There were no bracelets handed out on Saturday at the WSOP as the $5k NLHE ran over so yesterday we saw three champions announced, as well as the start of the highest buy-in poker tournament the world has ever seen as Event 55 the $1 million "The Big One for One Drop" kicked off amidst much fanfare yesterday with many of the biggest names in poker (and some extremely wealthy recreational players) putting up the huge seven figure entry price to take home a huge prize and a slice of history.
Event 50 ($5k NLHE) eventually came to its conclusion yesterday after three players returned to contest the bracelet. Dan Smith, Panayopte Vilandos and Kyle Julius. Smith held the lead as play restarted and had every right to believe he might close this one out given his astonishing record in 5k NL events this year - he took down three €5k NL events in five days at this years EPT Grand Final in Monaco (5k NL, 5k NL Turbo and 5k NL Turbo 6 max), bagging around $700k in prize money. Smith also took down the $100k challenge at the Aussie Millions this year for more than $1 million so he is on something of a tear this year. However as it turned out it was Smith who was first to be sent to the rail as he lost a few mid sized pots before losing two seven figure pots - his final hand being a 6 million chip cooler when his AK lost out to Vilandros's A 10 when a 10 spiked the turn. Smith should have been celebrating regaining the chip lead but was instead sent to the rail as Vilandros took a 9.2m to 5.9m chip lead into heads up play against Kyle Julius.
Vilandros made light work of the heads up encounter, dismantling his opponent after around an hours play with Julius never getting a foothold or any momentum. The end came in a +4 million pot where Vilandros limped with AJ only see to Julius shove - a call from Vilandros showed he was way ahead of Julius's A5 and the board offered this years PCA runner up no help as he exited in second (although with a nice $590k payout he will not be too unhappy with his performance). Panayopte "Peter" Vilandros on the other hand celebrated his third WSOP win and his biggest ever payout of $952.7k.
The ladies $1k event also ended yesterday with Yen Dang taking the bracelet and the $170.6k prize money. Dang had been among the chip leaders for the past two days and when it came down to the business end of the event ended up taking out out five of the players at the final table on her way to glory - including Debbie Pechac, the chip leader for much of the final table in second place after initially crippling her in during three handed play (Dang's AK outflopped Pechac's 77) and then easily finishing the job in a dozen or so hands when play became heads up (after Dang took out Jan Howard in third with her 99 beating Howard's desperate shove with A6). Congratulations to Yen Dang.
Yesterday also saw Vanessa Selbst clinch her second WSOP bracelet as she took down Event 52, $2.5k 10 Game Mix Six Max, for $244k. Selbst is the first woman to win an open WSOP bracelet since 2008, that last woman being Selbst herself when she won the $1.5k PLO Event four years ago.
It was a virtuoso performance from Selbst at the final table as she not only started as chip leader but then went on to eliminate all but one (including 7th place finisher Julian Renard from the 'unofficial' final table) of the remaining players. There are no especially notable hands to report as Selbst was in such complete control and amassing such a chip lead that most hand, even the elimination hands weren't huge ones. Selbst entered heads up play against Michael Saltzberg with more than a 5-1 chip lead and after winning 5 of the first six hands after the dinner break (which took place shortly after Tommy Hang's elimination at the hands of Selbst in third) Selbst was unstoppable. The final hand here was no huge all in but simply the inevitable end to a dominating display, although just for good measure Selbst tabled the stone cold nuts in a 2-7 Limit Triple Draw round, her 7,5,4,3,2 an apt hand to finish an awesome display. Vanessa, we salute you!
The tournament on everybody's lips also started last night as the highly anticipated Event 55, $1 million Big One for One Drop got underway. To see the full list of entrants see our reviews starting here .
With 3,000,000 starting stacks 500 big blinds deep this was never going to be a quick affair and quite right too! If you're paying $1 million to play in a poker tournament you're going to want your moneys worth! The tournament opened with as Cirque Du Soleil performers banged their drums and introduced the players one by one, creating a carnival like atmosphere in the Amazon room you'd normally expect to find at a stadium sports championship event. It was left to Cirque Du Soleil founder and the Event Kingpin Guy Laliberte to announce the official start to proceedings with the patented "Shuffle up and deal".
Quick affair or not we still witnessed some eliminations in the first day and the questionable honour of being first man out fell to high stakes professional Justin "Boosted J" Smith who was crippled in a +5 million chip pot with French businessman Frederic Banjout. Smith flopped an open ended straight draw and called a check raise on the flop and a big turn bet on a board which read . When the hit the river Smith completed his straight but also put a flush on the board. When Banjout announced he was all in for a little over 2 million chips Smith came to the conclusion that the way he had played the hand up to that point suggested he had a big hand at least up to the turn but that a flush was unlikely. He was suitably devastated after he called only to see Banjout table for the nuts. With just 30k left Smith was eliminated shortly after.
We actually saw a fair few pro poker players bite the dust today and a couple of the rich amateurs joined them as we said farewell to; Andrew Robl, Jens Kyllonen, Jonathan Duhamel, Paul Phua, Erik Seidel, Bertrand Grospellier, Nick Schulman, Eugene Katchalov, Michael Mizrachi and Giovanni Guarascio. It would seem the main single benfactor from these busts was one Phil Hellmuth who shot into the chip lead after winning a 6 million chip pot against Chinese businessman Paul Phua when Phua was unfortunate to run his KK into Hellmuth's AA. Although not busted on this hand Phua then went on to lose another seven figure pot to Hellmuth with his sixes full of queens crushed by Hellmuth's Queens full of Aces. Oddly Hellmuth chose only to call Phua's 475k river bet when the only hand which could beat Hellmuth would have been Pocket Aces.
By the end of the day we had a pretty clear leader in last years double bracelet winner Brian Rast who has 10.7 million chips (average 3.9m) followed by Hellmuth on 8.4m and Banjout on 7.1 mill. Also in the top ten with between 6.5m and 6.9m (in no particular order) we see; Antonio Esfandiari, Gus Hansen, Sam Trickett and Guy Laliberte with Ben Lamb, Mike Sexton and Tom Dwan rounding off the top ten with 4.8m. In fact Dwan is lucky to still be here after he got his final million chips or so in the middle on a holding and was called by John Morgan's . When an ace hit the turn Dwan looked resigned and got up to leave as his remaining K's would only fill up Morgan's straight. Miraculously however a 10 fell on the river to give Dwan the straight and keep him very much alive.
Currently occupying the middle ground we see the likes Roland DeWolfe, Phil Ivey, Tom Marchese, Noah Schwartz and Dan Shak while on life support and needing to make a move pretty quickly tomorrow if they want to be in with a chance of a comeback we see Phil Galfond and Daniel Negreanu, both of whom have less that 500k in chips. Negreanu has already made a comeback of sorts as he was down to around 300k before going back up over 2 million, only to see his stack eroded once again by the end of play.
By this time tomorrow we should have a pretty good idea of those in with a realistic shot at the astonishing $18.3 million first prize (and of course the platinum bracelet) but at the moment it is still all to play for in Event 55.
Find more of the latest news and articles relating to the World Series of Poker in the 2012 WSOP-section.