Three days remained in the playdown to the November Nine. The excitement in the field was palpable, as only 185 players started the day on Monday and only nine would finish on Wednesday night. The minimum payout for anyone eliminated on Day 6 was $36,626, but there was so much more at stake for those who could make it through the day.
While the Rio Convention Center became more desolate, with tables being broken, fewer fans and players roaming the halls, and the Poker Kitchen being closed, members of the media and Harrah’s staff were finally seeing the light at the end of the long Rio summer, but not even the homesick ones could deny their interest in the field of players looking to make their way to the most coveted final table in all of poker. The 2009 World Series of Poker was reaching its pinnacle in a few days, and it wasn’t difficult to find the interesting stories and enthusiasm in the room as play progressed.
There were also some interesting players remaining in the field. The 2008 WSOP Main Event champion, Peter Eastgate, was still at the tables, along with 2005 Main Event winner Joe Hachem. Two women remained - Nichoel Peppe and Leo Margets. Well-known players like Joe Sebok, Tom Schneider, David Benyamine, Phil Ivey, Bertrand Grospellier, and Antonio Esfandiari were also still in the running, with Schneider coming into the day fourth in chips. Interesting tales were sure to unravel throughout the day.
It started with two featured tables established by ESPN for easy filming. The main table included Schneider and Prahlad Friedman, while the secondary table boasted of the two women - Margets and Peppe, along with 2008 bracelet winner Blair Hinkle.
The first player to be eliminated came almost as soon as the cards were in the air, and it was Bob Lauria who took 185th place right off the bat, when his couldn’t beat the pocket queens of Brent Catalano. Mike Minetti followed Lauria to the rail, as did Viet Nguyen, Jamin Stokes, Paul Smith, and Dan Bilzerian.
Some players started well, like Matt Affleck, Fabrice Soulier, and Nichoel Peppe, but others made a run for it and failed. Full Tilt pro Jordan Morgan pushed with against his opponent’s pocket queens, and the board came , with nothing for Morgan but a trip to the cashier cage.
Meanwhile, early in the day, Peter Eastgate was moved to the same table as fellow 2008 November Nine finalist Dennis Phillips, bringing the cameras out in full force as the two would be forced to play against each other at some point. And it didn’t take long, as Phillips didn’t hesitate to take a substantial pot from Eastgate, pushing Phillips over the one-million mark and leaving Eastgate with only 820K.
Phil Ivey earned an early bounce when he took to a flop of with Anh Van Nguyen. More betting led to the on the turn, at which point Ivey bet 330K and prompted a fold from Nguyen. Ivey then sat with 1.7 million.
As the first level of the five being played for the day ended, Cole South was one of the notable competitors who took leave of the field, falling in 162nd place. And just after the first break, Joe Serock, not to be confused with Joe Sebok, gave in to his crippled stack but found that his Q-5 of clubs was no match for the pocket nines of his opponent. Serock was ousted in 145th place.
It was upon the players’ return from the break that the feature tables were switched, putting Phil Ivey at the secondary table and picking the most stacked table in the field as the primary table, as it featured Peter Eastgate, Joe Hachem, Dennis Phillips, J.C. Tran, and Nasr El Nasr. The latter did not stick around for long, however, when his pocket queens ran into the pocket aces of Billy Kopp. The board was an uneventful 2-4-10-10-3, and El Nasr was ousted from the tournament.
In the same level, Thierry Van Den Berg was eliminated in 138th place by Hung Pham when his flush draw missed. Blair Hinkle also departed after his Q-J was trumped by Hac Dang’s A-8. Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier also took leave of the tournament after dominating in the early days but unable to gain momentum in the last days. He finally got involved with against the pocket kings of Scott Sitron, and the board showed a relatively uneventful to eliminate Grospellier in 122nd place with a payout of $40,288.
One of the other Frenchmen, however, was climbing the leaderboard. Ludovic Lacay soared up to 4.2 million with the chips of one Tom Schneider, the latter of whom struggled to catch cards at the right time as the day progressed. Schneider took chips during the third level when his aces beat out the A-K of John Martin.
