had just five big blinds, but he doubled up and I started bleeding chips and I didn't win any hands. There's nothing you can do about it."

"I didn't win," a clearly disappointed Mortensen added. "I came close to the final table, so it feels like nothing."

"I dream every year when I buy into this tournament of winning it," Mortensen said. "That is the dream. I'm 41 years old and I have many years to play. Hopefully I can make it next time.

Tran, who enters final table play as the chip leader, was more contemplative when looking back at his tournament.

"This is one of my last goals," Tran said after play ended. "When I first started playing tournament poker, I wanted to win a WTP event, I wanted to win a bracelet event and I did that. And the last thing on the list was to make the final nine of the Main Event and here I am.

"I'm going to set one last goal and that's to win this thing. If I win this thing, I'm going to take a nice little break and enjoy my kids and my wife and watch them grow up. You're still going to see me at the World Series, but as far as just traveling (for poker), I'm going to cut back. I want to do other things besides just playing poker. Poker should be just for fun. Hopefully I can win this thing and just sit back and say, 'I did what I did and it's time to focus on life.'"

Tran is hoping November 2013 is going to be an extra special month for him.

"I have a son that's two-and-a-half and a daughter coming in November," Tran said. "There going to be two great things happening in November. Hopefully one of them is winning this and the other is seeing my daughter."

Lehavot, another poker veteran and bracelet winner, was equally philosophical about poker.

"My (Main Event) goal was to be happy with the decisions I was making at the table and I had no expectations (beyond that)," Lehavot said. "I've been playing a lot of these tournaments and I know things can change very quickly. You can go from having all the chips to having zero chips super quick and the opposite as well. And that can happen when you're playing very well."

Riess, who graduated from Michigan State last December, has connections to the last Spartan to make a deep run in the Main Event. He used to work for Dean Hamrick, who finished 10th in the 2008 WSOP Main Event, in East Lansing, Mich.

"I used to work for him at Stacks Hold'em Bar," Riess said. "I worked for him until I shipped the Main Event in Hammond. Dean has a piece of me, so he's sweating me."

Riess, who has been grinding the WSOP Circuit to prepare for the Main Event, credited his Circuit friends, including Loni Harwood, who won a bracelet this summer, for helping him grow as a poker player.

And even though Reiss is just 21, he showed no fear when playing against veterans like Mortensen.

"After dinner break, I had 5 million," Riess said. "In the two hours after the dinner break, I ran it up to 20 million. It was an amazing level. And playing under these lights is awesome."

"Carlos and I went at it all day," Riess said. "He kept playing back at me and I wasn't going to let him get away with it."

Three French players made the final 27, but only Loosli survived Day 7 action.

"I am very proud to represent my country," Loosli said. "I was hoping two would reach the final table, but I'm the only one so I will do my best to prove French players can be as good as American ones."

"It's a bit of a dream for every poker player (to play in the Main Event), Loosli added. "It's my first Main Event. Finally this year, I decided to come play it, and I think I made the right decision.

"This tournament is very special," Loosli said. "There are so many nice people at all of the tables."

Loosli also thought the fact he was relatively unknown to the players in the tournament helped his cause. "So far in the tournament, I think many people underestimated me. I knew what kind of image I had so I could do some good bluffs.

"In November they will find out that I'm not a random player -- that I'm not just a lucky guy," Loosli added.

Anton Morgenstern, who was the runaway chip leader entering Monday with 21.955 million, busted out of the tournament before the dinner break and finished in 20th place.

Morgenstern declined to speak to the media after his rapid tumble from the top the leaderboard. "How do you think I feel after busting?" Morgenstern said to ESPN's Kara Scott, who was trying to get him to consent to an interview.

Morgenstern was eliminated from the tournament when he pushed all in for 2.495 million with Ad-Js and ran into Fabian Ortiz's pocket aces. Ortiz's hand held up and Morgenstern was out of the tournament. But where Morgenstern really ran into trouble was in two hands against Mark Newhouse.

