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Best of Vin Narayanan

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WSOP Main Event field hits the money

16 July 2011

LAS VEGAS -- For 693 players, Friday was a good day at the World Series of Poker Main Event. It was the day they began to win money.

Friday's Day 4 action began with 852 players remaining from an original field of 6,865. But the $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold'em tournament is only awarding money to players who finish 693rd or better, so 159 players were going home today without winning any cash.

With 695 players remaining, hand-for-hand action began in the Amazon Room at the Rio to determine which players would finish out of the money. In hand-for-hand play, each table is dealt a hand. And players have to wait until that hand is completed at every table in the tournament before receiving another hand. The goal of hand-for-hand action is to identify exactly which player in the field busts out, and in which order they bust out, so players can be paid (or not paid) correctly.

Players approach the money bubble in a variety of different ways.

Ilia Lekach said he wouldn

Ilia Lekach said he wouldn't play any hand, including aces, while he waited for the money bubble to burst. (photo by Vin Narayanan)

Just before hand-for-hand action began, Ilia Lekach talked with Casino City about his strategy.

"I have 122,000," Lekach said. "Until I make the money, I'm not playing another hand."

As Lekach spoke, two small-stacks moved all-in against each other in an adjacent table. One player held ace-king. The other had pocket deuces -- and the deuces held up.

"Why would I play," Lekach said after watching the outcome of that hand. "I'm even folding aces."

While Lekach was successfully folding his way into the money, Daniel Negreanu took the opposite approach with his small stack. Negreanu pushed all in during the first hand of money-bubble play on a board reading Ac-7d-6s. Mario Silvestri called the bet holding Ah-10h. Negreanu had As-Qh and doubled up to around 160,000 when his aces with the better kicker held up.

Lekach and Negreanu both played their way into Day 5. Lekach ended the day with more than 100,000 in chips while Negreanu finished with 619,000.

Both hand-for-hand eliminations happened at the same table. On the second hand of money-bubble play, Dylan Linde moved all-in for 110,000 from the small blind. Darus Suharto, who reached the Main Event final table in 2008, called from the big blind. Suharto had pocket tens. Linde had pocket eights and couldn't crack Suharto's hand. Linde finished in 695th -- two spots out of the money. Suharto ended the day with 425,000 in chips.

On the sixth hand of money-bubble play, 2010 November-Niner and third-place finisher Joseph Cheong knocked Reza Kashani out of the tournament in 694th place. Kashani moved all-in on a board reading Kh-Qc-9c. Cheong called with pocket queens, while Kashani had Ks-Js. A queen fell on the river, giving Cheong quads and Kashani a trip to the rail one spot short of the money.

Kashani did win a free buy-in into next year's WSOP Main Event for being this year's "bubble boy." And Cheong ended the day with 862,000 in chips.

Players celebrate making the money in the WSOP Main Event by drinking Kamikaze shots.

Players celebrate making the money in the WSOP Main Event by drinking Kamikaze shots. (photo by Vin Narayanan)

When the money bubble burst, the celebration in the Amazon Room was subdued. There was some applause, but nothing like the raucous cheering, complete with hugs and kisses from family, that had been seen in previous Main Events.

The celebration of the money bubble bursting seemed to reflect the mood of the tournament so far -- quiet intensity with little fanfare.

One table did celebrate by downing Kamikaze shots at the table. The table purchased the shots, comprised of tequila, triple sec and lime juice in advance for the purpose of celebrating surviving the money bubble. They kept the shots on the table, and in some cases, on their chips, waiting for the announcement that they were in the money.

Once the announcement had been made that Kashani had busted out in 694th place, the players drank their shots -- and resumed trying to take each other's chips.

John George, from Grosse Pointe, Michigan, was the first player eliminated once players had reached the money. He won $19,359 for finishing in 693rd place.

When play opened Friday, three former Main Event champions were trying to reach the money. But only one made it.

