The Doyle Brunson Five Diamond Poker Classic in Las Vegas is one of the favorite stops on the World Poker Tour each season. Not only is it a $15,000 buy-in event, but it is the last major tournament prior to the holiday season and the end of the year. Thus, the Fontana Lounge at the Bellagio was packed with players, all with the hopes of scoring big before heading into 2009.
Blinds for both of the starting days were 50/100, and each player had 45,000 in chips. A total of 203 players took to the felt on Day 1A, and the field was packed with professional players, including the man the tournament was named after, Doyle Brunson. Players were leaving in a fairly quick fashion despite the deep starting stacks, and among the ones who left early in the day were Will Failla, Josh Arieh, Barry Shulman, Joe Sebok, Shannon Shorr, John Juanda, and Peter Feldman. As the day progressed, they were joined on the rail by Brandon Cantu, David Williams, and Theo Tran, the latter of the two who took their eliminations at the hands of Phil Hellmuth.
The eliminations and consistent chip accumulation of Phil Hellmuth put him at the top of the leaderboard when the day concluded, and he sat there with 188,150. Gary Gibbs held up second position with 169,075, but not far behind was Clonie Gowen, Kido Pham, and Ryan Young. Also in the top ten were Luke Staudenmaier, Nenad Medic, Devin Porter, Greg Raymer, and Amnon Filippi - a star-studded leaderboard by all counts. There were 150 survivors from Day 1A.
Day 1B brought another 294 players to the field, creating a total field size of 497 and a total prize pool of $7,231,350. The top 100 finishers were scheduled to be paid, with first place taking home $1,538,730 for the win.
Again, the field was stacked with recognizable pros, with one table being notably full of champions - WPT, WSOP, and EPT - including Patrick Bueno, Glenn Chorney, Carlos Mortensen, Michael Martin, David Chiu, David Sklansky, and Mark Newhouse. The first player eliminated in the day was not well known, however; it was Ed Brogdon who left just under 30 minutes into the day’s action. Others who followed were Scotty Nguyen, Allen Kessler, Sammy Farha, and J.J. Liu.
By the end of the day, the chip leader, Paul Niemela with 260,775, had overtaken the overall leaderboard’s top spot by quite a large margin, and Evan McNiff finished with 190,375 to take second. The rest of the Day 1B chip leaders included Marco Traniello, Kevin Schaffel, Carlos Mortensen, Lex Veldhuis, Jared Rubin, and Jim Routas.
A massive crowd of 376 players returned to play Day 2 at the Bellagio. First to go was actress-turned-poker pro Jennifer Tilly, and Paul Wasicka didn’t take much time heading to the rail himself. Daniel Negreanu was also eliminated as the day moved along, as was Alan Goehring, Amir Vahedi, Rhynie Campbell, and John Phan.
Isabelle Mercier made a tough stand with a short stack midday when she quadrupled up, then tripled up to sit with 32K. But her good run wasn’t meant to hold up, as she was finally eliminated by Kevin Saul. Others who left the tournament were Bob Stupak, Vivek Rajkumar, Jennifer Harman, Michael Gracz, David Pham, Ivan Demidov, Erik Seidel, and Bertrand Grospellier. Ultimately, only 139 remained when the five levels of play completed.
Ahead in the chip counts was Justin Young with 552,900 in chips, closely followed by Chuck Kelley with 540,900. Others at the top of the leaderboard were Evan McNiff, Tuan Le, Kido Pham, Clonie Gowen, and Phil Hellmuth, making the playdown to the money look all the more interesting.
Day 3 began with those 139 playing to the money and completing five levels or hitting the final six, whichever feat would be accomplished first. Kevin Saul was one of the first out for the day, and Nenad Medic, Eli Elezra, Thor Hansen, Jason Potter, and Layne Flack were close behind. With 116 players left, the action slowed.
Over time, Allen Cunningham was able to take one of those players out, Matthew Glantz and Burt Boutin left the event, and Sorel Mizzi, Dennis Phillips, Gabe Kaplan, and Liz Lieu did so as well. Joe Hachem went out very close to the money when his kings were cracked by the A-K of Robert Mizrachi, and Jon Friedberg was eliminated in 102nd place.
And just as hand-for-hand was ready to get underway, it was discovered that another player busted just after Friedberg. It was a pot between Jason Dewitt and Chino Rheem where the latter put Dewitt to the test with an all-in move on a board. Dewitt called for all of his chips, but when Rheem showed pocket aces for the full house, Dewitt mucked his cards and left in 101st place as the bubble player.
