PokerStars Championship Sochi: Pavel Shirshikov leads with 30 left in Main Event

"Pay that man his money."

Teddy KGB's famous quote seems fitting in the character's motherland tonight as we burst the bubble on Day 3 of the inaugural PokerStars Championship Sochi Main Event. When proceedings began at midday we were 27 players off the money and four hours later the lucky 55 remaining had locked up at least 735,000₽ ($13,230).

It was Team PokerStars Pro Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier that burst the bubble - he administered a bad beat to tablemate Roman Seleznev. It was ElkY's 9♥8♠ up against Seleznev's A♣K♠ and unfortunately for the latter ElkY improved to a pair when the cards fell Q♣9♠5♦T♥4♣. Seleznev's elimination was met with a round of applause from those still in the hunt as they could breathe a little easier, guaranteeing themselves a return on their investment.

PSC_Sochi_Bubbleboy_Roman_Seleznev_2017_28May17.jpgRoman Seleznev leaves on the bubble

As is often the case after the bubble bursts a flurry of eliminations followed. By the end of the day when all was said and done we were left with just 30 bagging up chips before returning for Day 4 tomorrow.

Leading the charge when play resumes will be Pavel Shirshikov who shot to the chip lead with just 20 minutes left of play when he scalped Jason Wheeler. The two of them got all the money in on the turn with the board showing 8♠K♠J♥3♣ when Wheeler showed A♠K♣ only to see he was drawing dead to Shirshikov's J♣J♦. Shirshikov has only $2,709 in live earnings to his name and has already guaranteed himself the biggest score of his career this week. He returns tomorrow with 1,604,000 chips.

PSC_Sochi_Pavel_Shirshikov_2017_28May17.jpgChip leader Pavel Shirshikov

Returning along with Shirshikov will be Team PokerStars Pros Chris Moneymaker and ElkY who had another successful day on the felt. Moneymaker found himself getting short in the later part of the day but scored a double up and then got some value with aces before ultimately finishing with 289,000. He'll be chasing his teammate tomorrow as ElkY now has 763,000 at his disposal.

PSC_Sochi_Chris_Moneymaker_2017_MM_28May17_v2.jpgChris Moneymaker shall return

Check out the chip count page for full counts from the end of the day.

Otherwise that's all from us here tonight in Sochi. We'll be back to do it all again from noon tomorrow as players chase the title, the trophy, and a 29,100,000₽ ($514,895) top prize. Be sure to join us for all the coverage direct from the tournament floor. -- BK

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Day 3 coverage archive

7.15pm: Day 3 ends

Play has ended on Day 3. A full report of the day, along with chip counts, will be published shortly.

7.10pm: His name's Nikitin, he went all-in, and he's now leavin'
Level 17 - Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

Another man down!

Up on the feature table, Said Butba opened to 14,000 and got two callers in Timur Bubnov and Dmitry Nikitin. They saw a 6♦4♥4♦ flop, which - let me tell you - was an action flop.

Butba continued for 17,000 and Bubnov just flatted before Nikitin jammed for 136,000. That got rid of Butba, but Bubnov didn't budge.

Nikitin - A♦Q♦
Bubnov - A♠4♠

Nut flush draw versus flopped trips, the J♥ turn and T♥ river changed nothing, eliminating Nikitin and giving Bubnov 735,000. --JS

7:05pm: Great call by Li
Level 17 - Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

As the clock was paused, Vitaliy Li faced a big decision. One that could determine whether or not he'd be around to see the last five hands, let alone tomorrow.

On a 9♣K♦J♣5♥ board, ElkY had checked, Daniyar Aubakirov had bet, Vitaliy Li had called, and ElkY had folded. That led to the river.

It came the Q♠, putting four to a straight on board. Aubakirov jammed, essentially betting 140,000 as that's what Li had left. He thought about it for a good minute or so.

And then he called. And Aubakirov insta-mucked.

Or at least he tried to. As it was a showdown the hands had to be shown, and Aubakirov sheepishly revealed his 6♣2♣ for total air. Li showed the Q♦9♦ for two pair, and secured a double up at the day's death knell. --JS

7pm: Poker's Sylvester Stallone
Level 17 - Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

There aren't many players left in this field who were widely known before it started, but there are few poker observers who don't know about either Chris Moneymaker or Vladimir Troyanovskiy.

As the tournament clock paused and the staff announced that only five more hands would be played tonight, those luminaries went to war and put Moneymaker's participation on the line. It was Rocky IV for the poker generation.

Troyanovskiy opened to 15,000 from a stack of 905,000 and Moneymaker, with only 143,000 behind, three-bet to 35,000 from the small blind.

Troyanovskiy then moved all-in and Moneymaker called immediately.

Moneymaker: A♣A♦
Troyanovskiy: 9♣9♦

Moneymaker was packing more than just the promise of vengeance for Apollo Creed. And the J♠5♦T♦K♠K♥ flop kept him ahead.

Moneymaker now has about 190,000 and a place in tomorrow's field. Troyanovskiy still has more than three times that and the prospect of a few more rounds before this tournament is done. -- HS

6:55pm: Wheeler up shit creek with a Pavel
Level 17 - Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

Pavel Shirshikov just won an enormous pot--about 1.6 million to be slightly more precise--to vault all the way to the top of the counts and send the dangerous Jason Wheeler to the rail.

Wheeler has been in awesome form this week, but he is on the rail before the end of Day 3. Shirshikov is now enormous.

It started with a raise to 13,000 from Shirshikov in mid-position and Wheeler three-bet to 46,000 from the small blind. Shirshikov then four-bet to 118,000 and Wheeler called. (All of that took a lot longer to happen than it did to read.)

The flop had lots and lots of potential. It was 8♠K♠J♥. Wheeler checked, Shirshikov bet 65,000 and Wheeler called.

The turn was the 3♣. Wheeler dabbed his middle finger into the felt again and Shirshikov bet 140,000. Wheeler fairly quickly now jammed over the top for about 490,000. Shirshikov called immediately.

Wheeler had the goods with his A♠K♣. But Shirshikov had the luxury goods with his J♦J♣.

Wheeler was drawing dead and heading home.

Unless something spectacular happens in the next 19 minutes, Shirshikov will likely now lead this tournament going into Day 4. -- HS

6:50pm: Livshitz down the drain
Level 17 - Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

Another player to exit the Main Event is Gaby Livshitz. He was short stacked after an unfortunate incident with pocket aces - see below - and was just put out of his misery by Artem Savchenko.

Livshitz's ten big blind Q♥T♦ shove was called by Savchenko who held K♠7♠. A seven on the flop spelled the end of Livshitz.

Savchenko is playing 280,000. - RJ

6:45pm: Double K.O.
Level 17 - Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

Two more down.

Sergey Isaev lost most his stack in a hand against Denis Pavlenko when he K♠Q♠ couldn't hit against Pavlenko's J♠J♥. That left him with just 4,000 - and he was in the big blind.

Needless to say, he was all-in the next hand, on which Gevorg Oxojan limped under the gun. It folded around to. Ulrich Jungen in the small blind and he shoved too with the bigger stack. Oxojan called it off.

Oxojan - A♥8♥
Isaev - K♠6♥
Jungen - A♠7♦

Oxojan was ahead, and remained so after the 8♦5♣9♦ flop. But the 6♣ turn was disastrous for him; it gave Jungen a straight and left Isaev dead and Oxojan only able to chop. The river was the Q♣, meaning it was a double knockout for Jungen, who increases to 180,000. --JS

6:40pm: Big wheels keep on turnin'
Level 17 - Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

Jason Wheeler just made mincemeat out of Mikhail Galitski to leave the latter in a state of mild peril.

