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Best of Vin Narayanan

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WSOP Main Event less Phil-ing after Day 3

12 July 2013

LAS VEGAS -- Thursday was a bad day to be a poker player named Phil. Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, Phil Galfond and Phil Collins all busted out of the World Series of Poker Main Event Thursday just short of the money. There are 666 remaining in the field. The top 648 players will make the money.

Dick van Luijk became the first player in the tournament to crack the 1 million-chip mark. He finished the day with 940,000 in chips. The chip leader after Day 3 is Maxx Coleman with 1.07 million. Joshua Prager (993,000), Max Steinberg (987,500) and Vladimir Geshkenbein (900,000) are close behind.

Ivey busted out of the tournament while playing at the TV stadium table. On a board reading As-10h-3s, Ivey pushed all in for a little more than 400,000. Max Steinberg called with a pair of tens. Ivey had a pair of threes and couldn't catch up, and he was done for the night. Steinberg started the day with 39,000.

Steinberg was quite pleased with his day after play stopped early Friday morning.

"I started with 39,000 and ended up with 987,500, so I would say today went better than expected," Steinberg said with a big grin on his face.

Phil Galfond was not the only Phil to bust out of the Main Event Thursday.

Phil Galfond was not the only Phil to bust out of the Main Event Thursday. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

"I got all my chips (prior to the Ivey hand) when somebody decided to give me a nice Christmas present when I had top two and they had just top pair and decided to throw in all of their chips."

"I also built my stack with non-showdown pots, so by the time the Ivey hand came around, I had covered everyone at the table," Steinberg added.

When asked about his game plan entering the day with 39,000, Steinberg laughed.

"Game plan?!" said Steinberg. "My game plan at 39,000 was I'm probably out of here. That was my game plan. It's way more fun playing with more chips."

He went on to say that he'd never had a day like this before.

The 1,753 players remaining when the World Series of Poker Main Event resumed play Thursday knew they weren't going to reach the money bubble today. Yet there was a definite sense of excitement that had been lacking the previous days.

In poker tournaments, four things can generate buzz -- giant chip stacks, a sizable number of tables not in play, monster pots and bad beats or "sick" run outs.

Bad beats and sick run outs happen throughout the tournament, so unless they have a direct impact on the top of the leaderboard, they tend to be background noise. Exciting background noise. But still background noise.

Doyle Brunson continued his remarkable run through the Main Event. He ended Day 3 with 620,000 in chips.

Doyle Brunson continued his remarkable run through the Main Event. He ended Day 3 with 620,000 in chips. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

Day 3 of the Main Event did feature giant chip stacks, big pots and a sizable number of tables not in play. And that changed the dynamics of the room(s).

The Steinberg-Ivey hand cracked 800,000 in what appeared to be the biggest pot of the night.

The tournament clock, for the first time in the Main Event, was steadily counting down the number of players remaining in the tournament. About 20 minutes before the dinner break, there were 999 players remaining.

Players were busting out at a rate of 1.81 players per minute. An entire section of the Brasilia Room emptied out during the first two levels of the day. The Pavilion looked like a ghost town. And even tables in the Amazon Room -- which was full -- felt spacious as players exited the tournament at a steady rate. And the entire tournament was playing in the Amazon Room by the end of the night.

And if you'd blinked, you would have missed Ray Romano walking down the long hallway with one lone friend at his side, back toward the hotel and casino floor.

(Quick aside: The two long hallways in the Rio -- one in the convention space where the tournament is held and the other connecting the convention space to the casino and hotel towers -- really do create a walk of shame effect on players who bust out of the tournament. It's a long and often solitary walk to either the hotel or the "poker entrance," which leads to the parking lot where many players park their cars. And the people that notice know the player just busted from the Main Event.)

At the tables, emotions swung between optimism and agony. On one side of the Amazon Room, two players talked about whether they'd have to pay taxes on the "actual gold bracelet" the Main Event champion receives.

Sarah Herzali confounded her opponents Thursday.

Sarah Herzali confounded her opponents Thursday. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

When they determined they would have to pay taxes, they looked for ways out of it. But they found none and concluded "that just sucks."

About 100 feet away, Carl Haller found himself in a hand against Sarah Herzali. It took about 12 minutes for fourth and fifth street to play out as Haller agonized over whether to call successive bets from Herzali. As Heller considered his options on the river, the tournament went on a break, leaving Heller and Herzali as the only two players left in the hand.

Most of the players at the table stayed. As welcome as the break was, they wanted to see the outcome of this confrontation. The television cameras, with no one left in the room to cover, noticed the drama unfolding and arrived to catch the last moments of the hand.

"The cameras here make me want to call even more," Haller said to the player sitting next to him. "I don't want be seen losing to a bluff."

Herzali stayed silent. Twice, Haller appeared ready to call. He cut out the necessary chips and had them in hand. But eventually, he mucked his cards.

The camera operators recorded both sets of hole cards for posterity -- though the cards were never revealed to either player. They then stuck around to tape Herzali stacking her chips.

"It must have been a bluff," Haller said. "That's the only reason they're still taping." Herzali, who hails from France, offered up a shy smile, but no comment. She had well over 200,000 in chips and was happy to take her break. Herzali ended the day with 280,000.

Jonathan Jaffe decides to have some fun with Pablo Rojas, architect of the coolest chip stack in the tournament.

Jonathan Jaffe decides to have some fun with Pablo Rojas, architect of the coolest chip stack in the tournament. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

Another swing through the Amazon Room brought us to a table with two remarkable chip stacks. Jonathan Jaffe had around 210,000 and Pablo Rojas had about 200,000.

Jaffe took the more conventional route to stacking his chips, going with the tried and trusted pyramid method. Rojas, on the other hand, built a chip structure that an architect would marvel at.

It was so spectacular that players from other tables were coming over to take pictures of it.

After I took pictures of both stacks, Jaffe made a request.

"You have to take another picture of (Rojas's) stack," Jaffe said.

Jaffe then raced around the table and pretended to point a gun at Rojas's head.

I snapped the picture and the entire table laughed.

Rojas ended the day with 200,000. Jaffe ended with 555,000.

Notable eliminations
Phil Ivey
Phil Hellmuth
Phil Galfond
Liv Boeree
Phil Collins
Freddy Deeb
Dan Cates
Erika Sands
Philipp Gruissem
Haralabos Voulgaris
Tom McEvoy
Shannon Shorr
Andy Frankenberger
Tony Gregg

Notable chip stacks
Maxx Coleman 1.07 million
Joshua Prager 993,000
Max Steinberg 987,500
Dick van Luijk 940,000
Vladimir Geshkenbein 900,000
Tuan Le 630,000
Doyle Brunson 626,000
Melanie Wiesner 536,000
Bertrand Grospellier 455,500
Grant Hinkle 453,500
Greg Mueller 432,000
Leo Margets 430,000
Michael Mizrachi 379,500
WSOP Main Event less Phil-ing after Day 3 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.