That made way for Kevin Schaffel to be eliminated in 100th place with a $21,620 prize. Other notables ousted shortly thereafter included Marco Traniello in 97th, Devin Porter in 94th, Phil Hellmuth in 93rd, Johnny Chan in 92nd, and David Sklansky in 91st. After Humberto Brenes went out in 78th place and Annie Duke in 76th, it was Jon Turner and Minh Ly who were eliminated in the same hand by Barry Greenstein in 74th and 73rd places, then Kristy Gazes and Curt Kohlberg tied for a 70th place exit. Rene Angelil, husband of Celine Dion, left in 68th place, followed by Michael Binger in 67th, Doyle Brunson in 66th, Victor Ramdin in 61st, Antonio Esfandiari in 59th, and Dutch Boyd in 58th.
Play stopped at the end of the fifth level of the day with 55 players still standing - or sitting, as it were. Evan McNiff was the chip leader with 1,035,000, and was clearly the most consistent player in the field thus far with spots in the top ten for three playing days straight. Second on the leaderboard was Chino Rheem with just over 900K, followed by Jack Wu, Steve Sung, and Nick Schulman in the top five.
As was the case on the previous day, Day 4 would play for five levels or until the final six players were determined, whichever came first. The action began with the elimination of Tim Vance in 55th place, which was worth $23,420, and Tuan Le was next in the 54th spot. Other significant bust-outs for the day included:
Allen Cunningham - 48th place ($28,825)
Nam Le - 47th place ($28,825)
Matt Giannetti - 46th place ($28,825)
Scott Bohlman - 43rd place ($28,825)
Kido Pham - 42nd place ($28,825)
Jonathan Little - 39th place ($36,030)
Barry Greenstein - 38th place ($36,030)
David Oppenheim - 30th place ($43,235)
Brad Berman - 29th place ($43,235)
Andy Bloch - 27th place ($43,235)
David Benyamine - 25th place ($43,235)
John Hennigan - 23rd place ($43,235)
Jacobo Fernandez - 22nd place ($43,235)
Tom Franklin - 20th place ($57,645)
And with the elimination of Steve Landfish in 19th place, the final two tables were set, and shortly thereafter, play ended for the day. Clonie Gowen and Mike Matusow both doubled near the end of the evening to stay alive and well going into the next day, but it was Ben Straate who was the dominating chip leader with 3,197,000 in chips. Brett Richey was second just over a million less in chips, followed by Justin Young, Evan McNiff, and Mike Matusow to round out the top five.
Day 5 was to be the final day of play, where the six survivors would prepare to go to the coveted WPT televised final table. Bill Klein wouldn’t make it, though, as he was eliminated on the sixth hand of play at the hands of McNiff. Bill Tollerene left a few hands later in 17th place, and Tom Pniak was ousted by Hoyt Corkins to accept a 16th place finish.
Clonie Gowen went on a tear and got involved with Martin de Knijff and Jack Wu preflop. Clonie showed pocket queens, de Knijff had , and Wu turned over . The board came , and the two male players were eliminated in 15th and 14th places.
Nick Schulman was mounting a comeback by doubling through Matusow and Corkins, but when he went up against Justin Young, he couldn’t repeat the process. His pocket jacks went down to the A-K of Young when an ace and a king came on the flop. Schulman took 13th place and the $72,060 that went with it.
Brett Richey lost a battle with Rheem and left in 12th place for $72,060, and Robert Mizrachi was eliminated in 11th place by McNiff. The final ten players took seats at the same table, and it took only ten hands to see the next player take leave of the action. It was Clonie Gowen, whose pocket sixes were no good against the A-Q of Steve Sung when a queen came on the flop and an ace on the river for good measure. Gowen grabbed $86,470 for tenth place.
Mike Matusow was the next to go, courtesy of Justin Young. Matusow’s A-Q lost to the A-K of his opponent, leaving him with $100,880 for ninth place. Ben Straate was let go in eighth place by Steve Sung, and Straate went to the cashier cage for his $115,295 prize.
The very next hand saw the final elimination of the day when Joe McGowan pushed all-in from the big blind with pocket fours. Rheem called with pocket nines, and the board brought nothing for the short stack when it showed . McGowan took seventh place and the $165,735 that went with it.
And the final table was set with Sung in the chip lead and a star-studded and camera-friendly group for the WPT final. The chip counts and seating assignments were as follows:
Seat 1: Chino Rheem - 4,240,000
Seat 2: Amnon Filippi - 2,750,000
Seat 3: Hoyt Corkins - 2,295,000
Seat 4: Steve Sung - 5,885,000
Seat 5: Justin Young - 2,410,000
Seat 6: Evan McNiff - 4,805,000
The final table will play out at the Bellagio at 4pm on Friday, December 19th.
(Thanks to WPT Live Updates for specific hand and chip count information.)