Newcomer JC Tran made it two-for-two in qualifying heats in the PartyPoker Premier League III on Wednesday, pushing his total to a maximum-possible 20 points and virtually assuring him of a seat in the six-player finals. Season One champion Juha Helppi improved his prospects by winning the other heat and moving into an overall tie for second place.
Meanwhile several of the other big names in the field struggled to separate themselves from the pack, adding importance to Thursday's Heats 5 and 6. Among those having the worst performances on Wednesday were youngest-ever WSOP Main Event winner Peter Eastgate, who busted out first in his heat, as did the man Eastgate claimed the "youngest ever" title from , Phil Hellmuth. Hellmuth was the first player eliminated from the other heat and like Eastgate, collected zero points on the day.
Heat 3, the first of two contested on Wednesday, turned into a Nordic duel between Finland's Helppi and young Norwegian star Annette Obrestad after four other stars made their exit. Hellmuth's early departure here was followed by that of Heat 2 winner Tony G, who picked up two more points for finishing fifth. Nenad Medic went out in fourth for third place, followed by Roland de Wolfe in third place for four points. The heat concluded after Helppi snapped off an all-in bluff from Obrestad, who had pushed with J-4 offsuit; Helppi's offsuited K-Q held up for the win after rivering a ten for a straight.
JC Tran's early success in this year's event continued when he dominated Heat 4 action. Vicky Coren was the last survivor against Tran's onslaught, and she had the worst part of a 4:1 margin in chips as heads-up play began. Coren busted in a tough manner, collecting six points when her all-in with pocket kings went awry against Tran's A-6 when an ace flopped. Coren still outlasted third-place finisher Andy Black (four points), David "Devilfish" Ulliott (three points), Tom "durrrr" Dwan (two points), and Eastgate, who was bageled here.
Here are the standings after two days and four heats of premilinary-round action:
1. JC Tran – 20 pts.
2t. Tony G - 12 pts
2t. Juha Helppi - 12 pts
4t. Annette Obrestad - 10 pts
4t. Vicky Coren - 10 pts
6. Tom Dwan - 8 pts
7. Andy Black - 7 pts
8t. Peter Eastgate - 6 pts
8t. Roland de Wolfe - 6 pts
10t. David "Devilfish" Ulliott - 3 pts
10t. Phil Hellmuth - 3 pts
10t. Nenad Medic - 3pts