PSC_Sochi_Mikhail_Galitski_2017_MM_28May17.jpgMikhail Galitski

Wheeler three-bet preflop to 35,000 and was called by Galitski. He bet 38,000 on the J♦Q♥5♣ flop and, after he was called, decided just to shove on the 4♦ turn. It ended all the nonsense as Galitski quickly folded. Power poker, going strong since 1979.

Wheeler trucks up to 600,000 and Galitski is on 130,000. - RJ

6:35pm: Brief news update: Troyanovskiy terrorises, Oxojan gets pushy
Level 17 - Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

Not a bunch has happened at the far table, other than Vladimir Troyanovskiy continuing to crush. He's opening and three-betting with reckless...actually, it's not really reckless abandon when you've got by far the biggest stack at your table is it?

The only hand of note recently that Troyanovskiy wasn't involved in came when Gevorg Oxojan jammed on the button. He only had 61,000, but still couldn't find any callers. --JS

6:30pm: Wheeler gives Finogenova the heave-ho
Level 17 - Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

It's our solemn duty to report that the inaugural PokerStars Championship Main Event winner will be a man. Olga Finogenova, the last woman in the field, has just been sent to the cash-out desk by Jason Wheeler.

It was as standard as it gets. Wheeler opened to 10,000 from under the gun from a stack approximately measuring "heaps". Finogenova made a final stand for her last 20,000 and Wheeler called.

Finogenova: J♠Q♣
Wheeler: 2♠2♦

There was not enough paint on a board of A♠4♣7♣9♥6♦ and that ended it for Finogenova. She is out in 38th for ₽885,000. Wheeler now has heaps + 20,000. -- HS

6:25pm: You're shitzing me?
Level 17 - Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

Vitaliy Li at least had the decency to lift his eyebrows, puff out his cheeks and look a little sheepish after the hand that gave him a much needed double and left Gaby Livshitz on life support.

Li cracked aces. Not just that, he cracked a set of aces. And he did it with T♦2♠. This was enough to give anyone the livshitz.

PSC_Sochi_Gaby_Livshitz_2017_MM_28May17_v2.jpgGaby Livshitz

It looked likely to have been a raise-call pre-flop, with Livshitz in mid-position and Li making a speculative defend from the big blind. The flop came 3♠T♠5♦ and that's when they got it all in.

Li had flopped top pair and only had 88,000 in his stack. Livshitz had those aces. It was the A♣A♥ to be precise.

The A♠ was, on the face of it, a great card for Livshitz. But it turned out to be the first nail in his coffin. The river was the 4♠, giving Li the worst flush possible, but a flush that beat Livshitz's aces.

You're shitzing me, right? Nope. Li fights on. Livshitz has 62,000 left. -- HS

6:20pm: Bugaev wheeled out
Level 17 - Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

Konstantin Bugaev will not win the Main Event.

He shipped twenty big blinds on the button with pocket fives and found a very grateful Jason Wheeler sat in the big blind with queens. He obviously called.

The flop was five-less and Bugaev is out. Wheeler is on 520,000. - RJ

6:16pm: Wheeler lays down kings
Level 17 - Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

What's the one thing you don't want to see when you have pocket kings? Yep, an ace on the flop.

And what's the one thing you don't want to happen when you c-bet into that ace-high flop? Yep, you don't want to get raised.

And what's the one thing you should do when you've given your opponent a stare down, and had a minute or so to think? Well, according to Jason Wheeler in this last hand, it's throw the pocket kings away.

The thing is, his opponent was Pavel Shirshikov; a man we've seen pull off some gutsy bluffs here today. Here's what happened anyway.

Shirshikov opened to 14,000 only for Wheeler to three-bet to 40,000. That bet was called, and the aforementioned ace-high flop was dealt (6♥7♣A♠). Shirshikov checked, and Wheeler made it 30,000. But now Shirshikov raised it up to 87,000.

Wheeler took his time but eventually chucked the pocket kings away, face up. --JS

6:14pm: Déjà vu for Gililov
Level 17 - Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

A short while ago I wrote about a hand where Anton Gililov bet the turn and was faced with a shove from his opponent. It's called 'Don't cry for me, Armenia' and you can check it out below.

Welcome back. Well, I'm not sure if it's just bad luck or if it's something personal but the very same thing just happened to Gililov again - and this time he didn't make the call.

Gililov's antagonist this time round was former chip leader Nadar Kakhmazov and, after this hand, he's now sitting on 500,000. Gililov's roller coaster day continues as he drops a little to 440,000. - RJ

6:10pm: Oxo-jamming
Level 17 - Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

Gevorg Oxojan channelled his inner Barry Greenstein to survive in this PokerStars Championship Sochi Main Event.

Oxojan was all in for shrapnel with A♣2♣ and was up against Lavrentiy Ni's Q♠Q♣. Ni didn't have a massive stack either, but it was bigger than Oxojan's.

The flop was benign. It was 3♠6♥9♦. The river was the 7♠, which prompted a wince from Ulrich Jungen who said he folded sevens.

But the most significant card was the A♦ that then appeared, keeping Oxojan alive. "Ace on the river!" a table-mate observed. And that was good for the improbably named Ukrainian. -- HS

6:05pm: Millionaire's Club
Level 17 - Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

Welcome Mr. Daniyar Aubakirov, we hope you enjoy your stay.

The Kazakhstani is the first player to breach the magical million mark, and he hasn't just breached it - he's smashed down the doors with a sledgehammer!

Aubakirov is now up to 1.5m and dominating his table. Sat opposite is Seyed Ghavam and his 660,000 stack. Under any other circumstances that would be an intimidating number but to Millionaire Club VIP Aubakirov its mere chump change. - RJ

6:03pm: Moneymaker sticking around
Level 17 - Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

Chris Moneymaker is going nowhere. He scored a double up with A♠4♠ when he got it all-in pre-flop (for about 50,000) and hit a board of J♠A♦2♠9♥A♣, beating Oleg Chebotarev. And then he won another decent pot from Dmitry Ponomarev in a blind-on-blind confrontations.

PSC_Sochi_Chris_Moneymaker_.2017_28May17.jpgChris Moneymaker

That one started when Ponomarev completed from the small blind and Moneymaker bumped it to 20,000. Ponomarev called and they both then checked the 4♣4♦4♠ flop.

After the 5♦ came on the turn, Ponomarev checked again, then called when Moneymaker bet 8,000. That led to the J♣ on the river.

Ponomarev checked again and Moneymaker bet 35,000. Ponomarev called and was shown A♣A♠ by the Team PokerStars Pro.

That boat was good for Moneymaker and he has about 180,000 now. -- HS

6pm: Wheeler lets it go
Level 17 - Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

Jason Wheeler and Maxim Lykov just traded blows in a battle of the blinds.

We arrived to see Wheeler in the small blind with 42,000 in front of him and Lykov in the big blind with 106,000 in the middle. Lykov only had around 150,000 behind and Wheeler was speaking as if his next decision was for the entire stack.

"I think I have the best hand, I don't know if I can fold" said Wheeler. "You're trying to bully who you think is being a bully."

Wheeler spent another minute in the tank before finally folding T♠T♥ face up.

After that pot Wheeler dips to 515,000 and Lykov lifts to 310,000. -- BK

5:55pm: Ghavam takes out Minakov
Level 17 - Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

Alexandr Minakov went all-in from the button and Gaby Livshitz thought from the big blind. Then Livshitz folded.

Minakov took down that pot and moved all-in again the following hand. Seyed Ghavam called that one and showed a dominating A♦K♦ to Minakov's A♠T♥. The board came 8♦2♥K♠6♠7♥ and Minakov hit the rail while Ghavam chipped up to about 500,000. --AV

5:50pm: Vlad the executioner
Level 17 - Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

The big stack of Vladimir Troyanovskiy just got even bigger.

