One of poker’s enduring myths is the curse of the chip leader and here at the stunning Casino de Monte-Carlo that came true as Al De Carolis, who began the day in top spot, was the last man out today. In keeping with the day, it was a cooler as De Carolis ran queens into Rick Salomon’s kings for his final 25 big blinds.
When the final eight return tomorrow at noon to play for the first prize of €11,111,111 this is how they’ll stack up:
It took just under five hours of play to go from 24 to 8 and for most of that time, Andrew Pantling, who started the day seventh in chips, held the chip lead. He survived a couple of early dents in the opening hour before his stack began trending upwards.
While Pantling was leading at the first break, the truth is that the opening two levels were all about Paul Phua. In that 90-minute period, Phua took care of Patrick Madden (aces versus kings), Tony Bloom (jacks versus ace-nine), Mark Teltscher (jacks versus ace-ten) and, most notably, Guy Laliberté. The One Drop founder got his final 15 big blinds in with ace-queen and was in great shape against Phua’s king-queen. However, the former Macau junkiteer flopped top two pair and the turn and river bricked to send Laliberté to the rail.
Quickly the final three tables became two and up on the feature stage we saw, potentially, a tournament-defining pot play out between Bob Safai and Pantling. The chips flew in on the turn of a board. Safai had the nuts with queen-ten and Pantling had two-pair with nine-eight. An eight on the river filled Pantling up and sent a shell-shocked Safai tumbling out. “So sick,” said Antonio Esfandiari, who was watching on as Safai’s coach. That pot gave Pantling almost a quarter of the chips in play and he upped the aggression accordingly.
Whilst that was undoubtedly the hand of the day it was far from the end of the action as big pots were the order of the day. Paul Newey and Talal Shakerchi had been eliminated by the time Al De Carolis briefly reclaimed the chip lead. An accidental flop re-raise from De Carolis worked out pretty well as Pantling set him in holding top pair and De Carolis called with a backdoor straight and flush draw. He hit the straight draw on the river, which knocked Pantling down to second spot.
The final dozen players soon became nine as Sean Dempsey, Paul Phua and Jason Strasser were eliminated by Elton Tsang, Rick Salomon and Brandon Steven respectively. Just like that the unofficial final table was set. Jack Effel offered the players the chance to play down to six which would mean everyone who would come back on the final day would’ve been in the money, but a couple of players objected and wanted to stop with eight left as planned.
On just the twelfth hand of the unofficial final table, a kings versus queens encounter between Salomon and De Carolis meant the latter bubbled the final table and play was done for the day. Two players will leave empty handed tomorrow, that much we know.
The elite eight will return at 11:45am local time and many of them may will be wearing a tuxedo as there’s a company providing them if they’ve not traveled with one of their own. We’re also promised a theatrical entrance and beginning to what’s shaping up to be a fantastic final table, during which levels will increase to one-hour in length. This is what the final eight will be playing for tomorrow:
Join us from noon local time for what promises to be a thrilling conclusion to this very special tournament.