Katja Thater and Shankar Pillai were the day's big winners in action Monday, Day 19 of play at the 2007 World Series of Poker. Both came from behind to land their first WSOP bracelets, Thater in Event #29, $1,500 Razz, and Pillai in Event #28, $3,000 No Limit Hold 'Em. Pillai's event also saw Phil Hellmuth tie T.J. Coultier's career WSOP mark of 39 WSOP final-table appearances.
Thater had a huge task at hand in claiming the Razz title, beginning the day far behind the overnight leader, 2005 WSOP Razz champ O'Neil Longson. Thater had other worries as well, with a final table that also included Men Nguyen, Paul 'Eskimo' Clark and Mark Vos. Thater, though picked up most of the final-table knockouts in a succession of huge hands that saw several players jump to the lead at various times during play. Thater eventually finished off Larry St. Jean for the win, with Longson in third and Clark in fourth. Thater collected $132,653 for her first WSOP victory
A much larger first-place prize, $527,829, went to Pillai in an unusual $3,000 NL final... unusual because it started with ten players, rather than nine, to make sure Hellmuth was a part of the television taping. Hellmuth was on the verge of tying Cloutier's career mark when play was halted Monday night, and he indeed tied that mark by surviving the day's first elimination (Luke Vrabel) to make the 'official' final-table appearance. Hellmuth gained some chips but was never able to escape short-stack status, finally exiting in sixth at the hands of third-place finisher Jason Song. The bracelet came down to a matchup between Pillai and Beth Shak, with Pillai erasing a 2:1 deficit in chips before sealing the win. Shak collected $328,683 for her runner-up performance.
A sadder tale clouded second-day action in Event #30, $2,500 No Limit Hold 'Em Six-Handed. For the second time in this year's WSOP, Vinny Vinh failed to show up for Day Two play and was eventually blinded out, well inside the money spots at 22nd place. The top-of-the-board story remained the success of Hoyt Corkins, who started the day in the lead and continued to amass chips throughout. Corkins and Alan Sass swapped the lead much of the day, with Corkins moving back in front by picking up the last two knockouts of the night. The six-player final table gets underway this afternoon.
Large heads-up tournaments can cause logistic nightmares, and Event #31, $5,000 Heads Up No Limit Hold 'Em. Delayed for over two hours by the need to do a redraw for first-round byes, the tourney nonetheless made it through all three scheduled rounds of opening-day play, with the 64 survivors all guaranteed of cashing in the event. All the players start with the same number of chips, and today's matchups have not yet been announced. Many stars are still in the running, including Chad Brown, Roland de Wolfe, Tony G, Phil Gordon, Layne Flack, Carl Olson, Gavin Griffin, Jennifer Tilly, Eric Lynch, Toto Leonidas, Scotty Nguyen, Kirk Morrison, Joe Sebok, Thomas Wahlroos and Paul Wasicka.
Starting later on Monday was event #32, $2,000 Seven Card Stud. Nearly half the field remains alive as Day Two play begins, with Daniel Negreanu near the top of the board, chasing leader Gary Priegen. Nick Frangos and Jeffrey Lisandro also made the first day's Top Ten.
Two more events get underway today. A noon start is scheduled for Event #33, $1,500 Pot Limit Omaha (w/ Rebuys), while the late-afternoon (5pm) slot goes to Event #34, $3,000 Limit Hold 'Em.