The third level of the day found several of the most recognizable pros eliminated from play. First, it was J.C. Tran, who decided to gamble with after a flop. Dennis Phillips was there with and the call, and the turn and river ended the day for Tran in 108th place. David Benyamine also decided to put his tournament life at risk but did so with pocket aces on a board, but Darvin Moon called with pocket threes and the set. A hit on the river to send Benyamine packing in 102nd place.
And one of the two remaining previous WSOP Main Event champions also took the walk of shame to the cashier cage. Joe Hachem had been relegated to a stack of only 117K, which went all-in preflop. Billy Kopp was the caller with pocket fours, and Hachem showed . The dealer produced , and the pocket pair held up to eliminate Hachem in 103rd place with $40,288.
At the dinner break, there were 101 players remaining. Play had slowed considerably over the first three levels of the day, as would have been expected, but there was likely to be a bit more action after the evening meal.
And there was. It happened on the first hand as players took their seats again, as Royal Wiseman pushed for 370K with A-10 of clubs but found himself up against the pocket queens of an opponent. The board gave some options on the flop but blanked out and left Wiseman out in 101st place with $40,288.
As Joe Sebok was moved to the primary feature table, other players were on the outer tables and trying desperately to survive. Those not so lucky were Julian Brecard, Kasper Cordes, and Kenny Tran. Noah Boeken also left the field when he moved all-in with on a board and was called by Hung Pham’s pocket tens. No more hearts hit, and Boken finished in 96th place with $47,003.
Some like Dennis Phillips and Ludovic Lacay climbed the leaderboard, but one player soared above the rest during the fourth level of the day. Darvin Moon had the pocket aces against the pocket kings of Jamie Brown. The board blanked, eliminating Brown and sending Moon into the chip lead with a count of 7.5 million.
Only 81 players went into the last level of the day, and the field soon saw two of its previous days’ chip leaders leave the tournament. Matt Affleck’s A-7 lost to the A-Q of Nick Maimone, and Owen Crowe pushed with pocket queens to the A-K of Fernando Gordo. The flop brought one king, and the turn brought another to end Crowe’s tournament.
Another casualty of the last level was Peter Eastgate. His stack had been diminished to 445K, and he pushed preflop with only to be called by Kopp and Phillips. Both checked down the board of , and though Eastgate made top two pair, Kopp turned over pocket eights, one of them being a heart for the flush. The 2008 WSOP Main Event champion had a spectacular run for the second year in a row but was eliminated in 78th place with $68,979 in prize money.
As players looked forward to ending the day, several players found the cards they were looking for. Darvin Moon continued to create quite the impressive stack of chips, and by eliminating Brent Catalano, he made it to 9 million and just about secured his position as the chip leader for the day. But another player who was climbing was Phil Ivey, who headed toward the 6 million-chip mark as the last level of the night began to wind down.
In the last hour, one of the last two women in the tournament found her way to the rail. After a roller coaster day, Nichoel Peppe was down to 675K and pushed preflop with . Adam York called with , and the board brought . No jack and not enough hearts meant that Peppe was ousted in 75th place with $68,979. And that left Leo Margets as the last woman standing in the 2009 Main Event.
And that was when two players took off running. Phil Ivey was one of them who shot up to more than 6.2 million chips in the last hour of play. The other was Billy Kopp, who took a monster pot with over the pocket kings of Powell. The board came , and the river card saved Kopp and put him near 8 million chips.
When play ended, it was Darvin Moon at the top of the leaderboard with 9,745,000 chips. Billy Kopp came in second with 8,245,000, and Phil Ivey was in third holding 6,345,000. Steven Begleiter took fourth with 6,315,000, and Ludovic Lacay rounded out the top five with a stack of 5,965,000. Notably, Antonio Esfandiari was in sixth place. A total of 64 players remained, and they would all return on Tuesday, July 14, to play down to the final 27.