ESPN will have a new problem with the final table of Event 9: figuring out how to fit all the chatter into one episode. With the last nine they’ve come up with, programmers in Bristol could launch their own new poker reality show for the Fall Sweeps season. The stars of the last nine include chip leader Vinnie Vinh, crooner Marcel Luske, Isabelle Mercier at her first WSOP final table, and Mr. Wallflower himself, Phil Hellmuth. Hellmuth will be focused on joining Johnny Chan and Doyle Brunson as the only players to capture ten bracelets.
A field of 622 players scraped up the $5k entry fee, inevitably meaning each table would start with solid players holding enough chips to play as they saw fit. Hellmuth started Event 9 in what has become his trademark in WSOP events: sitting in traffic. He arrived ninety minutes into the session and had to chase early chip leaders Greg Raymer, Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi, Dave “Devilfish” Ulliott, Paul Darden, and Juan Carlos Mortensen. With the concentration of poker stars in this event, the knockouts were glittering. In a battle of regular Joe’s, Joe Awada sent Joe Hachem to the rail. Sam Farha knocked out Phil Ivey after he was crippled by Chip Jett. Mike Caro ousted T.J. Cloutier, the defending champion in this event. After dinner break, Billy Baxter
knocked out Raymer and Steve Danneman on the same hand, and Vinnie Vinh eliminated Barry Greenstein late in Day 1. Hellmuth spent Day 1 methodically building his stacks with excellent play and some incredible reads. On a board of , Scott Numoto pushed all-in for his last $23k into a pot of $23k. Hellmuth folded two pair, showing then launched his new lecture series on the art of playing poker. Hellmuth recovered to end Day 1 third in chips behind Montreal’s Erik Cajelais and Steve Prentky from Las Vegas. The Grinder was one of four bubble boys who were knocked out late, squeaking into the money.
Day 2 would work down from sixty to nine players, all guaranteed to cash in this event. Isabelle Mercier, a new ‘fan’ favorite for her attractive looks and her relentless aggression, was at risk of an early exit when her caught an ace vs. . Within an hour, she had pushed again, this time holding K-Q against a baby ace. She hit a king to survive and doubled up to just under $100k in chips. A couple of famous husbands who are great players cashed after the first break. Rene Angelil, whose wife Celine Dion works nightly at Caesar’s Palace, preceded Marco Traniello’s exit. Marco’s wife, Jennifer Harman, cashed twice last week and desperately wants her third bracelet. Jean-Robert Bellande spent these two days in an active frenzy, chatting non-stop, elated in the pots that he pulled from the felt. He battled with Hellmuth much of the event, and he had much of the crowd rooting for him. His night ended in 21st ($14,617), chased down by Dang Trinh’s bad read turned good as his baby pocket pair of threes were good for a runner-runner straight.
Two crucial hands set the stage for the final table. Hellmuth doubled up with pocket aces vs. Hung La’s queens (17th, $20,464) while Mercier’s love of baby aces again came through for her. Her became a huge hand vs. Dang Trinh’s pocket kings, as the board gave her a full house and over $200k in chips. Trinh had $200k in chips and made it to the last ten, but his was no good against Marcel Luske. The flop came , and Trinh moved all-in. Luske quickly called with . His flopped straight held up, and Trinh wouldn’t make the TV table (10th, $32,157).
There should be standing room only for Thursday’s final table. Phil Hellmuth will be after history, looking to join Johnny Chan and Doyle Brunson as the only two players to earn ten WSOP bracelets. He’ll have his hands full with a mix of aggressive players and tight rocks at the table. Tune into PokerWorks for a recap of the most anticipated final table yet at the World Series of Poker.