PSC_Sochi_Vladimir_Troyanovskiy_2017_28May17_v2.jpgDoesn't look much like an executioner: Vladimir Troyanovskiy

After Pavel Kovalenko opened to 13,000 Troyanovskiy three-bet to 37,000. Kovalenko then went into the tank for a minute before announcing all in. Troyanovskiy couldn't have called any quicker.

Kovalenko - K♠Q♣
Troyanovskiy - A♣K♣

Kovalenko was in bad shape, needing a queen or spades on the flop to give him a fighting chance. So the 8♠5♥9♠ flop did give him some hope. Two running spades would mean survival.

But the 4♥ turn eliminated those outs. Now it was just the three queens.

No luck on the T♥ river, and Kovalenko made his exit. Troyanovskiy is up to 870,000 now. --JS

5:45pm: ElkY v Vitkind
Level 17 - Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

The vultures of the media room are hanging around Table 6. Chris Moneymaker is there with a short stack. However, they got to watch a tense hand play out between Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier and Dmitry Vitkind instead which ended with...well, why don't you read on to find out?

PSC_Sochi_Elky_Grospellier_2017_MM_28May17.jpgElkY takes a look

ElkY started it with a raise to 15,000 from under the gun. Alexander Lakhov called on the button and then Vitkind called too from the small blind.

Three players admired the beauty of a 3♥2♠J♥ flop and, after Vitkind checked, ElkY bet 18,000 and only Vitkind called.

The 3♠ fell on the turn, prompting a check, a bet of 42,000, and a call. Then the dealer delivered the J♣ on the river.

Vitkind bet 73,000 and ElkY then tank-raised. He made it 166,000 to play.

Vitkind thought about it for a bit, but then called. ElkY turned over Q♦J♠ and a disappointed Vitkin showed his A♥J♦. He had been winning until the river, but was left with only a chop. -- HS

5:40pm: Don't cry for me, Armenia
Level 17 - Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

Armenian poker fans around the world, take a deep breath: your boy, Vahe Martirosyan, is out. To his credit, he at least he went down in a blaze of glory.

Martirosyan and Anton Gililov were looking at a 9♦4♠4♦ flop when Gililov bet 44,000 and Martirosyan announced an unintelligible raise size. Gililov was having none of it, shoved all in and was called. All of this happened in less than two seconds.

When the cards were turned over it emerged that Martirosyan had gone full-on gaga with Q♦T♦ for a flush draw and, what he must have suspected, was at least one over card. Unfortunately for him, Gililov was sat there with Q♥Q♣, drastically reducing his outs.

No diamond came on the turn or river and Armenian poker fans around the world started to get moist eyes.

Gililov is now roaring away with over 600,000 chips. - RJ

5:36pm: We're back
Level 17 - Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

Play has restarted. One more 90 minute level for today.

5:16pm: End of the level

Players are taking a 20 minute break before returning for the last level for today.

5:13pm: Lykov doubles Bugaev
Level 16 - Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

Max Lykov had an exceptionally short stack towards the end of last night, but he clung on and has built excellently through today's three levels. So much so that he was just able to double up Konstantin Bugaev and still sit with 235,000.

The hand in question started with an open to 10,000 from Bugaev in mid-position. Jason Wheeler gave it some thought in the cutoff before folding, but Lykov then looked at two short stacks in the blinds to the left of him and moved all-in, covering Bugaev.

Bugaev called for his last 83,000 and saw glad tidings. His A♦Q♠ was ahead of Lykov's A♥J♠.

The dealer put the 9♣4♦7♥ on the flop and then when he put the 7♦ on the turn, Wheeler let out a yelp of pain. It seems he let a seven go pre-flop. Anyhow, the Q♥ on the river was a pair that Bugaev didn't even need. He ended up with about 170,000 after that.

Lykov licked his wounds, but still has 65,000 more than his opponent. -- HS

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5:11pm: Gililov gets rid of Molchanov
Level 16 - Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

Mikhail Molchanov is out of the tournament after a blind versus blind confrontation with Anton Gililov.

Gililov limped in the small blind and Molchanov moved all in from the big blind for 64,500. After almost a minute in the tank Gililov called it off and players turned their hands up.

Molchanov: Q♥T♠
Gililov: K♠J♥

Molchanov was behind and while he had live cards he failed to improve when the board came down 6♣5♣J♣8♥7♣. He makes an exit while Gililov stacks up a new total of 440,000. -- BK

5:09pm: Troyanovskiy lurks
Level 16 - Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

Sat over in the far corner of the room, as if to draw as little attention as possible, is one Vladimir Troyanovskiy. It's about time the spotlight is put on him a little more because he's playing a whopping great 580,000 stack.

PSC_Sochi_Vladimir_Troyanovskiy_28May17.jpgVladimir Troyanovskiy

Yurii Zdanovskyi was the latest to hand over a batch of chips to Troyanovskiy, calling a three-bet and then folding to a 32,500 bet on the jack-high flop. Troyanovskiy is not known for his kindness at the table but broke character by flashing the J♦. Aww. - RJ

5:05pm: When the fun stops, stop
Level 16 - Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

The first six players to hit the rail after the bubble were:

55th - Ivan Neiaskin
54th - Alexandr Potievskiy
53rd - Alexey Fedin
52nd - Aram Vartevanyan
51st - Sergey Isupov
50th - Maksim Pisarenko

We'll put them on the payouts page now, and you'll be able to see the bust-out order over there from now on. -- HS

5:03pm: Wheeler can't keep up with the Jungens
Level 16 - Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

You don't see Jason Wheeler lose hands all too often, but I guess when he got it in against the 47,000 jam from Ulrich Jungen with the 8♣9♥ against Jungen's K♦K♥ he didn't expect to have the best of it.

The A♥4♠3♣ flop kept the kings in front, as did the 9♦ turn; but that card did give Wheeler some two pair outs. However the 2♠ river was safe, and Jungen doubles up. Wheeler is still very healthy with 490,000. --JS

4:59pm: Yes! NOOOOOO! Oooooh, yes thank you
Level 16 - Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

Oleg Lipkin just got the scare of his life. All was sunshine and roses when his K♠K♥ was called by Alexandr Minakov's T♠T♥. And then... a ten on the flop. A T♦2♥5♥ flop to be precise.

I mean, would you believe it? He gets it all in as an 80% favourite, his opponent hits his two outer, he's basically out of the tournament, and oh, what's that? Just a meaningless 6♥ on the turn. Pah! What an absolute injustice this is - here comes the river. It's not a king! This is just so unfair but, wait, isn't that Q♥? Oh, OK. That's a flush for Lipkin. Justice is served.

Ahem. Lipkin now has 180,000 and a fluttering ticker. Minakov is on 100,000. - RJ

4:56pm: Best of friends
Level 16 - Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

Jason Wheeler and Gaby Livshitz have been seated next to each other all day and are building up quite the little friendship.

PSC_Sochi_Gaby_Livshitz_2017_MM_28May17.jpgGaby Livshitz

The two have barely drawn breath and here are some of the subjects covered thus far:

Best female poker players
Sunday grinds now compared to five years ago
Sit & Go careers
Getting a Russian visa in 24 hours
Colour coded player reads

I've got to be honest, while some of the material has been a bit dry it's also been quite nice overhearing a conversation that I can actually understand.

Wheeler and Livshitz are both doing pretty well in the poker-playing stakes too, and Wheeler in particular was a constant menace on the bubble. For the sake of new global friendship, one hopes they won't do too much damage to each other before the day is out. - RJ

4:55pm: Wheeler takes out Neiaskin
Level 16 - Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

The bubble has burst and the floodgates are open as eliminations are sure to become a frequent occurrence this level.

