Returning to the Convention Center of the Rio All Suites Hotel this morning it was clear that the World Series of Poker is coming to a close. The Pavilion Room is deserted, the Brasilia is not long for the world and the merchants in the hallways are packing up their wares.
This is the great poker paradox. On the surface it feels like the things are fizzling out, yet this is the time that it is growing ever more thrilling.
Of the 6,737 players who started this tournament a week ago, only 251 remain. They are now guaranteed at least $42,285 apiece, but there won’t be a single one of them who hasn’t double-checked the full payout schedule and allowed their eyes to linger for a while at the top. It’s $8 million for the champion, and won’t they all know that.
The identity of the winner won’t be known until November, so it’s a long way still to go. Today the plan is to play for five or six levels (to be determined by the rate of eliminations), before further attrition on Sunday and then a race to the final table on Monday. Absolutely every pot means something now, and with the full television stage now in operation–two side tables beside the central feature table, ringed by bleachers–the pressure will reach its peak.
When we left you last night, the invitation was to choose your own adventure as the tournament plays into its deep stages. A couple of the plot-lines have twisted out of shape and one or two others have now had their pages torn out entirely.
Jason Somerville will not be winning the 2016 WSOOP Main Event. He was knocked out late last night, in 320th place. But both Jennifer Shahade and Marc-Andre Ladouceur continue to fly the PokerStars flag, returning with 976,000 and 1.245 million, respectively. Both are a little lower than average, but may want to remember the departed Somerville’s “Run It Up” mantra.
Two former WSOP Main Event champions are still in this one. Although Ryan Riess departed, Greg Raymer (992,000) and Johnny Chan (968,000) continue the hunt for another world title.
There’s still a whole clutch of online bosses still proving they can play with real cards and chips. Shaun Deeb, James Obst, Tom Middleton, Griffin Benger, Ami Barer, Tony Gregg, Chris Klodnicki and many others are involved still.
Of our behind-the-scenes heroes, only Kenny Hallaert remains. Victor Saumont was one of the last players to be eliminated before the klaxon sounded yesterday, ending his movie-worthy spin-up. But the new schedule for the Belgian Poker Championship will still have to wait while Hallaert shepherds his 1.684 million stack.
This may yet become the year we crown our first female champion in the Main Event, and the players left all have great form. Melanie Weisner has been a top-level grinder for several years; Maria Ho has been the last woman standing twice before in the Main Event, and Gaelle Baumann came 10th in this event a few years ago. That’s the closest any woman has come to the November Nine since the concept was introduced.
There is, of course, one other potential storyline–the one that has proved the most durable over the years. We could be about to discover a new poker star, a man or woman who has flown under the radar until this point but is about to emerge in the most dramatic fashion possible.
Only time–specifically the next three days–will tell.
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WSOP photos by PokerPhotoArchive.com.