On Day 2 of the World Series of Poker Circuit Palm Beach Kennel Club Main Event, players took part in 14 levels of action, and at the end of the night, Roman Valerstein was sitting behind the biggest stack in the room. His count of 2.155 million puts him atop the Day 3 starting list, and he'll be the pacesetter when the final 21 players return to the felt on Monday.
A few notable stories cropped up over the course of the day, but none was more interesting than John Riordan. Astute followers of the circuit will recognize the name, but he's not the sort of guy you'd buy a drink for at the bar. That's because he's only 20 years old, and he's the defending champion of this event after besting the field of 712 last season.
Riordan was back in his seat for Day 2 and found some success in the early goings. He began the day with 57,000 chips, but his stack was whittled to 15,100 before the charge began. He tripled his way to about 140,000 when his pocket nines bested queens and ace-queen in a three-way pot. A few minutes later, he was suddenly up to 305,000, then all the way to 440,000 and into the chip lead with about 250 players remaining. He managed to hold that top spot for several hours, climbing to 770,000 before the bottom fell out.
The champ's slide began when his fell to in a preflop all-in. He went on to lose several more sizable pots as the after-dinner session wore on. He got back down to 170,000 before finding a double with Big Slick, but it was the last significant pot he'd win. He got his last 280,000 in with preflop, and Chet Farrell called him down with , which held to earn the knockout. That was it for the defending champion, and he was ushered out with a small paycheck and a warm ovation from the 33 players who outlasted him.
Farrell, one of the big stacks heading into Day 3, managed to work his stack up to 1.512 million by night's end. That's good for second place overall, and he and Valerstein are joined in the Million-Chip Club by Chris Parsons and Dave Stefanski. Drazen Ilich is lurking just below that milestone with 958,000, and Jeremy McLaughlin, Bruce Yamron, and Brian "Stinger 88" Hastings are also among the survivors with one day of action remaining.
Hastings' effort was particularly notable because he was one of the very last registrants, buying in just before the start of Day 2 to go to work with 20 big blinds. It was an up-and-down day, but he managed to bag up 246,000 chips to give him a 15-big-blind starting stack for Day 3.
Everyone's looking up at Valerstein though, a Pennsylvania grinder who spends a lot of his time in Atlantic City. He won a ring there in a preliminary event in 2010, and he's already notched one prelim final table at this Palm Beach stop. His biggest boost of the day came in a clash with Reed Zhao who also had a big stack at the time.
Valerstein three-bet, then called a four-bet with \, and he flopped a monster on the board. All of the chips got in right there, and Zhao got about a half million more in on a bluff with . The turn and river bricked to give Valerstein the knockout, and he only needed a few more small pots to improve to his finishing count of more than 2 million.
Valerstein and the final 21 players will be back inside the Kennel Club on Monday at 1200 EST (1700 GMT) to play down to a winner. At the end of the night, one man will be left standing alone with all the chips, the gold ring, and nearly a quarter-million dollars in cash.