Ivan Neiaskin was one of the first of those as he found himself all in pre-flop and dominated by Jason Wheeler.

Neiaskin: A♠4♥
Wheeler: A♥7♣

PSC_Sochi_Jason_Wheeler_2017_28May17.jpgJason Wheeler

Neiaskin had a good chance to chop by the turn with the cards reading 9♦A♦J♠6♥ but the fall of the 5♥ on the river meant Neiaskin was done and dusted. He leaves us after earning himself a min-cash while Wheeler climbs to over half a million in chips. -- BK

4:50pm: Double post bubble
Level 16 - Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

We are now seeing an awful lot of called all-ins, now everybody knows they are guaranteed at least 735,000₽ rubles. One of those, on the feature table, just ended with Jorg Bohme doubling through Sergey Isupov when Bohme's T♥T♠ held against Isupov's A♣4♦. -- HS

4:45pm: So sick Part II -- ElkY sends Seleznev home on the bubble
Level 16 - Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

The bubble has burst! It's Roman Seleznev who receives the most unwelcome round of applause in poker, clapped to the exit door by the remaining 55 players all the way from the feature table stage.

Selezney got his last 14,500 in with A♣K♠ and was up against ElkY's 9♥8♠. ElkY was live--and he was kicking too when the flop fell Q♣9♠5♦.

Selezney winced and received no further help on the T♥ turn and 4♣ river. That's the end of this anguished period of play as the last 55 are all in the money! -- HS


Roman Seleznev gets his coat

4:40pm: Big bubble bluff
Level 16 - Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

Pavel Shirshikov must feel like a genius right now.

After Dmitry Nikitin opened to 10,500, he three-bet to 28,000 and when it folded back around Nikitin called. The dealer spread a K♥4♦Q♥ flop, and it checked to Shirshikov. He continued for 18,000 and Nikitin called again.

To the turn. The 6♣ fell, and this time Shirshikov bet 48,000 when it checked to him. Nikitin wasn't willing to let his hand go, and made the call leaving himself 100,000 behind.

On the J♦ river, Nikitin checked a third and final time. Shirshikov put him all in, and after a moment of thought Nikitin had to let his hand go.

Or did he? Shirshikov let out a huge sigh of relief, and flipped over the 7♦3♦ for a complete bluff. He's up to 510,000 now, and after that one, I'd say he deserves it. --JS

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4:30pm: Fedin fades on stone bubble
Level 16 - Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

Alexey Fedin was down to just a little over two big blinds but he has now moved up to a more respectable six.

PSC_Sochi_All_In_Alexey_Fedin_2017_28May17.jpgAlexey Fedin all-in

Jason Wheeler opened to 15,000 pre-flop and with just 13,000 total Fedin called off for his tournament life from the small blind. When they were given the all clear to reveal their hands by tournament officials Fedin saw that he was a strong favourite to stick around.

Fedin: 7♣7♦
Wheeler: 7♥6♣

The K♥A♦A♥ flop brought no danger to Fedin as Wheeler began calling for a chop.

"Let's chop it up, chop chop. Black king!" called Wheeler.

No king but a 3♥ on the turn meant Fedin had locked up the pot and will live to play another hand. -- BK

4:15pm: Barbero soft bubbles
Level 16 - Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

We're now officially on the stone bubble as Nacho Barbero has been eliminated.

PSC_Sochi_BustOut_Nacho_Barbero_2017_28May17.jpgBarbero busts

He opened to 12,000 in the cutoff and was three-bet to 45,000 by chip leader Daniyar Aubakirov. After some time in the tank, Barbero jammed for 180,000 and was snap-called.

Aubakirov - J♠J♦
Barbero - A♦K♦

Yet another race, but the J♥7♦9♣ flop left the Argentinian drawing very thin. He got no more help and made his exit, while Aubakirov is up to 970,000. --JS

4:10pm: Ace-king action
Level 16 - Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

Action is slowing down as some short stacks are hoping to creep into the money. There's been some stalling, but there's also been a bit of jamming, especially with ace king.

Dmitry Ponomarev moved his last 61,000 in with A♣K♠ and Jason Wheeler called with K♣J♣. The board was a lowly 3♦6♣2♦3♠7♣ and ace-king took it down. Ponomarev doubled to about 140,000 while Wheeler still had about 450,000.

Aram Vartevanyan moved all-in for 101,500 one table over and Olga Finogenova called. What did they have? Well, ace-king of course. Vartevanyan had A♥K♥ while Finogenova had A♦K♠. The T♥3♦5♣2♣5♥ board brought no flush upsets and the tournament remained 57-handed. --AV


Olga Finogenova: Last woman still standing

4:05pm: Pre-bubble slowdown
Level 16 - Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

We're getting very close to the money now and play has notably slowed. Our reporters are scattered across the room to make sure we get the full details of any eliminations. --HS

4pm: Pisarenko plays on
Level 16 - Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

Maksim Pisarenko has avoided elimination close to a payday after picking up pocket kings and doubling through Nadar Kakhmazov.

Seyed Ghavam raised to 11,000 preflop before Kakhmazov three-bet to 32,500. The action got to Pisarenko and he looked at the tournament clock before deliberating for so long that time was eventually called.

After another glance at the clock he pushed all in for 62,000, and with Ghavam folding, Kakhmazov made what looked like a reluctant call.

Pisarenko: K♠K♥
Kakhmazov: Q♥T♠

Pisarenko's kings would prove good enough as the cards fell A♥A♣3♦6♣8♥ and he secured the double up. Kakhmazov meanwhile falls to 155,000. -- BK

3:38pm: Clock blocking
Level 16 - Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

There's a time and a place to call the clock on somebody. Nacho Barbero didn't think the bubble of the Main Event when someone has put you all-in was either that time or that place.

It was Daniyar Aubakirov who asked for the clock to be called on Maksim Pisarenko after Aubakirov himself had made the shoe. In Pisarenko's defence, he had been thinking it over for only a few minutes at most. Barbero thought the clock calling was out of order and said to the dealer and floor staff, but the ruling stood.

As Pisarenko's countdown got under way he came to the decision to fold and preserve his 60,000 stack for another hand.

Aubakirov increases his chip lead even further (he's got over 750,000) but isn't in such a rush to make any friends at the table. - RJ

3:57pm: Wheeler applies the pressure
Level 16 - Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

With three short stacks to his left (Yehor Filipenko - 140,000; Ivan Neiaskin - 50,000; Alexey Fedin - 21,000), Jason Wheeler is in the perfect position to apply some pressure.

First, when it folded to him on the button, he jammed to put Filipenko and Neiaskin at risk. Both folded.

Then on the next hand it folded to him in the cutoff and he just opened to 15,000. Nobody called.

It looks like Fedin is the shortest in the room now with just four big blinds. --JS

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3:55pm: Arsonist
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

Chris Moneymaker was recently all-in with K♣Q♠ and remarkably it held through a board of A♦3♠7♣A♥6♦. That doubled up the poker boom arsonist and he has around 90,000 now. -- HS

3:50pm: Another double for Ignatov
Level 16 - Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

Pavel Ignatov has received a much needed double up just a few spots from the bubble. He committed his very short stack preflop against Anton Gililov.

Gililov raised to 11,000 on the button before Ignatov tossed his last 28,000 into the middle from the small blind. With the big blind out of the way Ignatov called to put Ignatov at risk.

Ignatov: A♦7♦
Gililov: A♠6♣

Ignatov was in a commanding position and the better hand held on the 4♠A♣3♦J♥8♠ runout. That pot takes Ignatov up to 65,000. -- BK

3:45pm: Lots of poker, no cash
Level 16 - Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

Poor Nikolay Prokhorskiy has played almost three full days of poker for no reward. He was just busted a few players short of the bubble at the hands of the surging American Jason Wheeler.

