It was to be a day of decisions. Whether those decisions had to do with what to eat for a pre-tournament meal or how much to reraise on the turn, the decisions would and could change 64 people’s lives. Busting out of the tournament today would garner players at least $100K, but soaring through with a monster chip lead and making the final table could end in millions of dollars. Each and every decision was important on Day 7.
There are many factors that go into a run to the final table of the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event. Everything from a healthy diet to exercise can help or hurt one’s game, and the foods and drinks chosen for snacks during the tournament can alter one’s state of mind just enough to change the outcome of a key hand. Of course, poker skills come into play as well, along with intuition, the ability to read one’s opponents, and the willingness to take risks. And ultimately, the universe must cooperate a bit as well, because luck is a part of the game and being on the right side of that coin flip when necessary will help everything else fall into place.
Day 7 began on Tuesday, July 14, with the following top five chip leaders, all of whom had a little extra room to make good decisions:
Darvin Moon 9,745,000
Billy Kopp 8,245,000
Phil Ivey 6,345,000
Steven Begleiter 6,315,000
Ludovic Lacay 6,315,000
Action started with Level 26, which offered blinds of 25,000/50,000 and a 5,000 ante. And one player decided to move all-in immediately. Prahlad Friedman pushed his 840K preflop with , but Bradley Craig called from the big blind with . The board helped nothing with , and Friedman became the first player of the day to leave the tournament; his 64th place finish was worth $90,344.
With that, every player remaining in the field was guaranteed a minimum payout of $108,407. Those taking advantage of that included:
63rd place: George Saca
62nd place: Michael Jansen
61st place: Mark Ader
60th place: Benjamin Jensen
59th place: Miika Puumalainen
Scott Bohlman had been fighting with a short stack for days and finally made his move preflop from the small blind with pocket tens. Andrew Lichtenberger decided to call with , and he hit the flop immediate when it came . The on the turn and on the river were meaningless, and Bohlman’s tournament ended with $108,047 for a 58th place finish.
57th place: John Martin
It was then that a fan favorite risked his game again, though Joe Sebok hadn’t much of a choice. His roller coaster of a tournament found him short early on Day 7 relative to the other stacks, and he finally moved preflop with . Ben Lamb called with , and the mass of fans and supporters watched as the board came , and Sebok, representing the PokerRoad Nation, was ousted from the tournament in 56th place, which was worth $108,047.
55th place: Craig Boyd
With the end of the first level of the day looming, it was chip leader Darvin Moon moving even further up the leaderboard and becoming the first player to hit the ten million-chip mark. But that position was no longer safe, as Billy Kopp was coming after the lead. With Kopp’s elimination of John Martin in 57th place, Kopp climbed to 11,160,000 chips and set the bar for the other players even higher than Moon had before. Before the first break, he had climbed even higher and neared the 16 million-mark.
At 54th place, the next payout jump occurred, just in time for the following players to head to the cashier cage to pick up $138,568 each:
54th place: Charlie Elias
53rd place: Steve Sanders
The 2007 WSOP Player of the Year made a valiant run at a final table seat in the Main Event this year but struggled on Day 7, even battling flu symptoms along with his bad run of cards. Tom Schneider finally pushed his 1.12 million stack preflop with , only to find himself up against the pocket nines of Marc Etienne McLaughlin. The board came , and that ended Schneider’s run in 52nd place.
51st place: Thai Tran
50th place: Bradley Craig
Fabrice Soulier was one of several French players remaining, though he seemed to be feeling desperate with only one million chips left. He pushed preflop to an initial raise by Tommy Vedes, and Vedes called with . Soulier showed pocket tens, and the created hopes for both players. The on the turn was meaningless, but the on the river made Vedes a flush and crushed Soulier in 49th place.
48th place: Hieu Luu
47th place: Adam Bilzerian
46th place: Hung Pham
Just as the payouts increased again, a casualty occurred that shattered more than a few dreams. With a healthy St. Louis crowd in his cheering section, Dennis Phillips looked for a spot to double up. He got into a preflop raising war with Antoine Saout and Francois Balmigere, the latter of whom moved all-in. Saout got out of the way, but Phillips called for his tournament life with . It looked good when Balmigere showed , but the flop dashed some hopes of a chop when it came . The turn was the , but the river was the , giving Balmigere the flush and brutally knocking out Phillips in 45th place. He headed toward the television cameras and then to the payout cage to collect $178,857.
44th place: Manuel Labandeira
43rd place: Montagna Corrado
42nd place: Jeff Duvall
41st place: Adam York
40th place: Scott Cook
Next up on the short stack and ready to double was Eugene Katchalov. He pushed preflop for his 1,095,000 stack, and it was newcomer to the table Darvin Moon who reraised to isolate, which worked when Esfandiari folded. Katchalov showed for his tournament life, but Moon turned over pocket kings. The board came to give Moon the set and relegate Katchalov to a 39th place exit, which came with $178,857.
38th place: Gabriel Vezina
37th place: Martin Lapostolle
It was then that the money for eliminated players jumped again, this time to $253,941. The increases were becoming more substantial as the field thinned ever closer to the final table.
36th place: Christopher Bach
35th place: Grayson Ramage
Full Tilt Poker pro Blair Rodman was the next short-stacked player to move, and he did it with , and Luis Nargentino called with pocket fours. The board couldn’t help the all-in player with , and Rodman was ousted in 34th place with $253,941.
33rd place: Jason Brice
32nd place: Scott Sitron
31st place: Ryan Fair
30th place: Marc McLaughlin
At the dinner break, there were 29 players remaining, and the plan was set to play down to 27 and end for the night. Though it was rumored that Tournament Director Jack Effel wanted to play down further through the full five levels as previously established, ESPN insisted that the night would be over with only two more eliminations. ESPN won the argument, and players returned from dinner looking to oust two more before hopefully ending on an early note.
It was directly after dinner that Luis Nargentino got involved with Ben Lamb and Phil Ivey to see a flop of . When Lamb bet post-flop and Nargentino pushed all-in for 1.625 million, Ivey folded, and Lamb called with . Nargentino showed for the nut flush draw. The river came a and the river a , which ended Nargentino’s tournament in 29th place, for which he received $253,941.
Play then slowed for more than an hour. Not only was action on a money bubble, but another day meant a fresh chance for a deep run. Players were hesitant to move, though it finally happened near the end of the fourth level of the day when Joe Ward pushed all-in with . Jamie Robbins called with and had him covered by nearly 200K. The board brought a dramatic flop, followed by a turn, but it was the on the river that hurt Ward and knocked him out of the event. The 28th place finish was worth $253,941.
And that ended the action for the night. There were 27 players remaining, all of whom would return to the Rio at noon on Wednesday, July 15, to play down to the final table. With the deep stacks held by the players and so much at stake, it was bound to be a long day.
Going into the action in top chip position would be Darvin Moon for the second day in a row, this time with a whopping 20,160,000 chips. Billy Kopp held down the number two spot with 15,970,000, while Steven Begleiter, Phil Ivey, and Kevin Schaffel rounded out the top five - in that order and all with chips in the 11-million range.