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2009 WSOP ME Day 5 Special Report: End of the Beginning, Beginning of the End

Dennis Phillips

It’s “in the money” time for the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event, with Day 5 starting play with all 407 players of cashing in the event. It’s in essence a Phase Two for the largest poker show on earth, with the differences between these later stages and the circus that marks the opening sessions a striking contrast.

For the first time, the Amazom Room is truly roomy. Alternating tables have been removed from each area of the giant ballroom still being used for play, making the gaps between tables 15-20 feet wide, instead of the standard three-to-four feet during the early parts of the WSOP, when the aisles are obstacle course and collisions and negotiations over right-of-way are inevitable.

The spread-out tables, arranged in a giant checkerboard of felt and vinyl, serve a real and important purpose: the later the Main Event progresses, the higher the ratio of floor staff and media to players actually remaining in the event. It’s doubly important when the neverending cries of “All in and a call!” result in heavier and heavier rushes to the tables in question, to see which big star might be on the ropes… or in position for a key double-up. At such times the media can feel like carrion, picking at the bones of the vanquished, but poker is at times a cruel pastime; it comes with the territory.

This year’s Day 5 brings a precipitous continuation in the number of players bounced, with nearly a quarter of the remaining players escorted to the payout windows in the first two-hour level. Rumors circulate that the target number for surviving players at end of day is somewhere around 175, raising the possibility that Day 5, as with Day 4, will be a short session indeed. Still, stars and anonymous players alike find their final hands here. Early knockouts include Jeff Kimber, Can Hua, Thor Hansen, Sorel Mizzi, David Levi, Remy Biechel, Sander Lylloff and Burt Boutin. Boutin’s exit is among the most painful, as he got his chips all in with pocket aces against pocket kings, but let out an anguished cry when the flop brought the killer king.

Elsewhere the early action brought tales of both survival and success. Ludovic Lacay, who started the day in second spot, continued his hyper-aggressive attack mode and knocked out three players from his table in the first ninety minutes. The extra chips, however, kept Lacay only in second, for overnight leader Matt Affleck accumulated chips as well. Tom “Donkey Bomber” Schneider was among those making the biggest early surges, while three remaining World Champions – Joe Hachem, Dan Harrington and Peter Eastgate – bided their time, waiting to make their moves. Harrington wasn’t even sure he’d play the Main Event after a chronic and painful neck condition flared up a week before the ME began, but found himself, neck brace and all, deep within the money as Day 5 progressed. Elsewhere a cold-battling Joe Sebok threw his hands in the air with a whoop and several coughs, shouting, “I won a pot! It only took an hour an hour and fifteen minutes!” But even with the pot, Sebok remained at only 370,000, facing an uphill climb against an ever-dwinding pack.

It’s a time of waiting and winnowing. The spontaneous excitement on the day the Main Event’s money bubble bursts makes it perhaps the most entertaining sequence of the entire tourney. From here on it’s a slow crescendo, building back to the excitement and crush surrounding the final few tables and the setting of this year’s November Nine.

For now, though, it’s just the grind, the picking off of disappointed players, one by one, albeit on the game’s biggest stage. As the pace of eliminations slows, it’s unknown exactly how many levels will be played reach the WSOP’s target range for the day. Continue to check in with PokerNews’ Live Reporting for the latest updates.

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