On a day where three-quarters of the field ended their stay, Phil Hellmuth took the chip lead by the end of Day 3 of the WPT Championship at the Bellagio.
The pace of attrition increased on Day 2 as this deep stack tournament ran into the reality of increasing blinds and players on short stacks. The top 100 players cashed, although those who exited in 100th were rewarded the same as the person out in 51st: $46,410. This changed the strategy somewhat for the 214 players who started Day 3. Sneaking past the bubble would be rewarded, but those players without chips would not be in a position to make a deep run.
It was a day of wild swings with many experienced professionals falling short of the cash. The first level saw a mass exodus of the field as short stacks made plays at pots or big hands collided. The field was quartered in the first ninety minutes, with Jamie Gold, Liz Lieu, David Singer, Joe Sebok, Hoyt Corkins, David Dickens, Vinnie Vinh, Dan Shak, Andrew Black, Martin de Knijff, and Cliff Josephy among those out.
Raymond Davis from Commerce sat in critical shape in the first level. He was all-in with pocket aces, up against pocket eights. The flop of sent his stomach churning as his big hand had been crippled. The turn brought . A raucous scene ensued when his opponent and the table got into a big argument over whether he'd received a bad beat or not (he had not, by the way). Davis dragged the pot with the help of his adversary, who threw a pile of chips at him.
Big names were knocked out throughout the afternoon. James "KrazyKanuck" Worth sent Phil Ivey to the cash games. Anna Wroblewski turned a straight to knock out Isabelle Mercier. Raymond Davis sent Chip Reese to Bobby's Room to see when the Big Game would get started. Justin "ZEEjustin" Bonomo turned quads to take all of Freddy Deeb's chips. Others out in the afternoon included Jennifer Harman, Robert Mizrachi, Amnon Filippi, Billy Baxter, Erica Schoenberg, Scott Clements, Lyle Berman, JC Tran, and David Singer.
When the bubble burst shortly after 6:00, Loi Phan had the chip lead (1.28M) with Roland de Wolfe (1.15M) and Phil Hellmuth (1.0M) also in the Million Chip Club. As play pushed into the evening, more players filed out of the Fontana Lounge and a few stayed by the slimmest of margins.
Jared Hamby, winner of two events already here at the Bellagio, was involved in two key hands in a matter of minutes that kept him in his seat for the night. With the blinds at 4k/8k with a 1k ante, Tim Phan raised to 23k, and Jamie Ligater called. Hamby moved all-in for his 105k, then Phan came over the top for all of his chips to isolate Hamby.
Ligater called for all but 30k of his chips and flipped over . Phan held , and Hamby showed . The buzz brought a flock of railbirds and players to watch what unfolded. The flop came , and Ligater stayed in front. The turn of surged Phan to the lead. sent a lifeline to Hamby, and the dealer went to work sorting out the pot as Hamby took 350k, Phan was down to 110 with the side pot, and Ligater's pocket aces were good for his last 30k. Hamby quickly lost almost half of his stack on the next few hands then grabbed pocket deuces on the turn to double up to 400k.
Ram Vaswani started the day across from his good golf buddy, Phil Ivey, at Table 55. The two are involved in an online war of words regarding a two-day golf match where Ivey took Vaswani for over $1.4M that Vaswani hasn't paid. Tuesday, Vaswani made it into the cash while Ivey exited early.
He could have used the top prize here and had a chance to go deep until a crushing hand. Mark Gregorich (), Thomas Wahlroos (), and Vaswani () were all-in pre-flop. sent Vaswani to a commanding lead and a probable triple up. sent a chill through Vaswani, and his fear was realized when gave Wahlroos the nut flush and the main pot of 775k. Gregorich dropped to 225k, and Vaswani went out (71st, $46,410).
Others who cashed for $46,410 included Bryan Devonshire, Anna Wroblewski, Humberto Brenes, Joe Tehan, Bryan Devonshire, Barny Boatman, Melissa Hayden, James Van Alstyne, Sam Farha, Sam Grizzle, Steve Wong, Bob Stupak, Jeppe Mikkelsen, and Lee Markholt.
Sorel "Imper1um" Izzi spent much of the day near the top of the leaderboard before dropping back to 15th (703k). Izzi is one of the top online tournament players on PokerStars and FullTilt , popping up regularly at final tables. The Canadian has shown he can make the transition to live events with his 3rd place finish for $280k at the Irish Open earlier this month. Another top online player was not as fortunate.
Patrik Antonius had a rough end to Day 3. He held his own for much of the day, in 16th place with 580k.
The last two hours were tough as he dropped down to 340k and ran into a very rough hand. Ben Johnson sprinted all-in with and Antonius called with pocket nines. The flop of brought the set and left Johnson to a runner-runner straight or flush to survive. It was the flush, as sent 600k to Johnson and left Antonius to end Day 3 with 38k.
54 players will start Day 4 Wednesday, and the top dozen are:
Phil Hellmuth (1.83M)
Raymond Davis (1.70M)
Loi Phan (1.42M)
Kirk Morrison (1.33M)
Rolan de Wolfe (1.29M)
Thomas Wahlroos (1.19M)
CK Hua (1.04M)
Juan Carlos Mortensen (939k)
Mike Wattel (935k)
Ian Johns (862k)
Robert Wazelle (815k)
Tom Pniak (778k)
The Fontana Lounge will have six nine-handed tables:
Table 63 (7.09M): This is the monster chip table with five of the top fifteen in chips seated here. Raymond Davis (1.7M) leads a pack of wolves that includes Juan Carlos Mortensen (939k), Mike Wattel (935k), Robert Wazelle (815k), Ian Johns (862k), and Guy Laliberte (729k). We could have fireworks here.
Table 60 (5.79M): Two of the seven players with a million chips are here, led by Loi Phan (1.42M) as well as Roland de Wolfe (1.29M). Scott Fischman (617k) won't be intimidated by anyone here, and two-time $5k winner Adeeb Harb (424k) will try to turn his free seat into a deep cash.
Table 59 (5.63M): Kirk Morrison (1.33M) is joined by CK Hua (1.04M) to lead this table. Hua is one of the most dangerous players in tournament poker, well-known within professional circles yet unknown to the public. This table is packed with young studs and veterans, including Sorel Mizzi (703k), Paul Wasicka (508k), Jared Hamby (494k) and Tommy Vu (333k).
Table 58 (4.79M): The quiet table with chip leader Phil Hellmuth (1.83M) holding a 3:1 chip advantage over his nearest pursuant here, Bill Ferrand (633k). This table is deep though, with David Oppenheim (424k), David Levi (360k), and Danny Alaei (278k) all poised to attack one another and double through Hellmuth.
Table 62 (4.40M): Patrik Antonius (38k) needs to leave or grab some chips early in what would be considered a great table for him if he has a stack. James "KrazyKanuck" Worth sits short on chips as well with 230k, with Robert Wazelle (815k) Richard Anthony (720k), Abraham Mosseri (646k), and Thien Phan (646k) close in chips.
Table 61 (4.23M): The lightest table in chips should still be a firecracker of a table. Thomas Wahlroos (1.19M) is a tough Fin that will be harassed continually by the likes of Justin "ZEEjustin" Bonomo (625k), Bill Gazes (510k), and Tom Schreiber (453k).
The Fontana Lounge will be electric Wednesday as we get closer to the Final Table of the WPT Championships.