After four hours of rapid eliminations, the past level knocked off less than 30 players which has allowed for a good amount of positioning for those remaining in contention.
Bruno Politano continues to lead the way and his friends are starting to get excited about what could potentially come to fruition in a few days. The Brazilian chipped up to 6.2 million, assisted by a big coin flip victory at the mid-point of the level. Politano's A-K rivered a king against Adam Coats' 10-10 and with that river card came a vocal yell and some cheering from his rail. Seated at an outside feature table, he's been incredibly active, showing incessant aggression which has been working thus far.
Seated with Politano is a player who has maintained a good stack while flying very under the radar. Jason Johnson has had an amazing World Series of Poker. The Michigan native finished seventh in the Millionaire Maker, third in Event 44 and prior to that, third in a Daily DeepStack event at the Rio. His rail also includes former Detroit Lions tight end Eric Stocz who has played with Johnson in charity rooms back in Michigan. Johnson also received a ringing endorsement on Twitter.
Johnson has 2.4 million in chips. That same table most recently lost Tim Rielly who has battled as a short stack for a good amount of time since taking a big hit in the final moments on Day 2. Rielly had four cashes this WSOP.
Some familiar faces gained good ground during the past level. Mark Newhouse is edging closer to a back-to-back final table and gained nearly two million in chips since the dinner break. Maria Ho, typically content with a slow and steady approach, had a really swingy level to finish at 1.6 million. Ho picked up kings at a very opportune time to bust Michael Palo, but gave nearly all of it back after a lost race and some bad luck against Greg Himmelbrand (A-K < A-Q).
The blinds are now 15,000/30,000 with a 5,000 ante. Here are the current chip leaders:
1. Bruno Politano (6.20 million in chips)
2. Mark Newhouse (4.90 million)
3. Tony Ruberto (4.56 million)
4. Scott Palmer (4.30 million)
5. Clayton Hamm (3.86 million)
6. Kyle Keranen (3.82 million)
7. Leif Force (3.56 million)
8. Griffin Benger (3.40 million)
9. Andoni Larrabe (3.37 million)
10. Vladimir Bozinovic (3.30 million)
Alex Outhred (140th, Q-Q < J-J), Huy Nguyen (142nd, A-10 < J-J) and Jason Deutsch (137th, A-K < 9-9 and 7-7) were among the recent eliminations. All earned $52,141.
Small blinds: Mikiyo Aoki loves to bluff, and pick off bluffs. Quietly built nearly a three million-chip stack today. Bryan Devonshire started off the day as one of the shorter stacks and now, is among the leaders. He finished 12th in 2012. Vitaly Lunkin, Byron Kaverman and Mark Newhouse all made Day 5 last year. Click right now and learn about Garrett Greer. Incredible story of determination and a great attitude. David Tuthill has been all-in a number of times today and continues to double up. But does he have the recently eliminated Nick Yunis to thank? Yunis touched the card that Tuthill said he wanted to hit while all in and sure enough, those cards came through. Unfortunately for Tuthill, Yunis was knocked out in 126th. This will be the longest day for the players thus far. Jonathan Aguiar has a fortune from a fortune cookie that reads "Don't stop now!" He's been another player fighting the short stack all day.
"I've never seen him before in my life," said Keranen during the break. "He's just relentlessly berating me. He won't let up."
Rystadt, in the five seat at the feature table, continues to be vocal against the chip leader. The two tangled in one key pot which added to the frustration. After a preflop five-bet raising war, the flop came K-K-4 and both players checked. The turn brought another 4 and again, both players checked. After a river 9, Keranen bet 380,000 and Rystadt quickly called and showed Q-4, which bested Keranen's aces.
Fireworks ensued to the point that Executive Director Ty Stewart, who was watching the feature table closely, said we haven't seen anything like it in years.
During the break, Keranen spoke furiously to the floor staff, trying to explain what was going on. The staff responded that they would address the situation. As the action resumed, the jabbering continued and accelerated after Keranen won a pot off of Rystadt. The two are poised to continue to tangle and this should make for an interesting storyline for a while given that both have more than 2 million in chips.
The other fireworks came in the span of two hands and resulted in the elimination of the player who was in third place during the previous level.
