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Day Three at the Borgata Poker Open

The Money Bubble Refuses to Burst but the Final Three Tables are Finally Reached

Day three of the World Poker Tour Borgata Poker Open started with 127 players, and the goal was to eliminate an even 100, ending the day with three tables (27 players). Along the way, the field would pass the money bubble, where the top 54 players would cross the line from nothing-for-their-trouble to something-for-their-trouble.

The biggest potential story was Lee Markholt, who has had an amazing run in WPT events in 2007 - he has reached the money in seven out of the nine WPT tournaments in which he's played (earning more than $290,000), including the last three in a row (Bellagio Cup III, Legends of Poker, and Gulf Coast Poker Championship). With a cash here at the Borgata, Markholt would tie Daniel Negreanu and Kirk Morrison for the record with four straight WPT cashes. Unfortunately, Markholt busted about 30 spots away from the money. While he missed that goal, he's still working on a record for most cashes in a calendar year, and his 70 percent cash rate is remarkable in any case.

As the rest of the field approached the bubble, play tightened up a bit more than usual. During hand-for-hand play, one player folded A-K suited face up to a standard preflop reraise, saying, "The only hand I can call with is aces." (His opponent showed A-K offsuit as he took the pot.) The short stacks kept doubling up rather than busting out, sometimes in dramatic fashion by catching outs on the river - one player cheered while 54 others moaned.

The scheduled dinner break passed, and they kept playing. When Steve Brecher was finally eliminated in 55th place (his A-Q couldn't overcome A-K), the field had spent more than an hour and a half on the bubble. The surviving 54 players were guaranteed at least $13,580, and they immediately celebrated by going to dinner. When play resumed around 9 p.m., 30 minutes were added to the level to compensate for time lost in hand-for-hand play.

Those 30 minutes added to the clock would be just enough for the field to shrink from six tables to five, as the short stacks quickly loosened up. An hour after that, there were just four tables remaining (36 players).

Through it all, Alan Goehring was looking down on most of the field. He started the day second in chips, quickly moved into the chip lead, and was the first player to cross the million-chip mark (when the average stack was below $300,000). At one point, Goehring was moved to a new table, only to wake up with pocket aces and pocket kings in his first two hands - and he busted a player each time. But when the field reached the final four tables, Goehring's luck took a turn for the worse.

With about 32 players left, Heung Yoon was all in preflop with J-J against Goehring's A-A. But the board came 10-9-3-Q-8, giving Yoon a runner-runner queen-high straight to win the pot and double up. That knocked Goehring down to about $300,000, which was his lowest point on day three (he started the day with $376,800). Goehring continued to leak chips, and ultimately busted in 29th place when his A-5 couldn't overcome A-J.

Around 12:30 a.m., Bernard Brock was hit with a cooler - his pocket kings were up against the pocket aces of day-one chip leader Brian Strahl. The aces held up, and Brock was eliminated in 28th place, officially bringing day three to a close.

The survivors quickly bagged and tagged their chips, eager to leave after a long day. Here are the top five chip leaders, along with a few notables. (The average stack is $622,222.)

1. Tom Nguyen - $1,700,000
2. Roy Winston - $1,590,000
3. Mark Weitzman - $1,017,000
4. Brian Strahl - $985,000
5. Darrell Hopkins - $ 981,000

7. Victor Ramdin - $885,000
9. Haralabos Voulgaris - $691,000
10. Eugene Todd - $688,000
22. Mike Matusow - $302,000

Victor Ramdin is currently on the cover of Card Player magazine, profiled for his philanthropic work in the country of Guyana. Haralabos Voulgaris, Eugene Todd, and Mike Matusow are three of the funniest professional players in the game - definite fan favorites that would spice up any televised final table.

But there are only six seats for that televised table, and 27 players left to fight for them. With more than $3.8 million waiting at the final table (including more than $1.5 million for first place), even chip leader Tom Nguyen faces an uphill battle. Who will make it? Return to on Wednesday at 11 a.m. for live coverage of all the action.