First, Newhouse pushed all in for about 5.5 million with As-Qd. Morgenstern thought about it and then called with pocket eights. A board of Qc-10d-5d-7s-7c gave the hand to Newhouse and cut into Morgenstern's sizable chip stack.

Nine hands later, Newhouse picked off more chips from Morgenstern. With about 1.5 million in the pot already, and a board reading Ah-As-2s-3h, Newhouse re-raised all in for about 10 million. Morgenstern called and table Ac-Jc for three aces. Newhouse showed a pair of deuces for a full house. A four on the river effectively crippled Morgenstern.

Morgenstern won $285,408 for finishing 20th.

Matthew Reed finished in 11th place after he pushed all in for his final 5 million with Kc-4d and couldn't catch up to Tran's pocket queens. Reed said after his elimination he was pleased with how be played, but disappointed with the outcome.

"Even if you're the best player, to get through these many people, you have to be running insane," Reed said. "And I obviously ran insane to get here. I can't complain about getting unlucky at the end. I'm still disappointed. I was that close to a final table."

Reed said playing under the lights and in front of a loud crowd was enjoyable.

"It's quite surreal," Reed said. "It's nerve wracking, but it's a lot of fun. You just try to block everything out and make every decision for what it is. The worst part for me was how hot it was at the table under those lights."

Reed also crystalized the disappointment that he and the other player that fell short of the final table today are feeling.

"It's very grueling. When you start, you don't think you have the chance to go this deep. As you start getting closer and closer, you start thinking about it and you never know what can happen. But not this time."

Reed won $573,204 for finishing in 11th.

Veteran poker pro Rep Porter finished 12th after beginning the day 24th in chips with 2.675 million. Porter was eliminated when he pushed all in for 6.45 million with Ks-Js. Riess called him with pocket nines and the nines held up on a board of Qc-8d-4h-5s-7c.

After his elimination, Porter said his short stack never affected his play.

"Everyone for four days has been making a big deal about being particularly short stacked and there were only a couple of times in the last four days where I had less than 20 big blinds. So even though I was one of the shorter stacks in the room, I had plenty of room to play with. Lots of chips relative to the limits, so there really wasn't a lot of pressure.

"Today, I came in with 25 or 26 blinds and got it up to where I had more than 30 blinds for most of the day," Porter added. "I had enough chips to play (with). I thought I played well. Sometimes you don't win when you make bets the right way with what your hand is. Everyone who is here has gotten lucky and everyone who is here has played well. And that's all you can really ask for -- give yourself a chance, play well and see what happens."

Alexander Livingston started the day 14th in chips with 5.8 million. But he spent most of the day nursing a short stack and looking for places to make a move. Eventually, he moved all in for his final 3.25 million with Ah-Qc. Unfortunately for him, Loosli had pocket aces. The aces held up, and Livingston was out of the tournament in 13th place.

Livingston said grinding away with a shorter stack wasn't a problem for him.

"I've got a good crew of people with me, so I had good support on the breaks," Livingston said after his elimination. "I've played a lot of tournaments online and I'm used to 10-to-15 or 20 big blind stacks and grinding it out and making the correct decisions."

Livingston also said that he felt comfortable at the table, but he felt the Main Event pressure when he was away from the table.

"I don't let the stage get to me. I just try to make the right play. When I'm playing there's no nerves really," Livingston said. "It's in the break that it's pretty brutal. Between Day 5 and Day 6, I couldn't sleep, so that part is tough. But when I'm playing, it's game time."

Even though Livingston didn't make the final table, he was happy with his experience.

"It was unreal," Livingston said. "It was awesome. Obviously there's disappointment now...I'm still very happy, it's just bittersweet."

Livingston won $451,398 for finishing 13th.

