Faraz Jaka and Shawn Buchanan are virtually tied for the chip lead after two days of batting poker's stiffest competition in the $25,000 WPT World Championship. Both players have already made it to two WPT final tables, and Buchanan took home a title in 2007. Jaka is in the lead for the WPT Season 8 Player-of-the-Year award. Several people left in the field could catch him, but Jaka isn't going to make it easy for them.
Buchanan ended Day 1 as chip leader and continued to build steadily throughout Day 2. He and Jaka shared the felt all day and tangled in a few big pots but focused most of their energies on accumulating everyone else's chips. Jaka jumped to the top of the chip counts when Tom "durrrr" Dwan turned trips and check-shoved into his nut flush. Jaka busted Dwan, took over the lead, and never looked back. Two other familiar players, Brandon Cantu and Justin Bonomo, are right behind Jaka and Buchanan in the overnight chip counts.
Many people described Day 1 of the WPT World Championship as the most concentrated poker talent they had ever seen. And every stacked table only got tougher on Day 2, as 35 more top-notch pros joined the party. The Bellagio's unusual late registration rule allowed players to buy in through the end of the third level on Day 2 and get full chip stacks. Because players began with 500 big blinds on the first day, late arrivals still had plenty of play left when they made their appearances. Andy Bloch sat down at the beginning of level nine and dusted off his chips in record time. Chris Ferguson, Tom Dwan, and Frank Kassela also bought in late and left early. Late registration worked well for others, however. Brandon Cantu waited until Day 2 to play and ended the night third in chips. Phil Hellmuth and David Williams are also above average.
The late entrants brought the total field size to 195, smaller than hoped for, but still large enough to create a $4.7 million prize pool. The first place finisher will get $1.5 million along with the title of WPT Season 8 Champion. Only 98 players made it through to Day 3 and still have a shot at making the money. The last 18 players standing won't go home empty handed.
The top of the leader board is seriously stacked, with Jaka and Buchanan closely followed by Brandon Cantu, Justin Bonomo, Joshua Gold, Heather Sue Mercer, Soheil Shamseddin, and Todd Terry. Brock Parker, Cliff "JohnnyBax" Josephy, Andrew Lichtenberger, Eric Froehlich, David Benyamine, and Carlos Mortensen, who all also have above average stacks. Reigning champion Yevgeniy "JovialGent" Timoshenko has a sizable pile of chips, as well. Eric "basebaldy" Baldwin, Josh Arieh, Scotty Nguyen, John Juanda, Erik Seidel, and Howard Lederer are a little shorter, while Kathy Liebert ended Day 2 as the short stack after the Poker Brat rivered a two-outer against Poker Kat to cripple her.
Phil Ivey, who actually played all of Day 1, only made it through a few hours of Day 2. Daniel Negreanu doubled through Ivey when Ivey flopped a set and rivered a full house and Negreanu hit a bigger boat on the river. Ivey was crippled further later and then eliminated by Hasan Habib who has already made the final table of this event twice. Despite Negreanu's double up, he also was relegated to the rail before the end of the night, felted by James "mig.com" Mackey. Other top players who won't be back for Day 3 include Jennifer Harman, Gavin Smith, Andrew Robl, Alex Gomes, and Steve Brecher.
Here's how things stack up for the top ten after Day 2:
1. Faraz Jaka - 597,100
2. Shawn Buchanan - 596,600
3. Brandon Cantu - 520,000
4. Justin Bonomo - 503,600
5. Joshua Gould - 500,000
6. Heather Sue Mercer - 490,000
7. Soheil Shamseddin - 472,000
8. Todd Terry - 430,000
9. Cody Slaubaugh - 416,300
10. Aaron Jones - 362,000
Play resumes at the Bellagio in Las Vegas at noon PST on Tuesday. Follow us on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news.