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Best of Vin Narayanan

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Ryan Lenaghan grabs WSOP Main Event lead; Ben Lamb lurking

18 July 2011

LAS VEGAS - The World Series of Poker Main Event taught us three critical lessons Sunday:

1. A 10-million chip stack is irrelevant when Ben Lamb is chasing you.
2. Be frickin' careful when you move chip stacks to a new table.
3. If the players -- and their friends and family -- didn't have to be at the Main Event, they would have been watching the Women's World Cup final.

Phil Collins (not the singer) was the first player to crack the 10-million chip mark. He reached the 10-million mark early during Day 6 action Sunday, but fell back to just under 9 million chips before the dinner break. He ended the day fifth in chips with 7.24 million in chips.

Ryan Lenaghan is the WSOP Main Event chip leader entering play on Monday with 12.865 million in chips. But he better watch out. Ben Lamb is nipping at his heels.

Ryan Lenaghan is the WSOP Main Event chip leader entering play on Monday with 12.865 million in chips. But he better watch out. Ben Lamb is nipping at his heels. (photo by Vin Narayanan)

Collins, who began the day with 4.109 million, started his ascent to the 10-million chip plateau by sending Giuseppe Pastura to the rail. Collins pushed all-in pre-flop with Ad-Kh. Pastura, who opened the day with 2.095 million, called with Ac-Jc. After two clubs hit the board on the flop, Collins dodged Pastura's remaining outs and moved up to 6.2 million.

Collins felted Matthew Wantman next, to climb to nearly 7 million. And then he turned his attention to Joseph Cheong.

Cheong, who finished third in the WSOP Main Event last year, called another Collins all-in bet with Ad-Qd. Unfortunately for Cheong, Collins had pocket aces (As-Ac). Cheong picked up a queen on the flop, but the turn and river missed him and Collins's chip stack soared to more than 8.5 million.

Lance Steinberg became Collins's fourth victim about 30 minutes later (was no one at this table paying any attention?!). With a board reading 7s-10c-Qh-8h, Collins reraised all-in. Steinberg called and showed his 10h-9h for a pair of tens, a gutshot straight draw and a flush draw. Collins showed his Jd-9d for the made straight. The river missed Steinberg and Collins cracked the 10-million chip mark with 10.021 million.

Ryan Lenaghan crossed the 10-million chip barrier about an hour before play ended for the day. His late move (which also deprived Lamb of time to catch him) came when Bryan Follain used his 4 million in chips to inexplicably call Lenaghan's pre-flop all-in bet with Ah-Qd. Lenaghan had pocket jacks, and the jacks held up to give Lenaghan all of Follain's chips and a chip stack of 12.3 million. Lenaghan ended the day as the chip leader with 12.865 million.

Ben Lamb does not have the chip lead. But after passing Phil Hellmuth in the WSOP Player of the Year race today, he is clearly the person to beat at the Main Event.

Ben Lamb does not have the chip lead. But after passing Phil Hellmuth in the WSOP Player of the Year race today, he is clearly the person to beat at the Main Event. (photo by Vin Narayanan)

In most years, a run like this ends one of two ways. Collins or Lenaghan goes on a Darvin Moon-esque run and dominates the chip lead for the rest of the way. Or Collins/Lenaghan goes the route of Billy Kopp and inexplicably gives all of his chips away in one monster pot.

But this isn't most years. This is the year of Ben Lamb. And sure enough, right after Collins cracked the 10-million mark, Lamb began gaining chips -- and Collins fell back to earth a little.

Collins dipped to around the 9-million chip mark when he reraised all-in (again) before the flop against Mario Silvestri. Silvestri, who started the hand with around 900,000, called with Ac-8h. Collins showed pocket deuces. And eight appeared on the flop and an ace hit on the river to give Silvestri two pair and a minor win against Collins. Silvestri ended the day with 1.725 million in chips.

While Collins was felting people and Lenaghan was eliminating Follain, Lamb was quietly accumulating chips. With 9.98 million he trails only Lenaghan -- although most people couldn't tell you how he obtained those chips. But that's how things go when you're a WSOP Player of the Year candidate (he passed Phil Hellmuth for first place in the standings today).

Even Lamb's fellow players are in awe of how well Lamb is playing (and running).