Prokhorskiy was short stacked and so Wheeler could afford to call a shove with the lowly 9♦8♣. It was behind against Prokhorskiy's A♦Q♣, but only until the flop which brought Wheeler a nine.


Jason Wheeler: Surging American

The turn and river were safe for Wheeler and he moves up to 510,000 as Prokhorskiy exists stage left. - RJ

3:35pm: Break time
Level 16 - Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

They are back in action in Sochi, with a few players getting rather nervous. Chris Moneymaker? Nah. He doesn't get nervous. Oh...

3:16pm: Break time
Level 15 - Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

That's the end of Level 15 and we still haven't burst the bubble. That joy will surely await us in the coming 90 minutes. But let's have a 20-minunte break first.

3:15pm: Ignatov still in
Level 15 - Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

Pavel Ignatov has gained a little breathing room after upgrading his super-super-short stack to a super-short stack now.

Ignatov flicked his last 15,000 into the middle preflop, and when it folded around to Ruslan Voitovich in the big blind, he shrugged and called it off.

Ignatov: A♦T♠
Voitovich: A♣3♦

Ignatov was in good shape to double and nodded with approval as the T♥T♦Q♥ flop meant that he couldn't lose the hand. The 4♦ turn and 4♣ river made it official and Ignatov moved up to a still vulnerable 30,500. -- BK

3:10pm: Nice hand for ElkY
Level 15 - Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

ElkY continues on his upward trend up on the feature table. Picking up the action on an 8♣Q♣7♣ flop, Elky led out for 13,000 after it checked to him, and Artsiom Zhadinsky then popped it up to 45,000. Call.

The 6♠ turn brought checks from both, and then on the J♦ river ElkY bet 88,000 into 118,000 after it checked to him. Zhadinsky had a think, but gave it up.

Zhadinsky now has 473,000, while ElkY is up to 373,000. --JS

3:05pm: Cowboys and arrows
Level 15 - Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

We've lost another one, in the coolest of all the coolers.

We missed the pre-flop action, but it's clear there was a raising war between under the gun player Anton Gililov and UTG+1 player Kostiantyn Tupalo. All the money was in, and Tupalo's 120,000 and his tournament was at risk.

Tupalo - K♦K♣
Gililov - A♣A♥

The board ran out T♥4♦5♣3♣8♥ and that was all she wrote. Gililov is up to 317,000. --JS

3pm: Aubakirov is taking no prisoners
Level 15 - Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

If Daniyar Aubakirov is playing the hand, just fold. No good can come of taking on the Kazakhstani today - he's just playing too good.

Aubakirov just won two significant pots in a row. The first was by firing a massive 40,000 into the middle on the flop against two players. He took that down. The second one came about after Aubakirov three-bet Maksim Pisarenko and then made another big flop bet to win two in a row.

He's on over 700,000 and is your current PokerStars Championship Sochi Main Event chip leader. - RJ

2:55pm: Chop chips up with hero call
Level 15 - Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

Dmitry Chop just made a stellar river call against Andrei Chernokoz to rake in a pot and build to 265,000.

Pre-flop Chop raised to 8,500 from the cutoff and Chernokoz called on the button before a flop of 3♥T♦9♠. Chop continued for 10,500, Chernokoz made a quick call, and the dealer burned and turned the 6♣. Both players checked through to the 8♦ river where Chop checked a final time.


Dimitry Chop: Hero

Chernokoz decided to take a stab at it for 19,000 but it wouldn't work as Chop, despite his weak holding, snap-called with the best hand. Chernokoz sheepishly flipped up A♦Q♣ which was no good against Chop's Q♥6♦ for second bottom pair.

After being caught with his hand in the cookie jar Chernokoz was relegated to a stack of 110,000. -- BK

2:50pm: Troyanovskiy takes one out
Level 15 - Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

Vladimir Troyanovskiy took down a big pot with a rivered flush and dealt an elimination in the process.

Action folded to Troyanovskiy's small blind and he raised to 11,500. It looked like it was going to be a small, polite battle of the blinds.

Sergey Feklisov defended his big blind and a J♦4♥8♣ flop hit the table. Troyanovskiy bet 13,500, Feklisov called and a 3♥ came on the turn. Troyanovskiy bet again and made it 28,500 to go. Feklisov thought for a bit, called and a 2♠ completed the board.


Who said Vlad didn't smile? He's a sweetie

Troyanovskiy moved all-in and Feklisov counted out his chips, about 107,000. Troyanovskiy had him more than covered. Feklisov eventually called and Troyanovskiy showed the rivered straight with A♦5♠. Felisov shook his head, stood up and showed K♣J♠. Feklisov hit the rail while Troyanivskiy chipped up to about 483,000. --AV

2:45pm: Lauck going well
Level 15 - Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

Jonas Lauck is having an excellent day at the tables, increasing his stack to 400,000 after less than two levels of play.

The German just picked up a few thousand more when he hammered in a 42,000 chip bet on the turn of a 2♦Q♥6♥6♦ board. Said Butba didn't want to play that game and folded. - RJ

2:40pm: Nekrasov no more
Level 15 - Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

Alexander Nekrasov has fallen after ending up on the wrong end of a flip versus Mikhail Rudoy.

It was Rudoy who began the action with a raise to 9,000 before Nekrasov moved all-in for 36,000. It folded back around to Rudoy and he scrunched up his face, seemingly not a fan of calling, but 30 seconds later he tossed in the chips.

It turns out the call was mathematically correct as they were off to the races.

Nekrasov: 8♠8♣
Rudoy: Q♠9♠

Nekrasov let out an audible sigh at the sight of the Q♦T♦9♦ flop and while he could have caught a jack or an eight to retake the lead, or running diamonds to chop, the 4♣ turn and A♥ river rolled off to signal the end of his tournament run.


Mikhail Rudoy: Chipping up

Nekrasov's exit sees Rudoy eclipse 300,000 in chips. -- BK

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2:35pm: So sick
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

ElkY has just made a fairly tremendous hero call on the feature table. One suspects he may even claim it was "So sick"--although we know he doesn't throw that phrase around too much.

That hand began with a raise to 10,000 from Artsiom Zhadinsky and a call in the small blind from ElkY. Roman Seleznev then called in the big blind and three players saw the J♥4♦3♦ fall on the flop.

ElkY checked and Seleznev bet 10,000. Zhadinsky folded, but ElkY wanted to see one more card.

elky_psc_sochi_day3.jpgElkY: Great call

The turn was the A♦ and ElkY checked again. Seleznev bet 15,000 this time, and ElkY again called without too much consideration.

The 2♦ on the river made this a very co-ordinated board. ElkY checked again and Seleznev bet 25,000 this time. He was nothing if not consistent.

ElkY took a lot longer over this decision, maybe even a minute which is, like, ten minutes in ElkY years. But then he called and Seleznev shook his head.

Seleznev had to show his T♠9♠ and ElkY's A♥6♥ was good.

That puts ElkY up to around 425,000. The Team PokerStars Pro is on fire. -- HS

2:30pm: Imaginary conversation
Level 15 - Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

I don't speak Russian.

And not being able to speak Russian has made doing this job difficult this week. Mainly because jotting down table banter is often a big part of what makes a hand writable and readable.

I would have liked to be able to understand Anton Gililov's chat in this hand, but instead I'll just take a guess at what he was saying.

Gililov opened to 8,000 under the gun and was called by Arash Khosravi, before Andrei Chernokoz defended his big blind. They went to a 5♠9♥6♦ flop, which Gililov continued on for 14,500 after it checked to him. Khosravi folded, but Chernokoz called.

The turn was the 6♣, pairing the board, and both decided to check to see the 7♠ river, which put four to a straight out there. Chernokoz now led out for 26,500, and here's where Gililov started talking.

