With four top-eight finishes during Season XII of the World Poker Tour, Mukul Pahuja has already enjoyed one of the most consistent seasons in the tour's history. On Wednesday, he could make it one of the most profitable.
Pahuja will enter the final table of the 2014 World Poker Tour Seminole Hard Rock Showdown as the overwhelming chip leader after bagging 18,895,000 in chips late Tuesday night. His next closest competitor is World Series of Poker bracelet winner James Mackey with 11,680,000. The talent-loaded final table also includes Jake Bazeley (7,305,000), Eric Afriat (6,760,000), Chance Kornuth (5,315,000) and Matt Stout (3,665,000).
With a victory on Wednesday, Pahuja would lock up the most winnings in one season of the WPT since Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier earned $2,225,335 in Season VII. Pahuja already has $743,275 in earnings this season, and the top prize for this event is a massive $1,081,184.
A win for Pahuja would also secure the Player of the Year honor, even with the WPT Championship still on the schedule later this week. He could add his name to an elite list that includes Daniel Negreanu, Matt Salsberg, Joe Serock, Andy Frankenberger, J.C. Tran, Faraz Jaka, and the aforementioned Grospellier.
Day 4 began of the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Showdown with 18 players hoping to reach the six-handed final table. Bazeley was the chip leader entering the day, and he quickly began plowing through the competition to build his lead. After Elliott Zaydman was eliminated in 18th place, Bazeley sent Frank Russo to the rail in 17th place.
According to the WPT Live Updates, Russo opened with a preflop raise from the hijack and Bazeley three-bet to 750,000. Russo four-bet shoved for 2.5 million and Bazeley called. Russo was out in front with the against the , but a board gave Bazeley a flush on the river, pushing Bazeley close to 11 million in chips.
Bazeley continued his onslaught when he busted Chris O'Rourke in 14th place. O'Rourke moved all in for 505,000 from early position, Bazeley called from the cutoff, and Pahuja called from the big blind.
Bazeley and Pahuja checked it down as the dealer rolled out a board of . All of the players revealed an ace, but Bazeley's trumped O'Rourke's to win the entire pot.
Day 1a chip leader Justin Young hit the rail in 13th place. After losing a big all-in confrontation to Pahuja that left him with just 220,000, Young moved all in preflop and Afriat and Barry Hutter called. The two live players checked it down to the river on a board, and Hutter bet 150,000. Afriat folded and Hutter tabled his , which bested Young's . Young earned $43,248 for his four days of work.
Bazeley clipped Oron Unger in 12th place with the against the , and then Mackey got his hands dirty by eliminating Michael Garraway in 11th place to set up the unofficial 10-handed final table. Bazeley had a huge lead, and he increased it further by sending Jeff Gross home in 10th place.
Gross shoved his last 780,000 from the hijack with the , and Bazeley called from the small blind with the . Gross looked safe through the flop as he added a flush draw to his pair, but Bazeley picked up some counterfeit outs on the turn. The dealer rolled over the on the river to give Bazeley a better two pair, sending Gross out of the tournament.
Another well-known pro, Matt Glantz, exited in ninth place. Glantz moved his short stack all in from middle position, and Kornuth called. Glantz was flipping with against pocket nines, but the board failed to improve his hand.
Pahuja's rise up the leader board began when he took down a huge pot against Bazeley. Bazeley raised to 250,000 from the hijack, and Pahuja defended his big blind to see a flop of . Both checked, and the hit the turn. Pahuja checked, Bazeley bet 575,000, and Pahuja check-raised to 1,650,000. Bazeley called, and the arrived on the river. Pahuja fired 2,825,000 into the pot, and Bazeley went deep into the tank before calling. Pahuja showed the for Broadway, and Bazeley mucked. That pot gave Pahuja nearly 17 million in chips and a huge lead at the table.
Hutter was eliminated a couple hands later. Stout raised to 275,000 from the cutoff, and Hutter moved all in for 2,600,000 from the big blind with the . Stout called instantly with the , and his overpair held up through the board to leave the remaining seven players on the final table bubble.
Mackey doubled up twice, once through Kornuth and then through Stout, to stay alive. Blake Purvis wasn't as fortunate. He moved all in for his last 1,600,000 (10 big blinds) with the , and Afriat called with the . The board ran out ten-high, and Purvis was removed from the tournament one spot shy of the final table.
The action will resume at 3:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Will Mukul Pahuja be able to win his first title and lock up the Season XII Player of the Year honor? Check back to PokerNews.com Wednesday for a full recap upon the completion of play.
*Data and lead photo courtesy of the WPT Blog.