Former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya, who busted out of the Main Event in 101st place ($54,851), mentioned Lamb as he told Casino City about his World Series of Poker experience.

Chamath Palihapitiya saw famous people at his table Sunday.

Chamath Palihapitiya saw famous people at his table Sunday. (photo by Vin Narayanan)

"I finished 15th in an earlier tournament," said Palihapitiya, referencing a WSOP $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em event (Event #32).

"I didn't run good in that tournament," said Palihapitiya, who left Facebook in June to start a venture capital firm. "I didn't really run good in this one either," Palihapitiya added.

"I never got my 'run like Ben Lamb,'" Palihapitiya said with a laugh.

"I've caught the tournament bug though. I like it," Palihapitiya said. "Before this, I only played in cash games."

Not only did Palihapitiya catch the tournament bug, but he was also one of the most entertaining players in the tournament.

His sense of humor was in fine form as he sweated a river card to pick up some chips early in the day.

"I have Kevin Federline at my table," Palihapitiya said with a smile, referring to Robert Peltecci. "And Ryan Phillippe is in seat three," he said, talking about Steve Brecher.

Robert Peltecci was pegged as a Kevin Federline look-alike.

Robert Peltecci was pegged as a Kevin Federline look-alike. (photo by Vin Narayanan)

When a tournament official said Palihapitiya looked like M. Night Shyamalan, Palihapitiya's good-natured groan was audible. "Not Shyamalan," Palihapitiya said. "Couldn't you think of any other brown person?" he asked.

The tournament official said he meant it as a compliment, before breaking the table up and sending Palihapitiya to a new spot in the Amazon Room. Palihapitiya was eliminated from the tournament when his pocket kings were cracked by Per Linde's pocket queens.

While most of the action was on the felt Sunday, there was some controversy off of it.

During the dinner break (after four hours of play), the WSOP and ESPN moved a new table of players to the main TV (featured) table. When players returned from their dinner break, Erick Lindgren told tournament officials that not all of his chips made it over.

Lindgren thought he had 2.8 million at the dinner break. But when he returned from dinner, he had 2.5 million at his seat.

Erick Lindgren is still chasing his first WSOP Main Event crown.

Erick Lindgren is still chasing his first WSOP Main Event crown. (photo by Vin Narayanan)

"Either I miscounted by exactly 300k or they misplaced my chips on the move to feature table," tweeted Lindgren. Lindgren also mentioned in the tweet that Lamb thought he was missing chips, too.

A WSOP tournament official told Casino City that tournament supervisors had moved the chips to the featured table, and that one player thought he was short chips after the move. The official then said they checked the surveillance video and independent chip counts to ensure no chips had been lost -- and it was likely the player had just miscounted. WSOP officials also said they were unaware of an unclaimed chip sitting on a seat, as was reported by some news outlets.

"Guess I was wrong," Lindgren tweeted. "They say they saw the video. Not sure why they are allowed to move my chips without me there."

Lindgren was one of 57 players still alive when Day 6 play ended. He'll enter Monday's action with 2.195 million in chips.

Poker wasn't the only thing generating excitement in the Amazon Room at the Rio Sunday. The Women's World Cup final between the United States and Japan was being shown on televisions in the room (just outside the playing area), and the loudest roar of the day came when Abby Wambach nodded home USA's second goal to take a 2-1 lead in extra time.

Minutes after the goal, the players went on a 25-minute break, and most of them crowded around the TV to watch the end of extra time and the shootout. When the U.S. lost to Japan on penalty kicks, most of the people watching groaned. But a few muted cheers could be heard from the people who bet on Japan, who were 2-1 underdogs (this is Vegas, afterall).

Other notable players eliminated Sunday include: Amanda Musumeci ($130,997) Jean-Robert Bellande (108,412), Allen Cunningham ($108,412), Claudia Crawford ($76,146), Sorel Mizzi ($64,531) and Eli Elezra ($54,851)

Other notable players who survived Sunday's action include: Matt Gianetti (7.94 million), Andrey Pateychuk (7.255 million), Bryan Devonshire (5.97 million), Per Linde (3.75 million), Tony Hachem (2.25 million), Erika Moutinho (2.075 million) and Sebastian Ruthenberg (890,000).
Ryan Lenaghan grabs WSOP Main Event lead; Ben Lamb lurking 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.