One of the most highly-anticipated events of the summer has reached its final table. Though Event #28: Monster Stack $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em saw participation fall a bit this year – the event drew 7,192 compared to 7,862 in 2014 – there's no doubt this is still one of the premier events of the World Series of Poker based on the raw numbers.
Last year, notable pros like Joe McKeehen (second place), Thayer Rasmussen (fifth), and Zachary Gruneberg (eighth) advanced to the final table, but none was able to win as Hugo Pingray came out on top and earned more than $1.3 million. This year's crop looks to be mostly anonymous outside of two bracelet winners.
So, who are these guys and how did they get here? We preview the final nine contenders, who return at 11 a.m. Wednesday to see who will claim $1,286,942 in first-place prize money.
Seat 1 – Perry Shiao, 10 million (25 big blinds)
A poker dealer from Pembroke Pines, Florida, Perry Shiao certainly finds himself in uncharted territory as he comes into the final table with just two small cashes for $8,698 total in his home state. Shiao has finished each day with an unremarkable stack of chips, with his highest relative finish coming on Day 1, when he bagged 53,300 to rank 813th out of 2,060 advancing players. Shiao was all in and at risk for his tournament life on Day 3 with against the of Richard Alati and faded the three-outer to survive. He'll certainly have his work cut out for him sitting in arguably the worst spot at the table with the three of the top four stacks, including the two most experienced players, sitting on his left.
Seat 2 – Fernando Konishi, 20.8 million (52 big blinds)
The Brazilian chip leader drew a difficult seat at the final table with his two most experienced opponents on his immediate left. Though Fernando Konishi has them outchipped for the moment, though a lead of just 20 big blinds doesn't mean much as that could easily evaporate in a single pot. The role of chip leader is a new one for Konishi, who he came into Day 3 20th out of the 29 returning players with 2.9 million. He picked up some big hands in key spots though, most importantly doubling through Lavann Williams with kings on a flop as the board paired on the river after Williams turned the nut flush with .
Konishi has only a little more than $20,000 in cashes in his tournament career, so he won't have experience to lean on, but if WSOP history is any guide, he'll have a boisterous Brazilian rail to cheer him on.
Seat 3 – Asi Moshe, 14.725 million (36.8 big blinds)
Now we come to a player whose resume looks the part of a championship contender. Asi Moshe is an Israeli computer programmer and semi-professional poker player. His tournament history is certainly not deep but it is strong, as his five total cashes amount to $884,075, including a gold bracelet and $582,321 from a $1,500 no-limit hold'em event last summer. He also has a fifth-place finish in a WSOP event in 2013 and a third-place in a Venetian Deepstack Extravaganza III tournament, both worth about $140,000.
Moshe has played the role of front-runner in this tournament, bagging in the top 10 percent of the field on Day 1, then 15th of 272 on Day 2, and fifth on Day 3. He'll have plenty of opportunity to increase that stack with an enviable seat at the final table, having the chip leader on his immediate left.
Seat 4 – Hoyt Corkins, 12.925 million (32.3 big blinds)
Easily the most experienced player remaining, Hoyt Corkins has a laundry list of credentials that far outpace any of his remaining opponents. The Alabama native has showcased his longevity with a pair of bracelets many years apart, taking down a $5,000 pot-limit Omaha tournament back in 1992 and then a $2,500 six-max event in 2007 for $515,065. Corkins has just shy of $6 million in tournament cashes and used to be quite active on the World Poker Tour, where he has made multiple TV final tables, including a win for more than $700,000 in 2010.
Corkins jumped out to a big stack on Day 1 when he bagged 132,400 to rank 67th and kept things rolling, culminating when he held the chip lead with 9.3 million coming into Day 4. He had dropped more than half of that stack in the early goings, but luck was with him as the day wound down when he cracked pocket kings twice, once with all in preflop against Dean Baranowski and once with when he turned two pair in a blind battle and ambushed Jeremy Halaska.
Corkins may have to play a bit tighter than normal early on with a short stack on his left, but he couldn't ask for a better seat with the biggest stack and his fellow bracelet winner the two players on his right.
Seat 5 – Caio Toledoq, 5.55 million (13.9 big blinds)
Little is known about Caio Toledoq, who listed his occupation as “logistics” and has never recorded a live tournament cash that we could find. The mysterious Brazilian looked like one of the longest shots to make the final table after Day 2, when he finished with just 85,000 to rank 262nd of 272. He managed to run that all the way up to 4.92 million though, and looks to have mostly tread water on Day 4 with no recorded hands in the live updates. Though short, Toledoq still has enough to put plenty of pressure on the players on his left, who would be left short themselves if Toledoq doubles through.
Seat 6 – Christian Rodriguez, 12.675 million (31.7 big blinds)
Christian Rodriguez calls Boynton Beach, Fla. home but was born in Puerto Rico. The audio tech-turned-professional-player has $42,251 in tournament cashes and already showcased an ability to get through large fields with a 765th-place finish in The Colossus for $4,027 just weeks ago. Rodriguez got his tournament off to a nice start by by bagging 84,500 on Day 1, good for 322nd place. He finished in the middle of the pack on Day 2 and Day 3, and that trend continued on Day 4 as he chipped up to fifth place without a hand recorded in the live updates. Rodriguez's seat draw seems solid, with no short stacks or experienced pros on his left.
Seat 7 –Eric Place, 12.5 million (31.3 big blinds)
Eric Place has almost nothing in the way of WSOP success – just one small score for $2,966 – but he's no stranger to playing for big money. In 2010, he won the British Columbia Poker Championships Main Event for $294,829. Since then, he has accumulated assorted small cashes for about $85,000, using his newfound bankroll to travel to places like the Bahamas, Spain, and Italy.
The Canadian lists himself as an investor, and his stock value has been solid throughout the tournament with solid stacks bagged each night. He came into Day 3 in sixth with 5.41 million and doubled up early on when his held against . Place has two like-sized stacks on either side of him, so his battles with them in button-versus-blind scenarios may determine his fate.
Seat 8 – Kevin Kung, 14.075 million (35.2 big blinds)
A professional player based in California, the New York-born Kevin Kung has racked up $184,908 in tournament cashes dating to 2006 mainly in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. He's already far surpassed his best score of $39,632. Kung had the best Day 1 of the final table participants, finishing with 193,100, the fifth-biggest stack of more than 2,000 runners. He continued to soar on Day 2, finishing in 33rd place with 692,000, and Day 3, when he bagged second with 8.58 million. Having a short stack on his left could hamper him in the early going, as Kung will likely have to play it fairly straightforward until Joshua Wallace either busts or doubles up.
Seat 9 – Joshua Wallace, 4.675 million (11.7 big blinds)
Hailing from Massachusetts, Joshua Wallace comes in as the short stack, but that should be a role with which he's familiar considering he came into Day 3 as the shortest stack with just 870,000, just over seven big blinds. Wallace found new life early on when he jammed with and had just two outs to survive after Moshe out flopped him with . The appeared on the turn though, and Wallace survived another day as the short stack. The key for a short stack is to have enough chips for shoves to put pressure on the other players, and since even Konishi would be knocked back to the pack should he double Wallace up, Wallace is drawing far from dead.
Check back tomorrow to see who wins the 2015 WSOP Monster Stack and $1,286,942 in prize money.