The weekend has seen more intense action in the World Series of Poker Main Event, with Day 4 whittling a starting field of 789 hopefuls down to just 407 in seven hours and three levels that included close on two hours of tense hand-for-hand play before the money bubble burst on the 649 elimination mark.
That 649th departing survivor was a part-time player and investment broker from Los Angeles, Kia Hamadani (26), who was blinded down to his last 500-chip ante before busting out. His elimination triggered a big cheer from the remaining players, who were now officially "in the money" and stood to cash at least $21,365.
For Hamadani it was a bitter-sweet experience to just miss more than doubling his buy-in investment, but he has the consolaton of a $10,000 buy-in to the 2010 Main Event, courtesy of main WSOP sponsor Jack Link's Beef Jerky.
Bursting the bubble seemed to re-energise the Amazon room, as the action picked up and the next 77 players to be eliminated took only 39 minutes.
Starting Day 4 action at the head of a still star-studded field was Bertrand Grospellier with over 1.3 million in chips - well ahead of his countryman Ludovic Lacay. Tournament Director Jack Effel reminded players that Day 4 was to consist of four levels or until 400 players were eliminated. His audience included three members of the 2008 final table, Dennis Phillips, Peter Eastgate and Kelly Kim, along with pros like Phil Hellmuth, Blair Hinkle, Phil Ivey, Joe Sebok, Justin Bonomo, Tom Schneider, Hevad Khan, Vitaly Lunkin, Dan Harrington, Kenny Tran and Paul Wasicka. Although none of those were in the top ten chip counts, all began the day with above average stacks and were clearly keen to get to work.
The longest surviving celeb player, actor Lou Diamond Phillips started with a healthy stack after some outstanding play on the previous day.
The UK contingent entering Day 4 was substantial, featuring James Akenhead in the top ten cip counts, and Adam Latimer, Kara Scott, Neil Channing, James Keys and Jamie Roberts. Andy 'Little Big Card' Fields, attracted plenty of attention by wearing a large (and probably hot) Indian chief's feathered headdress.
Other than the Bubble Boy, 11-bracelet holder Phil Hellmuth's unexpected elimination in the closing stages of the day's play was one of the highlights of Day 4. Despite starting with a healthy stack, the high profile poker star lost a bundle to Abraham Mourshaki, and then went on to get involved in another clash in the last moments of the day and was eliminated - clearly to his frustration and surprise.
Other big names to fall in Day 4 included Greg "FBT" Mueller, John Racener, Brian Lemke, Andy 'Little Big Card' Fields, J.C. Alvarado and Thierry van den Berg. David Daneshgar, Isaac Baron and Hevad Khan were taken out before the money bubble was reached, and others headed for the exit included Kristy Gazes, Chris Ferguson, Paul Wasicka, Alexander Kostritsyn, Justin Bonomo, Christina Renz, Jesper Hougaard and 2008 WSOP Main Event eighth place finisher Kelly Kim.
By 8pm Vegas time it was the end of a day full of action and not a few surprises that had lasted for three levels instead of the four planned, with 407 survivors ready to move on to Day 5, starting at noon Vegas time on Sunday.
Still in the hunt and well positioned are Blair Hinkle, Bertrand 'ElkY' Grospellier, Theo Tran, Mickey Mills, Dan Harrington, Kenny Tran, Tom Schneider, Nick Schulman and Lou Diamond Phillips, who ended the day with a creditable stack of 607,000.
Aces to watch are Phil Ivey, in 15th position on 1.276 million and 16th placed Bertrand Grospellier on 1.25 million
With over 1.8 million in chips, Matt Afflek heads the chip counts going into Day 5, followed by Team Winamax pro and European Poker Tour star Ludovic Lacay on 1,608,000. They are followed by the following top eight other players so far:
Tom Lutz 1,600,000; James Akenhead 1,572,000; Charlie Elias 1,540,000; Miika Puumalainen 1,492,000; Jordan Morgan 1,489,000; Bernhard Perner 1,426,000; Blair Hinkle 1,399,000; Benjamin Jensen 1,394,000.
Source: InfoPowa News