As the two were sat right next to each other, Gililov gave his opponent a stare down from a few inches away and muttered something in Russian. I'm going to guess he said: "Do you have an eight?"

No answer. He then said something else which seemed to be about his own hand. Let's pretend he said: "I have an overpair."

Chernokoz simply smiled. Could that be a sign? Gililov wasn't sure, and kept talking. Perhaps he said: "Or maybe you have a six?"

We'd get to find out at least one the pair's holdings when Gililov eventually made the call. Chernokoz turned over the 8♦9♦ for a straight, and Gililov mucked his cards, having flashed them to another player. That meant he had to announce what they were to the whole table.

And he did. Problem is, I couldn't understand what he said.

I don't speak Russian. --JS

2:25pm: Cold four-bet shove
Level 15 - Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

I arrived at the table as Nadar Kakhmazov already had the red all in triangle in front of him. Looking at the bets it was easy enough to decipher what action had led us to this point.

Vitaliy Li had opened to 9,000 before Seyed Ghavam three-bet to 21,000. It was at this point that Kakhmazov must have unleashed the triangle, for a total of about 130,000. The neutral observer hoped for a call but it was not to be.


Nadar Kakhmazov: Rough day for the former leader

Both players folded and Kakhmazov moves up to 185,000--although it's still been a really rough day for the overnight chip-leader. - RJ

2:20pm: Moneymaker dipping
Level 15 - Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

Chris Moneymaker is getting short.

He's now down to about 50,000 after Dmitrii Grinenko turned trips against Moneymaker's over-pair.

Moneymaker opened to 9,000 that hand and Alexandr Minakov called from the small blind. Grinenko called from the big blind and a 7♣8♠7♥ flop hit the board. Action checked to Moneymaker and he bet 11,000. Minakov folded, Grinenko called and the turn brought an 8♦.


Chris Moneymaker: Dipping

Both players checked and then Grinenko bet 24,000 when a 4♠ came on the river. Moneymaker quickly called but then mucked when Grinenko tabled Q♥8♥.

"What a turn," Moneymaker said, shaking his head. Vladimir Troyanovskiy then asked him what he had and Moneymaker told him he had jacks.

"Thought I was good that whole hand," Moneymaker said. He's now to about 50,000. --AV

2:15pm: Artem busts to Artem
Level 15 - Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

Artem Vezhenkov's Main Event run has come to an end after he got the last of his chips in dominated and was unable to improve.

Artem Savchenko brought it in for a raise to 9,000 from the hijack and Vezhenkov moved all in from the cutoff for 60,000. It folded back around to Savchenko, he called, and Vezhenkov saw that he needed some help.

Vezhenkov: A♦6♣
Savchenko: A♠J♥

The 9♣Q♠Q♥ brought some outs to a chop but the K♠ turn and J♣ river failed to save Vezhenkov. The online beast, best known as "veeea" on PokerStars, leaves us while Savchenko shoots up to 245,000. -- BK

2:10pm: The waiting game
Level 15 - Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

As we get close to the bubble, there are a lot of short stacks moving all-in pre-flop. Some will be hoping for a call, many more will be hoping just to pick up the blinds and live to fight another hand.

One such player was Yulius Sepman, who shoved for 45,000 from middle position. The only player to show any interest in calling was Pavel Kovalenko but he wasn't going to make this easy on Sepman. Kovalenko asked the dealer the exact amount and put calling chips to one side. Then he checked his cards again, played with his chips, checked his cards again and went back to thinking.

All the while, poor Sepman was a statue on the other side of the table, hands clasped in front of him as he couldn't avoid his eyeballs darting over to give Kovalenko a quick glance.

After three minutes of deliberation, Kovalenko gave it up. There would be no "all in and call" and Sepman lives to fight (at least) one more hand.

He's now on 60,000. - RJ

2:05pm: Ivlev out
Level 15 - Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

Andrey Ivlev has been eliminated after finding himself down to just 3,500 and forced all in from the big blind.

Mikhail Rudoy opened to 9,000 and both Timur Bubnov and Jonas Lauck called from the button and small blind respectively. The flop was fanned 6♦K♦4♥ and Lauck checked it over to Rudoy who continued for 16,000.

Bubnov got out of the way but Lauck called to see the 9♠ turn card. The action was checked through and the 3♥ river completed the board. Lauck opted to lead out for 25,000 on the end, and after Rudoy let it go, both Lauck and Ivlev turned up their hands.

Lauck: K♠T♠
Ivlev: Q♥T♦

Ivlev had just queen high and couldn't compete with Lauck's top pair. Ivlev exited the tournament area while Lauck lifts his stack to 380,000. -- BK

2pm: More eliminations
Level 15 - Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

Abraham Passet, Ivan Kozyrev and Boris Yanpolskiy are now out of the Main Event, as are Konstantin Tolokno and Yury Filimonov. -- SB

1:55pm: Big stack doing what a big stack should
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

There's no stopping Daniyar Aubakirov right now. The only way the chip leader seems to not win a pot is when he folds pre-flop.


Daniyar Aubakirov: Check me out

In the first hand, Nacho Barbero opened to 11,000 and Aubakirov three-bet to 30,000 out of the big blind. Barbero folded.

Onto the next hand, it folded to Aubakirov in the small blind and he made it 13,000 to see a flop. Oleg Lipkin folded his big blind.

And in the third consecutive hand, Artem Vezhenkov opened to 8,000 and Aubakirov flatted on the button. They saw a Q♥7♠9♣ flop which Vezhenkov checked. Aubakirov bet 4,000 and that got a fold. Aubakirov then flashed the Q♦ for top pair to the table.

Could he make it four in a row?

Well, Vezhenkov opened to 8,000 again, but this time Aubakirov decided to let it go. --JS

1:50pm: Ninety minutes is long enough
Level 15 - Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

Remember the good old days when Hollywood studios didn't insist on every film being a) about superheroes and b) running at least two hours and thirty minutes long so "Chase Sequence 7" could be left in unedited?

It's hard to believe but there was a time when films were often just 90 minutes long. It was glorious. They didn't overstay their welcome, they cut out all the flab and they finished at a reasonable hour so you could fit in a quick beer and a burger afterwards without the need to stay up well past bedtime.

Think 12 Angry Men, Trainspotting, Stand By Me and Toy Story among countless others 90-minute classics.

Well, here in Sochi, the tournament directors have just seen fit to increase the blind level duration to that very same golden 90 minutes. Each player will have an extra quarter of an hour to perfect their optimal raise size before the blinds increase again.

And, if they're card dead, they could even fit in a viewing of Mike Bassett: England Manager (running at a svelte 89 minutes) on their smartphones too. - RJ

1:40pm: Ninety minutes
Level 15 - Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

We're into Level 15 now, and we will be for 90 minutes. That's the new length of the levels from here on. -- HS

1:25pm: Break time
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

Phew. We're going to need this break. Everyone take 20 minutes to gather your thoughts.

1:23pm: Passet's out, Livshitz's up, Wheeler's ladies
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

Right before the break, Gaby Livshitz busted Abraham Passet. The latter had opened to 6,000 only for Livshitz to three-bet to 15,000. Passet then four-bet jammed for around 80,000 and Livshitz snap-called.

Passet - A♥K♣
Livshitz - Q♠Q♣

The most classic of all of the classic races. It ran out 3♣6♥T♠T♥J♠ and that was that. Lizshitz moved up to 240,000.


Gaby Livshitz: Good time for queens

"Ladies usually get me into trouble," said tablemate Jason Wheeler. "Both in poker and out." --JS


Ladies man, Jason Wheeler

1:22pm: Towers
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

Daniyar Aubakirov has so many chips they're hard to count. It doesn't help that he's stacking them in towers that are so tall they look destined to topple over at any moment but, given the quality of his play so far today, that will be the last thing on his mind.

