Flopping top two and getting four-bet shoved on for heaps just before the bubble of a tournament with a $1.8m first place prize doesn't happen often. It happens even less when they don't turn over a set or, at least, a big draw. In this case, Kyle Sorel held ace-nine against a slowplayed ace-king and rocketed into the chip lead of the PCA 2014 Main Event.
Sorel is someone that you might not know, but you're likely to know his good buddy, Team PokerStars Pro Jason Mercier. Now, we wrote about how Mercier arrived to Paradise Island looking refreshed and rejuvenated with his family in tow. Both are in the money, but it's Sorel, the recreational player, who's currently packing the chip lead.
The 27-year-old South Floridian, who works in business real estate, met Mercier three years ago through mutual friends. They hit it off.
"We spend a lot of time round South Florida," said Sorel. "He tries to get me to come out and travel with him when I can. The Bahamas is a close trip for me and it allows me to get away for a couple of days. I felt good about this one."
It's worked out well for Sorel to listen to that good vibe. He's packing close to 900,000 when the field's average stack is 213,000. He's not far off an average stack for the final 24. At least some of those chips have to be attributed to healthy mornings.
Mercier, who described Sorel as "one of the smartest people" that he knows, told us earlier today that they'd been following a regular routine: "Every night after we play we try to get a good dinner and a decent amount of sleep. In the morning it's Starbucks, basketball, shower, tournament. It's definitely good to wake up early, get some exercise before playing... Generally we just talk at the end of the day about any crucial hands, but he's pretty much doing it on his own."
Sorel's stack is certainly going in the right direction, and this is how he got stacked up.
"One guy ran a three-barrel bluff on me early and I called with a pair of aces, ace-ten," explained Sorel. "That won a nice chunk, maybe 130,000. Then the big pot was when I opened ace-nine, button called, big blind defended and the flop came ace-nine-two with two hearts. I bet, button raised to 27,000, I made it 60,000 and he went all-in for 360,000. I took a deep breath and called. He had ace-king and it ran out nicely. That catapulted me."
Sorel opted for a diplomatic line when asked if he thought his opponent had overplayed his hand: "I think that it was, errr, a nice spot for me and it worked out very well. Keep it kosher! He got a lot of chips in."
As the money gets bigger and the decisions more crucial, Sorel can expect to lean on the experience of Mercier.
"I think that advice might start feeding in now," he said. "Up until this point we've been pretty social about it. 'It's day one, it's day two, have fun, you know what you're doing.' Now it's getting a little bit more serious I'm sure that he'll have some things to say that I'm more than happy to listen to.
Mercier, news has just reached us, has just hit the rail, but it's likely to be some time before we can say the same for Sorel. Should this Floridian make the final table you can be sure to expect another one sporting a goatee to be there railing him.
Rick Dacey is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.