Robert Varkonyi (2002) outlasted Berry Johnston (1986) and Phil Hellmuth (1989) Friday. Varkonyi finished 514th to win $23,876.

Johnston's exit outside the money marks the first time in 30 years that he's failed to cash in a WSOP event.

Things were looking up for Vanessa Rousso when she cracked the 1-million chip mark Friday. But her fortunes changed quickly, and she ended up busting out of the tournament.

Things were looking up for Vanessa Rousso when she cracked the 1-million chip mark Friday. But her fortunes changed quickly, and she ended up busting out of the tournament. (photo by Vin Narayanan)

Hellmuth began the day on the featured television table with 77,000 in chips. He was able to climb to about 110,000 before losing ground again. On his final hand, he pushed all-in after a flop of Qc-Js-2s. Martin de Knijff called with Kx-Qx. Hellmuth had pocket threes and couldn't catch up with de Knijff's pair of queens. Hellmuth shook the hand of each player at the table and exited, as did half the crowd watching in the featured table arena. About 25 people were left in the stands by the time Hellmuth left the stage.

Hellmuth went back to Aria to shake off his elimination.

"Dealing w elimination from WSOP Big One at Aria Hotels Spa: just finished 'Royal shave,' now sunning at pool, next Deep Tissue massage...," tweeted Hellmuth.

Back at the Rio, players were disappearing faster than Harry Potter tickets.

Two hours after the money bubble burst, the Main Event had lost another 194 players, leaving just 499 players in the tournament. At the end of Day 4 a few hours later, only 378 players remained. And it was Vanessa Rousso who had the most spectacular fall from grace.

Rousso had cracked the 1-million chip mark earlier in the day. But David Bach doubled-up against her and things started going downhill. On the big double-up hand, Bach moved all-in before the flop with pocket aces. Rousso thought about it and then called with ace-king. The aces held up and Rousso dropped down to about 800,000 and Bach moved up to about 400,000.

A few hours later, Rousso tangled with Bach again and it cost her all of her chips. Bach pushed all-in with the board reading 5s-Jc-6c-9s. Rousso called with Qc-Js. Bach had aces again and knocked Rousso out of the tournament.

Rousso won $23,876 for finishing 511th. Bach ended the day with 1.142 million in chips.

"After this kinda day happens I try 2 zoom out n look at the big picture," tweeted a disappointed Rousso after her elimination. "I live a blessed life n there are more important things than poker."

Manoj Viswanathan is the chip leader after Day 4 of the World Series of Poker Main Event. He ended the day with 2.115 million in chips.

Manoj Viswanathan is the chip leader after Day 4 of the World Series of Poker Main Event. He ended the day with 2.115 million in chips. (photo by Vin Narayanan)

While Rousso rode the chip roller coaster, Manoj Viswanathan kept gathering chips and became the first player to crack the 2-million chip mark. With about an hour left in the day, Viswanathan had 2.18 million. The hand that put him over the 2-million mark was a clinic in big-stack poker. Viswanathan bet on every street of a board reading Jc 10c 9h 6s 10h, including a 300,000-chip bet on the river. His two opponents went away, unwilling to commit their smaller stacks on that hand and he won the pot. Viswanathan finished the day as the chip leader, with 2.115 million in chips.

Other players at the top of the leaderboard include: Sam Barnhart (1.925 million), Pius Heinz (1.887 million), Stephane Albertini (1.867 million) and Daryl Jace (1.849 million).

Other notable players still in the tournament include: Bryan Devonshire (1.365 million), Ben Lamb (1.268 million), Jean-Robert Bellande (1.134 million), Allen Cunningham (582,000), Erick Lindgren (492,000), Christian Harder (175,000) and Ted Forrest (75,000).

Other notable players eliminated include: Todd Brunson ($30,974), Ronnie Bardah ($27,103), Bryan Micon ($23,876), Blair Hinkle ($23,876), Adam Junglen ($19,359) and Jeffrey Lisandro (did not cash).
WSOP Main Event field hits the money 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.