He just won another pot to keep his tally ticking over, this one at the expense of Nacho Barbero. It was Barbero who raised pre-flop and Aubakirov defended from the big blind. A check-call of 6,000 on the 2♥2♣7♦ was forthcoming from Aubakirov.

Both players checked the A♥ turn and, when Aubakirov bet 13,000 on the K♥ river it was good enough to win.

I'm guessing here but Aubakirov has around 650,000 while Barbero has 155,000. - RJ

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1:21pm: A double for Demenkov
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

Vladimir Demenkov was short-stacked and ready for a double up. Rather than jamming it all-in preflop, Demenkov made it 7,500 from the cutoff with A♥8♥. Andrey Razov called from the small blind and Dmitry Nikitin decided he'd give it a whirl with 7♥5♥ from the big blind.

Action checked to Demenkov on the 6♥A♠4♣ flop and he moved all-in for 32,000. Razov got out of the way and Nikitin, who had about 140,000, decided to call with his open-ended straight draw.

Demenkov's aces were in the lead and a 5♦ on the turn and a T♥ on the river kept him there. Demenkov doubled to about 90,000 while Nikitin dropped to 110,000. --AV

1:20pm: When you fold top pair correctly
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

Nacho Barbero has been around the block long enough to usually know when he's ahead and when he's behind. He gets it right most of the time. And, in this hand versus Oleg Lipkin, he got it right again.

Barbero kicked off the action by raising to 7,000 and Lipkin called, as did Vitaliy Li. Barbero bet 11,500 on the T♦A♠4♥ flop and only Lipkin called.


Barbero slowed down on the 6♥ and checked, prompting Lipkin to fire in 27,000. Surprisingly, Barbero quickly folded, showing an Ace on the way to the muck.

"Ace-jack?" asked Lipkin.

Barbero nodded. "You have ace-queen?"

"Ace-ten" replied Lipkin, with a smile.

Barbero's spidey-sense was tingling in all the right places in that hand - the damage could have been much worse. Both players are now sitting on around 180,000. - RJ

1:15pm: Zhadinsky dishes out more punishment
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

Wow. This has been a sensational few minutes for Artsiom Zhadinsky. After cracking queens to win that huge pot from Alexander Lakhov, he has just cracked queens to send Vladislav Tonkikh to the rail!

Zhadinsky had pocket nines in this hand, and spiked a nine on the river. That gave him all of Tonkikh's 47,000 stack and put him up to around 530,000. -- HS

1:10pm: Huge blow to Lakhov sees Zhadinsky surge
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

A huge pot just played out up on the feature table between Alexander Lakhov and Artsiom Zhadinsky

It kicked off with a 7,500 UTG+1 open from Zhadinsky before Lakhov three-bet to 20,000 from the hijack. Back to the original raiser, he called and the two saw a T♦9♦Q♣ flop. Zhadinsky checked it, which resulted in an 18,000 c-bet from Lakhov.


Artsiom Zhadinsky: Unstoppable

Here's where things got interesting. Zhadinsky then raised it up to 55,000, and Lakhov just flatted. The turn then came the 7♣, on which Zhadinsky jammed for 166,500 - an overbet. This put Lakhov into the tank.

He got a full count, and took his time before eventually making the call. When we saw the cards he held, it was a credit to him that he even had to think for that long:

Lakhov - Q♠Q♦
Zhadinsky - J♥8♥

Zhadinsky had flopped a straight while Lakhov had flopped top set. A total cooler, and the A♥ river changed nothing.

If Lakhov had managed to get away from that one, it would have been mightily impressive. However, as it stands he's down to 98,000, while Zhadinsky is up to 491,000. --JS

1:07pm: Unwilling Wheeler
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

Jason Wheeler's contemplated calling off a few short stacks at his table, but has yet to pull the trigger for one reason or another.

When Ivan Kozyrev moved ll-in for about 40,000, action folded to Wheeler's big blind.

"Aww man," Wheeler said. "I can't knock out a guy with a teddy bear."

It's not a teddy bear, but a fluffy white seal. Kozyrev has been petting it throughout the day and it protected him from an all-in that hand.

Konstantin Tolokno has also moved all-in a few times, eliciting folds from Wheeler as well. In the most recent one, Wheeler raised to 7,000 from middle position and Tolokno moved all-in for 54,500 from the cutoff. Action folded back around to Wheeler and he tank-talked.
"I don't know how many nice hands I can keep folding," Wheeler said. "This is the last time I lay down."

Wheeler turned over A♥T♠ and told Tolokno that he wasn't a Bank of America ATM that he could keep getting money from. Tolokno, like Kozyrev and the Teddy Seal, said nothing. --AV

1:05pm: It was nice knowing you Boris
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

Boris Yanpolskiy is now just a memory. Word reaches that he had ace-king to Jonas Lauck's queens and lost the race. -- HS

1:01pm: Motorov makes an exit
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

Dmitriy Motorov is the latest player to become a railbird. He just ran into the pocket aces of Dmitry Nikitin.

Motorov shoved from early position for 37,500 and after Aram Vartevanyan made the call to put him at risk, Nikitin jammed all in over the top for just shy of 100,000 from the big blind. Vartevanyan wisely let it go and the cards went on their backs.

Motorov: 7♦6♦
Nikitin: A♠A♣

Motorov had a good aces-cracking hand but he came up short on the 4♣K♥5♥K♣7♥ runout. He leaves us while Nikitin moves up to a new total of 160,000. -- BK

1pm: A new contender emerges
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

With 425,000 to his name Oleg Chebotarev has now entered the Premier League of Sochi chip stacks. He's been motoring along today, having started on 371,500.

Chebotarev picked up some additional chips when he made a very good value bet with pocket kings on the river of a 8♦A♦3♠9♣Q♠ board. Sergey Isaev made the call and mucked when he saw the kings.


Oleg Chebotarev: On the up

Isaev's stack is travelling in the opposite direction today - he's down to 140,000 after starting with 282,500. - RJ

12:58pm: Lauck loses a little
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

Jonas Lauck is arguably one of the most accomplished players left in the field, what with his WCOOP Main Event win. But he hasn't accomplished what he'd set out to do so far here on Day 3, in that his chip stack has declined.

In this latest pot, Mikhail Rudoy min-opened to 6,000 and Lauck defended out of the small blind, as did Andrey Ivlev in the big. They saw a 6♥3♦5♦ flop fall, on which it checked to Rudoy. He made a continuation bet of 11,000 and only Lauck called.

The turn was then the A♦, completing any diamond draws. However, both decided to check and see a river: the 9♠. Lauck checked again, and Rudoy picked up where his aggression left off, making it 27,000 to go. Lauck folded to give Rudoy, a PokerStars qualifier, the win.

Lauck is down to 175,000, while Rudoy is up to 260,000. --JS

12:56pm: Recent eliminations
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

Mikhail Soltanov, Aleksandr Zhilinskii, Igor Dimitrijevic, Michal Majewski, and Dmitry Motorov are all out of the Main Event. - SB

12:55pm: veeea-ha!
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

We thought we didn't know Artem Vezhenkov when play started today. There are a lot of Russians in this field who have not made much of a splash on the live tournament circuit, and Vezhenkov is one of them.

However, Jan Kores, our media co-ordinator, mentioned that Vezhenkov has appeared quite a few times on PokerStars Blog. He is the man behind the "veeea" nickname on PokerStars and has won titles in the WCOOP and SCOOP series, as well as the Sunday Million and Super Tuesday.


