Each day of the 2009 World Series of Poker brings us closer to feeling as if the summer of 57 bracelet events and days of multiple tournaments has arrived. Day 1 began with a smaller-than-expected crowd at the $500 Casino Employees event, and Day 2 found the high stakes poker players plunking down $40,000 each to compete in the special NLHE tournament, but it wasn’t until the third day, May 29, that the Amazon Room filled and felt as if most of the notables in the poker industry were taking part in the action.
Day 3 began with the Omaha/8 tournament at noon and players remaining in the $40K NLHE event returning to play toward the money at 2pm. Though it was tough to ignore the large field that took their seats for some O/8 action, most eyes were on the few tables left in the bigger buy-in event, as the mostly-highly recognizable players were competing for a $7.7 million prize pool. The action was all over the Amazon Room at the Rio in Las Vegas, and it was feeling more like the exciting madness that is the WSOP.
Event 2: $40,000 No-Limit Hold’em, Day 2
There were 89 players of the original 201-player field who returned for the second day of play. It looked to be a long one, as the tournament staff hoped to play down 18 players or complete 8 levels, whichever came first. With a prize pool of more than $7,718,400 and an ultimate first place prize of $1,891,012 at stake, the task of reaching the money would not be an easy one.
Bruno Fitoussi and Chris Moneymaker held on to the two biggest stacks of chips going into the day, but neither would make the money. But the day began with players like Bill Chen, Barry Schwartz, Hoyt Corkins, and John Duthie hitting the rail in the first level of the afternoon, and Michael DeMichele was ousted soon after by Lex Veldhuis, who became the first player to cross the million-chip mark. Fitoussi had a tough day and was eliminated midway through the afternoon by Brian Rast, and Moneymaker fell later after being hit with double-throughs by Noah Schwartz and Tony G. It was eventually Ted Forrest who took out Moneymaker in 38th place.
As the money bubble loomed ever closer after the last 20-minute break of the evening, Dani Stern eliminated Nam Le in 30th place, Ted Forrest took care of Phil Galfond in 29th place, and hand-for-hand play took hold of the tables as the media was shooed from the area. Tony G and Isaac Haxton both got involved with A-K and chopped the pot, quelling hopes that the bubble would burst sooner rather than later. Frank Kassela tripled up, and Tony G doubled through Haxton.
Finally, three players - Alec Torelli, Neil Chriss, and Greg Raymer - went to see a flop of . Chriss made the initial bet, at which point Raymer folded, and Torelli raised. Chriss called all-in with for top pair, and Torelli showed for the open-ended straight draw. The came on the turn to give it to him, and the on the river ended the tournament for Neil Chriss, the event’s bubble player.
That guaranteed the last 27 players a minimum payout of $71,858. A card was drawn that determined six more hands would be played for the day, and the three reseated tables got underway to handle the task. Within moments, Vanessa Rousso was eliminated by Keith Lehr, J.C. Tran took 26th place, Sorel Mizzi was ousted by David Baker in 25th, and David Pham took the 24th payout spot to end the night.
With 23 players remaining, it was Justin Bonomo in the lead with 2,678,000 chips, while Ted Forrest followed closely behind with 2,586,000. David Baker, Greg Raymer, and Lex Veldhuis rounded out the top five in that order and also completed the list of the only players to have surpassed the 2 million-chip mark. Going into Day 3 of play Andrew Robl holds the short stack, and the action will find everyone vying for seats at the coveted ESPN-filmed final table.
Event 3: $1,500 Omaha Hi-Low Split 8 or Better
Tournament staff was unsure of how many players would sign up for this inaugural 2009 Omaha event, especially with the downturn of entrants already noted for the casino employees’ event. Hoping to beat last year’s number of 832, things began looking up as the players took to their seats, and less than a half hour into play, it was determined that the number was leaping past the previous year’s. Some players were seated in the Brasilia Room, which was established just for that purpose, and it was after the first break that the official figures were released.
The tournament drew 918 players, creating a prize pool of $1,253,070 for the three-day event, and it created history as it became the largest Omaha hi-low event in history. The last 90 players standing will receive a portion of it, but the ultimate winner will take home $263,135 alone.
The pro-heavy field was thinned throughout the day, and all players eventually consolidated to the Amazon Room tables. When the event came to a close for the evening, only 197 of them were still there, and the field included names like Phil Hellmuth, Annie Duke, and Lee Watkinson. But the big news at the end of the day was that the chip leader was none other than Thang Luu, the 2008 WSOP champion in this same tournament. His quiet aggression found him as the day’s chip leader holding 73,600 when all was said and done.
Day 2 of the tournament will find those 197 players vying for seats at the final table and ultimately the third WSOP bracelet to be awarded at the 2009 WSOP.