Zach Jiganti entered Level 21 with more than 3 million in chips and was poised for an incredibly deep run. It unraveled quickly, first with a set-over-set confrontation against Bruno Politano (9-9 < K-K) then a cooler with jacks against the queens of Clayton Maguire. Those two hands at the end of the level sent him home just after the field broke 200 players and placed Politano as the overwhelming chip leader with 4.9 million in chips.
Other Level 21 eliminations include Jeff Madsen, Kevin Eyster, Taylor Von Kriegenbergh, Mike Wattel, Raj Vohra and Jared Bleznick.
The average stack is 55 big blinds. Here are the current chip leaders:
1. Bruno Politano (4.96 million in chips)
2. Leif Force (3.54 million)
3. Michael Schwartz (3.32 million)
4. Clayton Hamm (3.23 million)
5. Griffin Benger (2.99 million)
6. Kyle Keranen (2.8 million)
7. Michael Finstein (2.75 million)
8. Martin Jacobson (2.59 million)
9. Andoni Larrabe (2.57 million)
10. Matthew Haugen (2.50 million)
Small blinds: Jeff Platt ran into Ali Eslami's set of 5s during the past level at the same exact moment that his parents walked into the Amazon Room. The Ivey eliminator and two-time bracelet winner John Kabbaj didn't make the dinner break. Still a strong summer for him and his elimination means that Brandon Shack-Harris will enter WSOP-APAC as the Player of the Year leader. Bryan Devonshire was sent to a new table after the latest break, so he went to work looking up his competition. There are four women left in the field, including the last woman standing from 2008, Maria Ho. Blake Cahail wore the onesie all the way to a 172nd-place finish. Draft Kings getting into patching as well at this time. Doesn't hurt to have one of its employees, Jon Aguiar, still in contention. Check out this hand from Mikiyo Aoki from earlier in the WSOP. The only member of the top 10 with a bracelet at this time is Leif Force. David Einhorn was knocked out in this level. He'll donate $44,728 to Robin Hood NYC.
Play is expected to slow down dramatically as the day progresses, but that was far from the case during the first level. John Monnette, 2014 bracelet winner Sam Jaddi, Mike Sowers, Kevin MacPhee, Farzad Bonyadi and Paul Tedeschi were among the 60 eliminations during the level. With the average stack more than 60 big blinds deep, short stacks aren't truly "short" at all. Extremely aggressive play is leading to these eliminations and, of course, a few coolers.
Kyle Keranen and Griffin Benger continue to top the leaderboard with Keranen having an incredibly successful level, building from 2.1 million in chips to 3.5 million. Mark Newhouse, whose style doesn't often call for gigantic pots, was involved in a huge one against Munir Shahin. The 2013 November Niner held As-Qs and had a huge flush draw after a flop of 9h-7s-2s. Shahin held K-K and with a 2 million-chip pot at hand, couldn't fade the spade on the river. Newhouse eliminated Shahin with the dramatic river and handed his opponent his largest career cash ($38,634) with the effort. Newhouse is now in the top 10 in chips.
When players return from break, the blinds will be 8,000/16,000 with a 2,000 ante. Here are the current chip leaders:
1. Kyle Keranen (3.44 million in chips)
2. Griffin Benger (3.42 million)
3. Zach Jiganti 3.07 million)
4. Dan Smith (2.55 million)
5. Leif Force (2.49 million)
6. Trevor Martin (2.49 million)
7. Mark Newhouse (2.36 million)
8. Michael Finstein (2.34 million)
9. Matthew Haugen (2.27 million)
10. Pakinai Lisawad (2.21 million)
Small blinds: Anh Van Nguyen doesn't play much poker anymore, but decided to come to Vegas last week just for a little action. Van Nguyen spends most of his time now with his kids (including a 5-month-old) and doesn't pursue poker as actively as in the past. He has $1.2 million in career live earnings and finished 46th in 2004 and 106th in 2009. We don't see a lot of new sponsors appear these days, but PartyPoker has placed a patch on Brian Hastings. In extremely too early storylines, Alex Outhred's birthday is Nov. 9. John Monnette decided to warm up this morning with some high-stakes cash games at the Bellagio. I wonder if he slept. David Einhorn doubled up in the last level. That's good for charity. Keranen has moved to the feature table, with Maria Ho's table soon to break. There have been no eliminations at the feature table so far today. A few players were late to show up today, including Yorane Kerignard, who was seated at an outside feature table.
