Day 2 of Event 55, the historic $1 million Big One for One Drop has just finished as we reached the final table of eight players. The big chip leaders as we enter the final table are Antonio Esfandiari (39.925 million) and Sam Trickett (37 million). Along with Cirque Du Soleil and One Drop founder, Guy Laliberte (21.7 million) these players have a clear lead over the rest of the table. The remaining players in contention are; Brian Rast (11.35 m), Phil Hellmuth (10.925 m), David Einhorn (8.375 m), Richard Yong (7.475 m) and Bobby Baldwin (7.150 m).
The day started with 37 hopefuls still with a dream of winning the richest prize in poker tournament history but most were to fall short and the early eliminations came thick and fast with the first coming on the very first hand with short stack Chamath Palihapitiya putting his last 635k in the middle with K 10 against John Morgan's A Q. Both players connected with the flop but unfortunately for Palihapitiya Morgan's Queen bested his flopped ten and he was sent to the rail.
Big early exits included Noah Schwartz, Phil Galfond, Gus Hansen, Daniel Negreanu and Tom Dwan. Dwan and Negreanu actually exited in the same hand - and it was a big cooler for Dwan who got his chips in about as good as you can with his AA facing the A 10 of Negreanu and the 99 of Mikhail Smirnov all in pre-flop. Unfortunately for Dwan a nine hit the flop and no help came for either him or Negreanu and they were both sent packing. Galfond had managed an early triple up from his starting 600k stack but was still relatively short stacked and soon bit the dust as he got his last chips in with a nut flush draw on the flop but couldn't improve as Antonio Esfandiari's flopped top pair held up. Soon after came the demise of Phil Ivey who, like Dwan, suffered a horrible beat as he looked to double up as he got his chips in holding QQ to Philipp Gruissem's Ad8d only to lose to a runner runner flush. The hand seemed all the more unfair as Ivey actually hit the nut straight on the turn as the 10d fell to improve his hand before the 4d on the river ended Ivey's tournament.
The first really big pot of the night eliminated one of the events favourites as Ben Lamb and Tom "KingsOfCards" Marchese got all their money after a post flop raising war. The flop read with Lamb holding for a straight and flush draw with Marchese flopping a set of 4's. The board bricked out to send Lamb home and Marchese to the top of the leader board and with that a break was announced to redraw for the final three tables.
Soon after the break another fairly meaty pot went down as Frederic Banjout took a 6.4 million chip pot from Phil Hellmuth who had three bet pre-flop to 2.2 million then bet a million on the river on an A J 8 4 K board only to be looked up and beaten by Banjout's pocket Queens!
Over the next hour or so one man started to dominate proceedings as overnight chip leader Brian "tsarrast" Rast started pulling away from the field and became the first person to breach the 20 million mark, including a +5 million pot which sent Phil Hellmuth into one of his infamous rants. Hellmuth had lead out on a flop of for 350k then check called a 650k bet from Rast on the turn before stewing for a while on a 1.15 million bet from Rast on the river before calling, only to see Rast table an unlikely nut straight holding . Hellmuth exclaimed (rather loudly) "No, he didn't do that!" followed by a slightly less audible "That f**cking idiot!". This wouldn't be the last exchange between the two - well more precisely it wouldn't be the last time Hellmuth spouted off at Rast anyway!
Soon after we saw a really pivotal hand as two of the big stacks got in all in pre-flop for a massive 22 million chip pot as Jason Mercier's KK fell to Antonio Esfandiari's AA. Esfandiari would either at the top or close to to the top of the leader board for the rest of the day. However, along the way Esfandiari did manage to double up Sam Trickett who also then sat among the top chip counts for the rest of the day. Esfandiari had been on a tear and was now over 27 million in chips and decided to put Trickett to a decision for all his chips as he five bet Trickett all in pre-flop. Tricket found the resolve to make the call and was happy to see his AK miles ahead of Esfandiari's AQ and even happier when the board bricked and he approached 15 million in chips.
From this point Esfandiari and Trickett pulled away from the pack, establishing themselves as clear chip leaders as the likes of Rast and Marchese lost a little traction. Trickett was helped along the way courtesy of a c.7 million pot he took from Brandon Stevens when his JJ made a set on the turn and a full house on the river to put him over 20m for the first time.
Also on the slide was Phil Hellmuth who, after a series of coolers, going down to 2.4 million after losing an all in encounter with short stack Brandon Stevens who found AA to best Hellmuth's AJ. Hellmuth is nothing if not a fighter however and by the days end had reached a tournament high of nearly 11 million chips.
As play approached the final table Trickett and Esfandiari both had well over 30 million chips and along with Laliberte were the only ones not especially fearing the largest bubble in tournament history. In the end it was Russian businessman and poker player Ilya Bulychev who was the very unlucky money bubble boy as he lost his last 2.55 million to Trickett shoving with Qd6d only to be looked up by Trickett's K 7. A seven fell on the flop and with no Queen on the horizon Bulychev, who had been nursing a short stack for some time was eliminated in 10th. The table breathed a sigh of relief, including Hellmuth who noted, "This was the scariest bubble I've ever seen".
Before play could wrap up for the night we needed one more elimination to get to the final table of 8 and it was Mike Sexton who fell shortly after the money bubble burst as he moved all in for his last +6 million chips in on board reading holding J 10 only to find Esfandiari had an unlikely 6 3. With this Sexton took his $1.1 million paycheck while Esfandiari overtook Trickett for the final table chip lead with a touch under 40 million chips.
This thrilling event will be played to a finish this evening, with the winner guaranteed an $18.3 million payday. While the poker players will be playing for glory and cash one player is playing 100% for charity as Hedge Fund Manager David Einhorn has promised to donate any proceeds from the tournament to City Year, a Boston-based organization that works with public schools to prevent student dropouts.
I'm sure we all have our favourites going into the final table and whatever way you look at it with millions already raised for charity and seven figures already guaranteed for the remaining players it seems they will all be winners.
Find more of the latest news and articles relating to the World Series of Poker in the 2012 WSOP-section.