Aaron Mermelstein finished on top of the counts on Saturday night to take the lead into the final day of the Hollywood Poker Open $2,500 Championship Event.
"I feel great," Mermelstein said after bagging up his stack of 1.473 million in chips. "I'm the chip leader, so I'm super happy with how things went today. The cream really rose to the top and there are a lot of good players left, but I feel good. I feel like I'm making good decisions, and I hope I can keep it up tomorrow."
When the day was done, there were 21 players remaining, and Sunday's finale will see a first-place prize of $332,338 up for grabs.
"I feel like I do well in these deep-stacked tournaments," Mermelstein, a two-time World Poker Tour champion, added. "We started with 25,000 chips and it's one-hour levels. It's a great structure and I feel like it kind of plays like a WPT, so I'm super comfortable. We'll see how it goes tomorrow, but this is my first time playing it and it has been a lot of fun so far."
Mermelstein will be joined by another WPT champion in Keven Stammen on Day 3, but more importantly Stammen is the defending champion of this event. Last year, he beat a field of 684 entries and earned $347,045. Stammen finished Day 2 on 225,000 in chips with the hopes of going back to back.
Other headliners included World Series of Poker gold bracelet winner Calvin Anderson and the man who seems to have found the fountain of youth, Pierre Neuville. Those two bagged up 1.112 million and 464,000, respectively.
There was plenty of action on Day 2 of the event, with over 200 players from a starting field of 655 starting the day and the top 63 reaching the money. Some of those to bust before the money was reached included Toby Lewis, Ray Henson, Steven van Zadelhoff, Jeremy Ausmus, Craig Varnell, Connor Drinan, and Scott Davies.
When the players returned from dinner, the money bubble had arrived. Falling in 64th place was Travis Burch. He first lost with pocket kings to Justin Young's when an ace hit the flop to fall crippled, and then Mark Herm finished him off despite Burch holding the dominating hand.
Young went on to finish in 27th place for $9,748, and Herm busted in 35th for $8,124.
Others to bust before Day 2 was done, but with a cash, included Adrian Mateos (25th - $9,748), Randal Flowers (30th - $8,124), Joe Serock (47th - $5,760), and 91-year-old Ray Cuny (49th - $5,760).
Cuny had a particularly impressive story having qualified for this event from his home venue of Hollywood Casino Joliet and making the trip after recently being diagnosed with bladder cancer. He's a player who plays poker for the fun and entertainment of the game, but making a great run with nearly $6,000 to show for it is quite the benefit as well.
Instead of the originally scheduled start time of 11 a.m. local time, the final group of players voted to delay Sunday's start time until 12 p.m. That's when we'll see you back here on PokerNews.com for continued coverage of this event as the field plays down to the Hollywood Poker Open Season 4 champion.