"I'm feeling great," said Haugen. "Being chip leader going into Day 5 of the main event, I can't complain about that."
Haugen began to take the game seriously after he graduated from college. Like many other of the game's rising stars, he started online.
"After I graduated from college, I had a little bit of money and put it online," he said. "I started playing, kept winning and never looked back."
In a post-Black Friday world Haugen travels often to play and has found some great success on both the WPT and EPT. He also has twin 18th-place finishes so far this WSOP.
"I'm just going to keep playing my game and see what opportunities present themselves," said Haugen. "$10 million would mean a lot. It would be pretty amazing."
Behind Haugen is a stacked crew of professionals who have been waiting for this opportunity. Griffin Benger, Dan Smith and Kyle Keranen are all part of a strong top 10 at this stage of the event. Keranen has been here before and was the chip leader after Day 5 in 2012. After fizzling out then, he's not ready to let this second opportunity go.
"I just feel so much more in control than I did two years ago," said Keranen. "I was still pretty new to high-stakes tournaments back then and I got a bit nervous on Day 6. ... This year I feel totally composed and ready for it."
Keranen enters Day 5 eighth in chips.
The remaining field includes many players who should feel at home during Day 5 action. Among that group Keranen (38, 2012), Leif Force (11th, 2006), Pat Madden (64, 2005), Maria Ho (38th, 2007), Alex Outhred (54, 2008), Roland Israelashvili (25, 2012), Isaac Baron (85th, 2012), Farzad Bonyadi (27th and 41st, 1998 and 2005), David Einhorn (18th, 2006), Ali Eslami (49th, 2004), Ryan Fair (31st, 2009), Mike Wattel (95th, 2005), Kyle Bowker (37th and 84th, 2007 and 2012), Bryan Devonshire (12th, 2011) and most recently Rep Porter (12, 2013) and Mark Newhouse (ninth, 2013) have all made it to the final stages before.
With 291 players remaining, here are the top 10 chip counts after Day 4:
1. Matthew Haugen (2.80 million in chips)
2. Zach Jiganti (2.36 million)
3. Griffin Benger (2.32 million)
4. Michael Finstein (2.31 million)
5. Bruno Politano (2.28 million)
6. Dan Smith (2.22 million)
7. Andoni Larrabe (2.19 million)
8. Kyle Keranen (2.15 million)
9. Farid Fattin (2.12 million)
10. Pakinai Lisawad (2.08 million)
The eliminations came at a rapid pace throughout the action on Friday, but the only one that was truly acknowledged by all players was the 430th-place finisher: Phil Ivey. The 10-time bracelet winner began the day in a strong position at the feature table, but started to run cold after he lost a quarter of his stack to Kyle Keranen. The bleeding continued until the dinner break, but still, with 340,000 in chips, Ivey was not in dire straights. Almost immediately after the dinner break, Ivey found himself in a hand against two-time WSOP champion John Kabbaj and made an ill-timed all-in on the turn of a 9-9-2-2 board. The shock and frustration came over Ivey's face immediately as his A-K trailed Kabbaj's J-J. Down to his final card, the cameras came over and Ivey's tournament ended with a blank on the river and a sprint to the back doors of the Amazon Room.
Hours before Ivey's departure, Ronnie Bardah's exit marked the end of a historic run. Bardah has cashed in each of the past five WSOP main events, a new record.
Thx for all the support guys and girls.Love you all and I'll be back next year for number 6 and maybe nov 9:) living the Dream— Ronnie Bardah (@RonnieBardah) July 12, 2014
Other notable Day 4 eliminations include John Juanda (293rd), NASCAR's Jason White (348th), Michael Binger (353rd) and Jonathan Little (490th).
Action resumes at noon PT and will most likely continue for five levels or until the field is down to 72 players. The minimum cash for all those who remain is $33,734.