Sergio Castelluccio spent most of his day grinding away with little to show for it. He started the day 13th in chips with 6.56 million and he busted out of the Main Event in 14th place when pushed all in for a little more than 4 million with Ah-5s. Lehavot called with pocket kings and the hand held up, sending Castelluccio to the rail.

Castelluccio won $451,398 for finishing in 14th.

Bruno Kawauti had 3.58 million to start play Monday. It was one of the shortest stacks in the room. But Kawauti kept grinding away and never gave up. He slowly chipped up and eventually doubled up to 10 million through Clement Tripodi. But that was the high water mark for Kawauti. Eventually, Kawauti found himself with just 2.85 million remaining and pushed all in with pocket tens. Rep Porter called with pocket sevens and picked up a seven on the flop to take the lead in the hand. A pair of queens on the turn and river gave Porter a full house and Kawauti was out of the tournament in 15th place.

Kawauti's rail, which was easily the most boisterous in the Amazon Room, gave him a standing ovation. They then carried him on their shoulders part way through the Amazon Room, before putting him down so he could hug Humberto Brenes.

Kawauti won $451,398 for finishing 15th.

Another player that rode the chip roller coaster Monday was Chris Lindh. Lindh started the day third in chips with 12.03 million. And chipped up to 19.5 million early in the day when he picked up quad aces against Mortensen. But then Lindh started bleeding chips and had a stretch where he played four consecutive hands and ended folding in all of them. Riess then doubled through Lindh, knocking another 3 million from his stack, and the day just kept getting worse.

But through it all, Lindh's support section cheered loudly and often, making their presence felt throughout the Amazon Room with cries of "Lindh-sanity."

"Having the support of my friends meant everything to me," Lindh said. "It was awesome. It wouldn't have been as fun (without them)."

Late in the day, Lindh found himself with a little more than 3 million chips when he pushed all in with 10s-9s. McLaughlin called with Ah-9d and hit a diamond flush to knock Lindh out of the tournament.

"I feel really upset that I jammed with 9-10 of spades," Lindh said with a rueful smile. But he did take home a souvenir.

"I'm leaving with a board," Lindh said with a small grin. "My rail kicked through it and I asked if I could keep it. It's a pretty cool memento."

Lindh won $357,655 for finishing 16th.

Fabian Ortiz, who started the day fifth in chips with 10.81 million, exited the tournament in 17th place during the fourth level of the day.

On a board reading Ks-9c-7s-4h-6s, Ortiz pushed all in with Ac-Qh for his remaining 2.78 million. Tran called the bet with 9s-8d and knocked Ortiz out of the tournament with a pair of nines.

"I'm proud of what I did," Ortiz said through a translator. "I'm not that happy now. But tomorrow I will be. It's the best finish ever for an Argentinian."

Ortiz won $357,655 for finishing 17th.

After the dinner break, Jan Nakladal was eliminated from the tournament. With about 2.5 million chips left, Nakladal pushed all in with pocket queens and was called by Reed, who held pocket aces called and won the hand when the board brought no help to Nakladal.

Nakladal said his 18th-place finish was easily the best he's had in a live tournament. "I mostly play online," Nakladal said. "Live poker for me is just for trips and fun. I don't take it seriously, so this (tournament) was the most serious I've ever played."

For Nakladal, playing in the Main Event was a way to mix business with pleasure.

"My friends told me it would be easy," Nakladal said with a laugh. "And I could take a trip to the States."

Nakladal, who started the day with 5.36 million, took his exit in stride.

"For five hours, I was card dead," Nakladal said. "Then I got queens and he (Reed) had aces."

Nakladal won $357,655 for finishing 18th.

During the third level of play, and just before the dinner break, James Alexander was eliminated by Lehavot.

Alexander, who began the day seventh in chips with 9.445 million, was briefly second in chips with 17 million before letting them slide away. He was sitting on a chip stack of around 2.4 million when he pushed all in pre-flop with Ac-7d.

