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World Poker Tour Championship Day 4

A Strong Field Whittles Down to 17 Quickly (Until the End) at Bellagio

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On the fourth day of the 2008 World Poker Tour Championship, 55 players remained, and the plan was to play five levels, or down to the final 18. The five levels were not needed, as a steady pace of play busted many of the best players in the game. There was no weak table to hide at and action was accordingly aggressive. Despite a two-and-a-half hour hiccup on the end-of-day money bubble, everything went according to plan.

On the first hand of the day, Zvi Shiff got things moving quickly when he busted in 55th place, and the players redrew for seats at the final six tables. Mats Rahmn fell shortly thereafter in 53rd place, when his A-Q ran into the pocket kings of Mark Newhouse. The rundown to the next redraw at 45 saw the exits of Tom Schneider (50th), Tim Phan (49th), Joe Sebok (48th), and J.C. Tran (46th) in succession. Jayde Tran (45th) was the first player to leave the final four tables, and she was joined a few hands later by the last female remaining in the field, Isabelle Mercier, who fell in 41st place.

Men “The Master” Nguyen caused the biggest ruckus of the day when he had all of his chips committed on a flop of 10 6 3 with Q 10 in the hole. Tom McCormick held A 2, the turn brought the A, and McCormick took the lead with a pair of aces. The river card was the Q, which caused Nguyen to yell, "Queen, baby!" And he followed that up with this golden nugget: "Suck and re-suck, baby!"

Carlos MortensenFormer WPT champion (Season II) Martin de Knijff then went on a fantastic voyage to the rail when David Tran doubled up through him, which left him crippled with 10,000, he did manage to triple up on the very next hand, but the short stack ultimately led to his elimination in 39th place. Another former WPT Champion, actually, the defending champion, Carlos Mortensen, was the next player to fall, in 38th place. His elimination came at the hands of Jeff “Happy” Shulman when The Matador’s pocket jacks ran into Happy’s pocket aces. Two of the younger players in the field tangled next when Noah Schwartz got all of his chips into the middle with K-Q against Tom “Durrrr” Dwan’s pocket sevens. The pocket pair held, and Schwartz was out in 37th place.

The field then went on a break, and it felt like things might slow down after the players returned. But the tournament continued to power through to the final two tables. Two young guns tangled again when Matt Giannetti moved all in on a board of 10 9 4 3. Newhouse made the call and flipped up 10 9. Giannetti winced before flipping up A Q. The river brought the 8, and Newhouse won the pot to build his stack up over a million. Giannetti hit the rail in 35th place, and he was followed by another lineup of top flight professionals, as T.J. Cloutier (34th), John Hoang (33rd), Tom McCormick (32nd), Steve Wong (31st), and Danny Wong (30th) all busted. With the elimination of Danny Wong, Jonathan Little clinched WPT Player of the Year honors for Season VI.

Men the Master ended his deep tournament run in 26th place. Nguyen was followed to the rail by the youngest bracelet winner in World Series of Poker (on U.S. soil) history, Steve Billirakis, who took his leave in 23rd place. On his final hand, Billirakis moved all of his chips into the middle with A-9 against David Tran’s pocket tens. No help came on the board for Billirakis, and he was sent to the rail. David Grey followed Billirakis out of contention, although it took a cooler to eliminate him in 22nd place. Grey was strong preflop with aces against the pocket nines of Dwan, but a third 9 hit on the flop and Grey’s hopes for survival were crushed.

Mark NewhouseUp to this point, the day rattled off 35 eliminations like clockwork. The final player to leave the field was the most stubborn player of the day. The only slowdown of the day took place at the final-two-tables bubble, but it was a long one that took over two-and-a-half hours. During this “bubble” play, Amir Vahedi won a huge pot off of Robert Mizrachi, while Gus Hansen doubled up Jeff King. These two opposing forces brought Vahedi and Hansen just about even for the chip lead at 3.3 million.

This long final stretch came to an end with a flurry of action, which had been proceeded by small stacks doubling up numerous times. The final player to double up on day 5 was Michael Gracz. On a board of 8 7 6 5 9, Gracz had moved all in and Hansen made the call. Gracz turned up J 10, and he won the pot to survive. At roughly the same time, both Newhouse and Scott Epstein got all of their chips into the middle. Newhouse needed an ace, but it never came, while Epstein ran into a pair of aces that sent him to the rail. In the end, Newhouse was eliminated in 19th place, and Epstein finished in 18th place to produce a double bubble.

The final 17 players will return at noon PDT tomorrow, and they will play down to the final WPT television table of six. Here is a look at the final chip counts and seating chart for tomorrow:

Table 53

1. Kenny Tran -- 1,442,000
2. Amir Vahedi -- 3,907,000
3. Bryan Devonshire -- 984,000
4. Jeff King -- 1,903,000
5. Tommy Le -- 1,950,000
6. Cory Carroll -- 1,346,000
7. John Roveto -- 556,000
8. Jeff Shulman -- 473,000
9. Empty

Table 54

1. Karga Holt -- 1,500,000
2. David Chiu -- 1,742,000
3. Tom "Durrrr" Dwan -- 2,874,000
4. Andrew Black -- 411,000
5. Gus Hansen -- 2,929,000
6. David Tran -- 2,543,000
7. Nick Binger -- 701,000
8. Robert Mizrachi -- 1,079,000
9. Michael Gracz -- 1,674,000