Small blinds: The pre-money elimination of Huck Seed marked the first year since 2002 that a former champion did not make the money. It has happened nine times in the total history of the event. I've followed "Rainbow Hat Guy" around the WSOP for the past few years and today he had his chance at the feature table. Zach Hall sat directly across from Ivey, who looked at him and said "Are you serious?" Hall was eliminated on the final hand of the night. Alex Outhred started Day 2 of the main event with 12,000. He bagged 714,000 on Day 4. Blake Cahail played the last level in one of the $230 Zooop suits that is being sold at the Rio. He didn't buy it, but said if his friend bought it, he'd wear it. In 2012, Keranen was the chip leader after Day 5. Take a look at the bracelet. Plenty of drinks were ordered toward the end of the day. Relatively surprising at this point. That usually ends on Day 2. David Einhorn is donating his winnings to Robin Hood NYC. Sam Jaddi and John Kabaaj are the two remaining 2014 bracelet winners in the field. The highest chipped woman in the field is Mikiyo Aoki, who has 1.5 million in 21st place. She was the runner-up in the 2014 WSOP Ladies championship. There are five multiple-bracelet winners remaining in the field: Jeff Madsen, Farzad Bonyadi, John Monnette, John Kabbaj and Rep Porter. Including the main event, Roland Israelashvili now has 10 cashes this WSOP.
Nearly 100 players fell during the past two-hour level. NASCAR's Jason White fought for the entire day as a short stack, but couldn't avoid some bad luck.
"I'll be back," said White after his elimination in 350th. He earned $33,374 for the finish that was cut short in a key hand against David Einhorn where his J-J lost to 6-6. David Paredes, Maria Mayrinck, Owen Crowe, Chris DeMaci, Michael Binger and Thayer Rasmussen were also among the casualties.
At 2.3 million, Dan Smith remains the biggest stack, but there are a number of players who are under 800,000 in chips that shouldn't be missed:
- John Juanda - It's been a slow day for Juanda who has demonstrated great patience. He has 430,000 in chips and is looking to best his 31st-place finish in 2005. Juanda's last main event cash came in 2012 (234th).
- Brian Hastings - The bracelet winner and high-stakes cash gamer has $1.1 million in live tournament earnings. The only thing that might hurt Hastings is his obsession with Open Face Chinese poker which is he playing on his iPad in between hands.
- Mark Newhouse - The last member of last year's final table is still fighting. He chipped up early today and had a well above average stack, but has been short for the past few hours. He has 280,000 in chips. If there's anyone who knows how to grind in order to make it to the next level, it's Newhouse.
- Maria Ho - Ho is seated at the feature table, but she's still under the radar in the reporting. She has 700,000 in chips and is seated with ...
- Brian Townsend - During poker's zenith, Townsend was one of most prolific onliners in the game. Now he has a shot at a main event title with 800,000 in chips
- Jon Turner - "PearlJammer" finished 299th in 2013 and 344th in 2011. His resume is strong and all he needs is to win that one flip that has evaded him numerous times over the past few years.
- Ali Eslami - A high-stakes mixed-game player, Eslami doesn't often player tournaments, but won't miss the main. Oh, and he snuck into the Amazon Room last night.
- Mukul Pahuja - Reigning World Poker Tour Player of the Year.
- Taylor Von Kriegenbergh - WPT Champion has $1.4 million in lifetime tournament earnings
- Matt Waxman - WSOP bracelet winner, WPT champ. Been short for two days now.
- Mike Sowers - 14 WSOP cashes and five final tables (two runner-ups).
- Bryan Devonshire - Devo isn't involved in the poker world much at all anymore, but the nature guide loves the main event. He finished 12th in 2011.
There a number of other players that with over 300 to go deserve some attention. From here on out I'll try to highlight the accomplishments of those remaining in contention to paint a better portrait about the field that remains.
The main event stands alone
Bernard Lee provides a personal look into the World Series of Poker main event and what makes the tournament one of a kind
Player of the Year race taking shape
Bluff's Lance Bradley explains why the leaders in the Player of the Year race mid-way through the WSOP are unlikely to emerge as the winners come November.
Pescatori learning from experience
Max Pescatori made his mark in poker, but his stature in Vegas began with success in another arena.
Just $10,000 and a dream
The final nine players are ready to take their seats in Las Vegas. Who will emerge with the life-changing victory?