Lehavot called with Ad-10s, and his hand held up and sent Alexander to the payouts window.

Alexander won $285,408 for finishing 19th.

Maxx Coleman did his best to grind away with his short stack and catch a double up that would vault him into contention. But he just couldn't find any traction. And during the third level of the day, he found a spot to make a stand. With Qh-Jh in the big blind, he called a big bet from David Benefield that put him all in. Benefield had Ac-3s and when the board of 2c-4c-10s-5d-7c gave Benefield the wheel, Coleman's day was done.

He won $285,408 for finishing 21st.

A pair of tough hands sent Yevgeniy Timoshenko to the rail in 22nd during the second level of the day. On a board reading 10s-8h-5s-9d-7s, Timoshenko checked and Nakladal bet 700,000. Timoshenko thought about it a for a few minutes before folding and losing more than a million chips in.

Nakladal ended Timoshenko's tournament as well. Timoshenko pushed all in for just over 2 million with Ac-8c. Nakladal called with Ah-Js. The board ran out Ad-Jd-10h-Kc-Jh, giving Nakladal a full house.

Timoshenko won $285,408 for finishing 22nd.

After spending most of the tournament among the chip leaders, Clement Tripodi fell quickly on Day 7. Tripodi began the day 12th in chips with 7.135 million. But he was dispatched from the tournament minutes into the second level by his new nemesis -- Bruno Kawauti.

During the first level of the day, Kawauti doubled up through Tripodi when Kawauti pocket aces held up against Tripodi's ace-king -- though Tripodi did pick up a king on the flop to make things interesting. That hand took about 3.2 million chips out of Tripodi's stack.

Tripodi exited the tournament when shoved all in with Ac-Qh for a little more than 2 million. Kawauti called with pocket kings and Tripodi couldn't catch up.

Tripodi won $285,408 for finishing 23rd.

Steve Gee was one of four players to bust out of the tournament during the first level of play Monday.

Gee, who finished ninth in last year's Main Event, was hoping to become the first player to reach consecutive final tables since Dan Harrington did it in 2003 and 2004. But Gee fell short of his goal when he pushed all in with 10d-7d. Morgenstern called with pocket eights and hit an eight on the flop to give him three eights. The rest of the board provide no help for Gee, and he busted out of the tournament in 24th place.

Gee won $285,408 for finishing in 24th this year, and $754,798 for finishing ninth last year.

Jason Mann began the day with 7.5 million in chips, which was the tenth-highest stack in the room. But two big hands in the first level of play sent Mann packing.

Mann lost close to 3 million in chips holding pocket queens. Mann's queens were ahead through the turn, but Sergio Castelluccio, holding Ax-Jx picked up an ace on the river to take a bite out of Mann's chip stack.

Queens were unkind to Mann in his elimination hand as well. On a board reading Qh-5h-5s, Mann pushed all in with pocket 10s. Lindh called with Qc-9s, giving him the better two pair. The rest of the board missed both players and Mann was done for the day.

Mann won $285,408 for finishing 25th.

Jorn Walthaus had the second-shortest chip stack in the Amazon Room with just 1.9 million when play started. Walthaus decided to make a stand with Ad-9h and pushed all in. Unfortunately for him, Gee had Ac-Kd and called. A king hit on the flop and Walthaus couldn't catch up from there.

Walthaus won $285,408 for finishing 26th.

About 10 minutes after play began, Benjamin Pollak exited the tournament in 27th place on a tough beat. Pollak, who started the day with 3.23 million, was dealt pocket nines (9c-9s). After Pollak opened the betting, Maxx Coleman pushed all in for about 3.7 million with Ac-4c. Pollak called and his nines were ahead after the turn with the board reading Js-2s-3c-Jh. But a five hit on the river, giving Coleman the wheel.

Pollak won $285,408 for finishing 27th.
J.C. Tran the chip leader at the final table of the WSOP Main Event is republished from CasinoVendors.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.