With 481 players still in the field and a third short stacked, it was destined to be a wild day. No one anticipated that the field would fall so far that we'd drop a day out of the schedule.
One hundred players were lost in the first level alone, the escorts responsible for moving them to processing unable to keep up with the flood of players. Tables were not only broken in the Amazon Room, they were removed from the premises. Players went from being packed like sardines to suddenly having room to flex their muscles-and their voices. ESPN cameras couldn't keep up with the all-in's, the shouts, and the devastations. A few players played like cats, almost impossible to kill off. Vaughn Sandman had a loyal following, and twice he was knocked to virtually no chips. He lost a three-way pot with Surindar Sunar and Dan Schmeich, only to come in third with his jacks. Sunar had kings but was knocked out when Schmeich flopped an ace with his A-K. Sandman scrambled several more hours, once moving in with A-9 on an Ace-high flop, only to be called by A-10. He spiked a 9 on the river to survive, but ultimately he couldn't stabilize long enough to survive the night (264th, $38,759). Daniel Negreanu was someone no one wanted to see with chips, and he started accumulating them gradually through the day. (229th, $42,882).
Kyle Bowker was the first over $1M, making a big move at a pot with a flush draw that pushed John Magill out of a pot. Bowker plays online professionally, and built his stack steadily throughout the day, ending in 2nd place with $1.9M.
At Casino Arizona after 2:00AM, there is a special promotion called Aces Cracked Gets a Rack, where you receive $100 in white chips if pocket aces lose. Some great players lost with aces today, the reigning champion leaving and a potential champion being crippled. Joseph Hachem had worked diligently all day, looking more like a grinding rounder than the elegant champion. His play was stellar all day, and he finally got a hand with pocket aces that showed some serious potential. He was all-in with aces vs. jacks, and a jack hit the board ending the reign of another great ambassador for poker. While Greg Raymer shook hands and held his head high last year as he exited, Hachem broke down in his brother's arms, devastated that he could no longer continue in the Main Event. He finished 238th ($42,882).
Jason Strasser looked to be a force in this tournament. He steadily applied pressure with his stellar play and timely aggression. All of the pressure broke down on Matt Wilson, but luck was with him this day. Strasser had been attacking Wilson all day. "I had been going after him time after time, and he was clearly frustrated," he said. Strasser raised $15k, and Wilson re-raised $75k from the small blind. Strasser then motioned with his hands, saying he was all-in and then returned his hands to his head. Wilson instantly called, feeling he was ahead with , but Strasser turned over pocket aces. The hit the flop, and Wilson walked away knowing he was headed home. When the hit the turn, it brought all tens and spades into play for Wilson. The river was the , Wilson screamed in euphoria, and Strasser sat motionless at the table. By the time he pushed the huge stacks across the table, he'd gone from $765k down to $225k. He doubled up a short stack when his pocket 10's were chased down by 9's, yet kept fighting through the day. "If he makes it through today, he'll be a force in the tournament," said pro Chris Bigler. Unfortunately, he busted out (169th, $47,006).
Jamie Gold produced the momentum that everyone was waiting for. He increased his stack almost ten-fold, ending the day near $4M in chips. Sponsored by Bodog, this Hollywood producer played a brilliant game, catching cards at the right time and getting big hands against him to lay down. New $10k black chips showed up for the first time in his stack, and by the end of the night the table tipped down toward his end. Debra Lalor, the top woman heading into today, ran into a brutal run over four hands when she'd reached $950k. "I lost four big hands in a row: pocket kings, pocket 10's, A-Q when I flopped a queen vs. QQ, and QQ vs A-Q when they flopped a straight." She got down really low, and then survived to the end of the night.
Allen Cunningham scraped through the night. Humberto Brenes thrived and will be a real threat for his biggest payday ever. Annie Duke is in great shape, although her attire may not play well on ESPN. Prahlad Friedman finished in the Top 20, but the two themes today were the flurry of players leaving and the massive chip swings seen throughout the day. At least 70% of the field left on a day it was supposed to be shaved by a third, so now there is plenty of room to maneuver. Blinds start at $6k/12k with a $2k ante, so the starting pot jumps up 50% for Level 21. Some players have nursed short stacks and made cash along the way. We'll see tomorrow if any of these make a big move, and it won't surprise anyone if we get down to five tables by the end of the day. Jamie Gold has the chip lead, but this is anyone's tournament to win.