Day 4 of the Main Event of the World Series of Poker is always one of the most exciting days in the poker calendar, as it is the day when the money bubble bursts. With over 1,200 players remaining, and only 747 cashing, ESPN’s coverage presented the joy and the heartbreak of Day 4 in its telecast tonight. With 10-time bracelet winner Johnny Chan at the featured table, Gavin Smith and Dan Harrington at Table Two, and all four Mizrachi brothers looking for a historic family cash, here’s how the action unfolded.
The first hand of the night brought lots of action at the featured table. Under the gun, with the blinds at 1,200-2,400-300, Dan Martin raised to 5,500 with . Johnny Chan chose just to call in the hijack seat with pocket kings. Eric Capra also called in the cutoff with a pair of jacks, as did Virgil Beddingfield with on the button and former professional boxer Jeff Fenech with pocket threes in the big blind. The flop brought Q-5-J, and after two checks, Chan bet 18,000. Capra just smooth-called his set, and Martin, with a straight draw, also called. The on the turn made Capra a full house. Both Martin and Chan checked, but after Capra bet 30,000 and Martin folded, Chan pushed all-in. Naturally Capra called, and the on the river gave him the 444,200 chip pot, and took about one-third of Chan’s stack.
Undeterred by this early setback, Chan was to play frequently and aggressively throughout Day 4. In his next hand, with the blinds up to 1,500-3,000-400, Martin raised to 6,500 with , which Chan called in the small blind with , as did Capra with K-J in the big blind. The flop of 2-2-5 brought a lead bet from Chan of 10,000. Capra folded, but Martin then raised to 27,500! Chan called, and Martin hit a great card when the came on the turn. However, after Chan checked, Martin checked behind, no doubt concerned about Chan having a deuce. The river card was the , making a wheel straight for Chan, who bet 30,000, and got a call from Martin.
Next, Chan raised to 7,500 on the button with 5-4 offsuit. Beddingfield made it 17,000 with pocket tens in the big blind and Chan called. The flop was K-7-4, and Beddingfield bet out 16,000. Chan, however, made it 33,000 and Beddingfield called. When the fell on the turn, Beddingfield checked, and Chan pushed all in with bottom pair! This display of strength pushed Beddingfield off the better hand, and Chan took the 213,400 chip pot.
Chan repeated this move soon after, this time against Fenech. After Chan raised pre-flop to 7,500 with 8-6 and Fenech called with 10-8 in the big blind, the flop of 5-7-10 had something for both players. Fenech checked, but immediately check-raised Chan’s bet of 12,000 to 30,000. Chan calmly called, and when the turn brought the and Fenech checked again, Chan pushed all-in yet again! Fenech folded, and another 169,300 was added to Chan’s growing stack.
The behind-the-scenes features tonight moved away from the human interest stories of the past weeks and focused on some of the players who had dominated the 2010 WSOP. Frank Kassela, who would clinch at least a tie for Player of the Year honors with a cash, spoke about his incredible run this year, with two bracelets and another final table. He compared how he was feeling to “seeing the ball better for a professional athlete,” and saying that going deep in the Main Event would be the cherry on top of the sundae. Commentator Norman Chad pointed out that, in his Razz victory, Kassela was the short stack with 105 players left, and still went on to win. Another enjoyable story featured the four Mizrachi brothers, demonstrating the great affection the brothers have for one another, and blaming their gambling careers on their parents, both of who were also gamblers.
Michael “the Grinder” Mizrachi was moved to a new table too, along with Chris Bjorin and one of the big stacks in the room, Max Casal. With Mizrachi very short-stacked, Casal raised under-the-gun to 11,500 with . Mizrachi then moved all-in for his last 66,000 with A-J. Despite one of the other kings being exposed during the big blind’s fold, Casal chose to call. The board ran out 9-8-7-5-J, and Mizrachi stayed alive, as did the hopes of the brothers for a four-person cash.
In the first hour’s wild card hand, Brent Richey, with the blinds at 2,000-4,000-500, raised to 9,500 with Q-10 offsuit. Chan called in the small blind with K-J, as did Capra with the mystery hand in the big blind. The flop was K-6-3, with two diamonds. Chan and Capra checked, and Richey bet 14,000. Chan made it 36,000 and Capra called, with Richey moving out of the way. The on the turn brought checks from both players, and Chan checked again when the river card was the . Richey bet a very small 25,000, giving Chan 6:1 odds for his call, which he made. Richey showed for a busted flush draw, and Chan took down another pot.
The first hour of the telecast ended just four from the money, and the always-entertaining hand-for-hand portion of bubble play kicked off the second half of the show. The featured table now included a murderer’s row of Michael Mizrachi, Gavin Smith, Frank Kassela and Chris Bjorin, with Max Casal still holding a big chip advantage over everyone at the table.
With the field two from the money, Angel Guillen lost a heartbreaking hand with pocket aces, when Javier Martinez, with an enormous stack and a pair of jacks, flopped a full house when it came 5-J-5. The turn and river brought Guillen no help, and he became, in the words of Chad, “the bubble boy to the bubble boy.”
The actual bubble boy was Tim McDonald, who moved all-in with pocket queens after a flop of A-A-2, only to discover his opponent had exactly A-2! He was unable to catch up, and the room broke out in celebration as the remaining players were assured of a payday of better than $19,000. Mc Donald, as has become tradition, was given an entry to next year’s Main Event.
With the blinds at 3,000-6,000-1,000, Kassela raised to 17,000 with pocket kings. Tom Duong pushed all-in for 91,000 in the small blind with a pair of queens, and Jan Boye, who had already been very lucky in an earlier hand, also went all-in with . Kassela called, and looked to be in great shape to rake in a huge pot. However, his hopes were dashed by a brutal flop of 7-Q-3, with two spades and the case queen! Now Duong was poised to triple up, but the turn of the and the river of the made the nut flush for the European Boye, prompting Chad to call him “Darvin Moon with an accent!” Although Kassela became the first player-of-the-year to cash in the Main Event in the year that he won the title (Mizrachi can still tie him by winning the Main Event), he really deserved a better fate on his final hand.
With Michael Mizrachi card dead for most of the day and starting to move into dangerously low territory once more, Casal raised to 17,000 with A-10. Boye called on the button with pocket sevens, and Mizrachi then pushed for his last 108,000 with a pair of tens in the big blind. Casal folded, but Boye called. This time, his calls to the dealer for a seven weren’t answered, and the 6-3-8-6-4 board gave a 245,000 chip pot to Mizrachi, as well as much-needed boost back into safer territory.
As the later stages of the tournament approach, we can expect ESPN to start locating those who will eventually make up the November Nine. Mizrachi has already been a huge part of the story line (at the end of Day 4, only his twin brother Eric had busted out from the quadruple-cashing family), and Fillipo Candio was featured in some wild hands last week. Tonight, John Dolan took down a huge pot when Jean-Robert Bellande foolishly bluffed off half of his stack in an almost 700,000 chip pot. We also caught a brief glimpse of Jonathan Duhamel folding a hand tonight. As always, it will be fascinating to see how ESPN sets up the story lines in the weeks to come.
See you next week!