PCA 2013: Anatomy of a hand

It may only be so for a short time but the biggest pot of the tournament just played out, sending Griffin Benger to the rail and leaving Patrick Kelly with a stack of more than 2.3 million.

The hand had all the drama of a pivotal stage of the tournament, one that sends one player in one direction and another in another and all the components that allow those involved to agonize over it for weeks.

Perhaps it will be Benger doing that the most.

The American shoved for his last 154,000 from the button, behind a raise from Darren Elias, and effectively became a spectator to his own demise.

Another avid spectator was Ryan Fair, who watched the hand with all the zeal of a man with nothing on the line, his body moving backwards and forwards every second as the massage therapist worked his shoulders for a fourth hour.

Ryan Fair

Two players in a hand like this is usually good for some action, but after Benger shoved Patrick Kelly became the third, calling his all-in and sending the action back to Elias.

Elias is a big man, and his hair, which was probably neat on arrival this morning, is now slightly fuzzed by five hours of play. He sits behind a big stack and had a hand (we would never find out what it was) that he was prepared to stake a lot on. He raised again, making it 325,000.

For his part Kelly is a quiet player, rarely speaking. He's also older than the others, not a boy playing a game but a grown up, watching the cards falls into place. He may not speak the language of their generation, but so far he hasn't needed to. He called.

Darren Elias looks back at Patrick Kelly

No one would know it, but the ten high flop gave Benger top pair, top kicker. There was also a five on the board, and that made Kelly a set of fives. And yet he looked like he was making it up as he went along. He checked.

The action was back on Elias. He saw an opportunity and sensed weakness in Kelly. He moved his hand to his stack to rearrange some chips, creating a new pile worth 250,000. After a few moments he was content. He raised.

Was Kelly weak? No. He moved all-in.

Elias reacted a little, like you would when opening an oven door. Composed again he tanked for a while and considered his options. Across the way saw Benger, with no trace of positive or negative emotion on his face. And opposite him was Kelly, a rock, giving nothing away. Three way all-ins are rare in events like this, and perhaps for a reason. Elias sensed something was wrong, or perhaps that his earlier enthusiasm was misplaced. He passed.

Fair had been watching all of this and, playing the role of the brightest kid in class, turned to Kelly. "You get the side pot now," he said. Then he turned to the dealer and said: "He gets the side pot now." Fair was quite taken with the side pot.

The dealer, a veteran of the PCA and the EPT, knew this full well, but was sticking to a pre-planned order of business. That meant waiting for his cue from the TV staff. The hand had begun with one camera team on patrol and, as each stage played out, another was called on, with the first crew flagging down another.

By the time the turn and river had been dealt there were lenses on all three players, Benger looking devastated, Elias looking irritated, and Kelly didn't look like anything at all, despite hauling in the biggest pot of the main event.

Benger was out of his seat and shook hands with each player in turn before turning to his girlfriend on the rail.

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Griffin Benger signals to the rail his demise

"I should have won that f***ing hand," he said.

She replied, hoping to buoy-up her man, "you finished in 33rd." This cut little ice with her man who turned again to Benger.

"Was I beating you?" he asked. Benger said nothing, but implied that he wasn't.

In its aftermath the hand left Kelly out in front, but with 28 players left it won't be the biggest hand of the day for long.

Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter