2008 PCA: Don't doubt the Dragon
It started with a hula and it finished with a cheer. Forty players entered the Grand Ballroom at noon to find it transformed into a tiki lounge: the colors of the poker chips were matched in the feathers of parrots, the contents of cocktail glasses and the patterns on shirts.
It looked like the set for a party, but there was poker to be played first -- and the serious matter of a prize pool of about $8.6 million to contest.
When the final player, William Thorson, busted out at 10.30, leaving eight with a shot for the biggest money, relief was mixed with grenadine and ginger ale and shaken and then stirred. Still remaining in the mix, and those who will comprise our final table tomorrow, are:
David Pham 7,390,000 (PokerStars qualifier)
Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier 3,060,000 (Team PokerStars Pro)
Joe Elpayaa 2,755,000 (PokerStars qualifier)
Haffiz Khan 2,560,000 (PokerStars qualifier)
Kris Kuykendall 2,150,000 (PokerStars qualifier)
Richard Fohrenbach 1,855,000 (PokerStars qualifier)
Craig Hopkins 1,770,000 (PokerStars qualifier)
Christian Harder 905,000 (PokerStars qualifier)
Seasoned EPT watchers will notice a familiar pattern. There are a handful of well-known pros, and some internet whizz-kids. Some players fall into both categories.
David "Dragon" Pham, our chipleader, scarcely needs any introduction. He is already a serious force in the major league and has two World Series bracelets and five WPT final table appearances. There's not a lot he doesn't know about the game. He was the chip leader overnight, and even though it slipped during the day, he hauled it back and has done enough to take his place around the EPT final table felt for the first time.
Pham was also responsible for ending proceedings today. It was his pocket aces that bested William Thorson's fours to set our final table.
Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier, of Team PokerStars Pro, is definitely a player with a foot in both online and offline each camp. He's graduated from the online tables, where he flew to Supernova status in the blink of an eye, and is now a bone fide superstar in the bricks and mortar world. He'll be looking to go one better on his second place in Copenhagen in season two, and seal his place as one of the brightest players on the circuit.
As for the others, they all seem to know one another even if the world at large doesn't know them yet.
Joe Elpayaa, or "BigEgypt" on PokerStars, was chewing the fat all day long with Richard Fohrenbach, another big-time online player. Each of them will renew their acquaintance tomorrow. Haffiz Khan has some previous, and has his supporters in the bleachers here.
Meanwhile, Kris Kuykendall has been at the summit of the leaderboard ever since late yesterday, and he'll be a force to be reckoned with, yet to make a mistake. It's an unorthodox way to celebrate one's 25th birthday, but one we're sure Kris wouldn't trade for any other gift.
The final spot is taken by Craig Hopkins, a British player who is having his finest tournament to date. Cheered on by wife Lindsay, the serial PokerStars qualifier has gone deeper than ever before.
Of course, in order for these eight to have made it, we lost 32. They included Victor Ramdin, the Team PokerStars Pro member, as well as other known players Eric "Rizen" Lynch and Rhett Butler. Thierry Van Den Berg also took a tumble when his aces were cracked by kings.
Behind all the grass skirts, it was just another day of brutality on the EPT.
Tomorrow, we start early. The cards will be in the air at the ungodly hour of 10am ET. Be sure to check back for the blow-by-blow account of the final table.
We can't end the day without recognizing Dustin "neverwin" Woolf for winning the third annual PokerStars World Championship of Battleship Poker. Woolf won six straight heads-up matches to capture the $48,000 firt prize and gold bracelet. For more on the Battleship Poker Championship, click here.
As we close Day 4, see HERE for all the winners so far.
The full prize pool is listed HERE.
For a look at the entirety of the action today, seen any of the links below.
All photos © Neil Stoddart