After seeing the second largest field in the history of poker come to the felt for the start of Event #2 on Tuesday, the $1,500 No-Limit event resumed on Wednesday with 121 players with guaranteed paydays and all looking to take their place at the first open field final table at the 2006 World Series of Poker.
While it was astounding that 2,776 runners came to the line for the $1,500 No-Limit event, what was mind boggling was the elimination of over 2,600 players to get to where we were on Wednesday. While they played ten rounds on the first day, that still accounts for either quite a bit of gamble in the players or some tremendous action as it broke down to around 260 players an hour finding their way to the door of the Amazon Room. Surviving the carnage was quite an impressive feat and there were a multitude of pros who survived the first day.
Leading the pack was 2001 World Champion Carlos Mortensen, who had amassed a rather impressive first day stack of around 140,000 in chips. There were several professional players who also remained in the 121 player field including 2004 World Champion Greg Raymer, Jennifer Harman, Shawn Sheikhan, David "The DevilFish" Ulliot, John Bonetti, former World Poker Tour champion Tuan Le, 1989 World Champion Phil Hellmuth, Phil Gordon, Erik Seidel, Bill Gazes and Don Zewin. Among these pros, there were some stacks that could challenge Mortensen but, as the day wore on, they became fewer and fewer.
The early going was marked by pretty much the same gambling instincts that were prevalent from the first day of action. Two of the 121 players were eliminated in the first ten minutes of action and a whole table was eliminated within twenty minutes of the start of the second day. This trend continued as the early idea seemed to be "double up or get out" and within two hours of the start of play, half of the remaining players had been eliminated, including Hellmuth, Bonetti and Gordon. The one constant that was there was Mortensen continuing to add to his chip stack.
As the dinner break approached, I was able to talk to one of the players who had been eliminated early in the going on the second day. He was tremendously excited to have played in the event and happy with his $4K cash out and, when I asked him about his approach to the tournament, he said, "I played tight. If there had been a piece of coal underneath me, I would have squeezed out a diamond by the time I was done!" By the time the dinner break came, Carlos Mortensen had a dominant lead of more than 2 to 1 over his closest follower and there were 26 players left to go.
After the dinner break, the play continued to be furious and we busted out eight players quickly to come down to two tables remaining. The play tightened up considerably at that point and Carlos Mortensen began to come back to the field quite a bit. Mortensen first doubled up Mark Ly and then did the same to Brent Roberts to lose the lead in the event for the first time since the second day had started.
Assuming the leader role at in the event was Lee Padilla, who built his stack up to around 855,000 as the night wore on. He was pursued by Ly and Las Vegas poker veteran Don Zewin, who maintained a position in the top ten through much of the day. Jennifer Harman hung tough through the carnage after the dinner break and was able to build her stack nicely as the final two tables played down before she succumbed to the field in eleventh place for the tournament, earning a payday of slightly over $51,000 for her efforts.
With Harman's elimination, the remaining ten men were consolidated into one table; only nine would come back for the final table on Thursday, however. As the blinds escalated to 8K/16K with a 2K ante, Carlos Mortensen found himself all in with pocket Aces and survived and was the man who knocked Padilla from the chip lead on the very next hand. It was definitely quite a ride for the first day leader who was able to settle into the middle of the chase at the final table and Luis Padilla wasn't doing badly, either. Padilla passed the lead off to Brandon Cantu but came back to sit even by the end of the night.
The elimination of the tenth place player came down to two of the shorter stacks at the table squaring off. Ron Stanley pushed all in and found a caller in the shorter stacked Tom Nguyen. Nguyen had firm control of the hand pre-flop with pocket nines against Stanley's A-J, but the flop of A-A-Q virtually turned the tables and, once the turn and river fell without the needed nine, Nguyen was eliminated in tenth place, setting up a final table that looks like this:
1. Brandon Cantu 773,000 in chips
2. Lee Padilla 753,000
3. Drew Rubin 573,000
4. Mark Ly 516,000
5. Mark Swartz 359,000
6. Don Zewin 340,000
7. Carlos Mortensen 316,000
8. Ron Stanley 283,000
9. Brent Roberts 260,000
The final nine in the $1,500 No-Limit event will return on Thursday afternoon at 2PM to battle for the lion's share of the over $4 million pool, with first place taking $757,839 and the first open bracelet of the 2006 World Series. It should be a highly charged final table as, with the action that has come in the previous two days, these are men that aren't afraid to mix it up. Can Mortensen take another bracelet or will we crown one of the other members of the table? It promises to be an interesting showdown come Thursday night.
Ed Note: Prep for the WSOP by playing at Noble Poker