Few will experience the dream of winning the main event, but many get to experience the thrill of making the money in the tournament. Today on Day 3, the time had come to separate those going home with nothing and those going home with at least $20,320.
After 634 players came back from their first break, tournament director Jack Effel told them to stay in their seats as hand for hand play commenced until 13 players were eliminated and the bubble was burst.
Rahul Maitra, from Rochester, New York, was among those relatively short stacked and looking to make the money. He sat at about $70,000 after having started the day with $140,000. Maitra was active on the first hand, however, when he raised the $4,000 big blind to $15,000. The big blind folded and said, "Looks like you get a walk this time."
Maitra flipped over his pocket aces. "I should have Hollywooded it a little bit. Who would have guessed aces?"
Many players have wished for calls in similar situations only to see their pocket rockets get cracked. Take, for example, a man in an Ohio State cap on Table 3, who pushed in with and was called by . He looked mighty safe after a flop of , but we know how safe this game is. The turn of had the crowd surrounding the table oohing and after the hit the river, the crowd could feel the pain and gave the Buckeyes fan a nice round of applause.
At the same table, producer Sam Simon of "The Simpsons" fame, among other work, doubled up with when he was called by . The on the flop made him sweat, but the aces held.
At Table 6, a player all in with prays not to get unlucky against a big stack who called him with . He looks like he's about to throw up after a flop of . "That's a sick card man," he said. "Don't do this to me." It didn't get any better for him as the hit the turn and eliminated him.
There's a lot of nervous excitement and banter as players wait between each hand. Each hand takes 5-10 minutes as Effel waits for each table to finish before signaling play to resume. It's easy to see how hard it is for tournament organizers to determine that each table is ready. While all the dealers who have finished their hands are standing, so are the players who are running to see the all ins, as well as the crush of media covering every moment of play.
The ESPN crews are running from table to table as they see all ins or hear them announced by the dealers. One producer signals her camera crew over to Table 5 when she sees a player shove his stack in, but by the time the
cameras are near the table all of the other players have folded. "Never mind," she says.
Godsmack lead singer Salvatore "Sully" Erna is among those close to bubbling, but he survives by the river. He had flopped a set of tens and gotten called on the flop by A-9. A jack hit the turn to make his opponent a straight, but the board paired on the river, saving Erna.
Finally, 1 hour and 54 minutes into the level, the bubble bursts when a player is eliminated at Table 29. Claps and cheers begin around the table and as players around the room realize what has just happened they all begin to shout with joy.
"I'm all in baby!" shouts one short stacked player as he runs back to Table 6.
The cheers resonate again a minute later after Effel has determined that all hands are finished and the field is down to 621 players. He announces in a booming voice, "Attention main event players, you're all in the money!"
Effel informs the players that after they take a 30-minute break they will be given another hour at the $2,000/$4,000 blind level to compensate for the time wasted on hand for hand play.
We started the day with 797 players and it was unsurprising that they dropped slowly as the day began. After all, who among the thousands of amateurs who plunked down $10,000 to play wants to finish so close to the money and go home with nothing? It took until around 2 p.m. before the field shrunk below 700 and about 660 remained at the first break.
Players finishing on the bottom rung of the pay ladder get $20,320, more than double their initial $10,000 buy in. That's not bad, especially considering that with the less flat payout structure last year the players at the bottom of the money only got $14,597. (Actually, with the round per round eliminations rather than hand per hand some players only got $10,616, but that's because they had to split with some people who would not have technically been on the bubble had it been run hand per hand.)
The last nine players out of the money will come back at 1:30 p.m. Friday to play a one-table satellite for a seat into the 2008 main event.