Artem "veeea" Vezhenkov

During one memorable passage of play, he won 10 tournaments and two "Triple Crowns" in 10 days. He has also been the top-ranked online poker player int he world.

Short version: quite good. -- HS

12:51pm: Zhilinskii leans on the towers of Pisarenko
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

If you had Aleksandr Zhilinskii in your PokerStars Championship Sochi sweepstake you're all outta luck.

The Russian was short on chips and shoved with 9♦7♦ when it was folded to him in the small blind. Maksim Pisarenko decided his Q♠8♣ was good enough to call.

The 5♣A♠4♣3♠5♥ board didn't do Zhilinskii any favours and he busts before the money. Pisarenko is up to 140,000. - RJ

12:50pm: ElkY the assassin
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

Another elimination from the feature table, and this time it was ElkY, the star attraction, who accounted for Igor Sharaskin. This one again started with a limp, from Alexey Nikolenko on the button, which persuaded ElkY to complete from the small blind.

Sharaskin then jammed for 34,000 from the big blind and ElkY gave him a spin with 5♦5♣. It was a race as Sharaskin was sitting with A♠9♥. But ElkY stayed ahead as the over-cards missed.

We're down to 76 players now. -- HS

12:45pm: Pain, relief, then pain again
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

Poker can be a cruel game, agonisingly so in the case of Ulrich Jungen. The Swiss player had a decision to make after Mikhail Soltanov moved all-in for his last 21,000 on a flop of Q♥K♠6♠. He needed time but after several minutes the clock was called. After several minutes in the tank this speeded things up a bit. Finally, he called.

It was easy to miss that Vladimir Troyanovskiy was still in the hand, sitting next to Jungen. But Jungen got a sharp reminder when, having experienced the relief of making up his mind, Troyanovkskiy turned to him, told him he probably had the best hand, and moved all in. Jungen's agony started all over again.


Vladimir Troyanovskiy: Silent

This time though he couldn't call, and folded his hand (later revealed to be ace-king). Troyanovskiy won the hand, sending Soltanov to the rail (his flush draw falling short). But it was Jungen's reaction that told the full story, who had now watched the hand he would have won play out.

He said "Arrrgghhh!" several times before he was able to calm down. Troyanovskiy meanwhile is up to 225,000. - SB

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12:40pm: Out in the manner he got in
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

We've lost one from the feature table as Andrey Morgun takes the long walk, with Alexander Lakhov his assassin.

It was a pretty weird hand, with Lakhov calling from the button, Alexandr Potievskiy calling from the small blind and then Morgun ripping it in from the big blind. He had 21,500.

Both limpers called, meaning there was betting on the side after a flop of T♠A♦4♦. Actually, there wasn't. Both active players checked. After the 3♠ came on the turn, Lakhov did bet and Potievskiy folded.

So they went on their backs and Morgun was actually now ahead with his 4♥2♦ to Lakhov's J♦6♦, although one suspects the all-in player had been hoping for a couple of folds.

That went double when the 6♥ came on the river, which was one of Lahkov's outs. That sent Morgun, a Spin & Go qualifier, spinning out of the tournament. -- HS

12:38pm: Aubakirov takes the chip lead
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

Well, we knew a big pot was possible when start of day chip leaders Nadar Kakhmazov and Seyed Ghavam were sat next to each other, but it turns out the beneficiary is someone else.


Daniyar Aubakirov: New leader

Daniyar Aubakirov, MonteDam Swing WPT Amsterdam winner, got all his money (roughly 300K) in on the turn with an overpair and a flush draw, against Kakhmazov's set. Aubakirov rivered his flush and now sits with 620,000 to Kakhmazov's 230,000. --JS

12:35pm: Rocking and chopping with Moneymaker
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

Chris Moneymaker, the former accountant from Tennessee, is rocking out in Russia.

He went bungee jumping the other day and now he's getting deep in Day 3. He has his headphones on and is bobbing along to music in between pots. His first few pots of the day were settled preflop, but then he made it down to a river.

In that hand, Moneymaker, Gevorg Oxojan and Timur Bubnov were faced with a Q♣A♥3♥ flop. There was about 24,000 in the pot and Moneymaker bet 10,000. Oxojan called, Bubnov folded and a 4♦ came on the turn.

Both players checked and a 4♣ completed the board. Moneymaker bet 18,000 and Oxojan quickly called. Both players were hoping to have their opponent beat, but neither of them did. Moneymaker tabled A♣T♠and Oxojan turned over A♠T♦.

The dealer chopped the pot and Moneymaker went back to grooving to his tunes. --AV

12:30pm: Yee-haw for Yehor!
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

Yehor Filipenko just scored a crucial double-up at the expense of fellow short stack Denis Pavlenko.

Filipenko shipped approximately 30,000 with Q♣T♣ and was called on the button by Pavlenko, holding A♥9♥. Ace-high was winning until the T♥ on the turn hit Filipenko just where he wanted it. There was no ace on the river and he secured a full double-up to 70,000.

Pavlenko is in the sub-20 big blind mildly dangerous zone now. He's got 58,000. - RJ

12:25pm: Tupalo and Chernokoz even things up
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

Kostiantyn Tupalo and Andrei Chernokoz have traded blows and it was Tupalo who came out on top.

Chernokoz raised to 6,500 from the cutoff before Tupalo three-bet to 14,500 from the small blind. Chernokoz called and the flop landed 5♠2♠5♥. Tupalo continued for 18,500 and Chernokoz peeled one off to see the A♥ turn card.

Tupalo reached into his stack again and fired for 29,000. That was enough to dissuade Chernokoz from continuing and the pot was pushed Tupalo's way.

After that exchange both players have right around 175,000 apiece. -- BK

12:20pm: Double for Demenkov
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

Vladimir Demenkov came into the day just a little more than 20 big blinds, but something had clearly gone wrong this morning when he found himself down to 29,500. Action folded to him in the cutoff and he jammed, before being called by Andrey Razov on the button.

Demenkov - 3♦3♠
Razov - A♥K♣

'Twas a race. Treys against big slick. The flop? 4♥2♣7♣. The treys stay in front.

The turn? T♥. Big slick picks up a flush draw.

The river? 3♣. Make that a set for Demenkov. --JS

12:15pm: Win some lose some
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

You win some and lose some; it's the size of those wins and losses that make a difference. So while Max Lykov just lost a pot against the bullish Jorg Bohme, he just won a couple back to restore what he lost, with a little extra on top. He's up slightly, and hovers at around the 100,000 mark. - SB

12:10pm: Boris gets on the board
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

It's always good to get that first winning pot out of the way, and Boris Yanpolskiy did it on the very first hand.

He raised under the gun to 7,000 and found just one caller, Mikhail Rudoy, who was sat directly to his left. Yanpolskiy bet 6,500 on the 9♦7♥4♦ flop and was called. He then checked the 5♥ turn and called a larger bet of 13,000 from Rudoy.

The river paired the board, 9♠. This time both checked and Yanpolskiy's pocket eights were the winner. He scores that all-important first win and moves up to 130,000.

Rudoy drops down a little to 165,000. - RJ

12:05pm: Stacks next to stacks
Level 14 - Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 500)

Of all the seats in all the tournament, Nadar Kakhmazov and Seyed Ghavam ended up right next to each other. They're the two biggest stacks coming into today, so one big pot between them could create a monster chip leader.


Seyed Ghavam and Nadar Kakhmazov, leaders

Ghavam's stack just got a bit bigger too after taking some chips from Nacho Barbero. Picking up the action on an 8♥K♠7♥ flop, Barbero check-called 6,000, and then check-called 12,000 on the 5♠ turn. The K♦ completed the board and both checked; Barbero showed the A♠Q♠ but his ace-high was bad against Ghavam's 6♥6♣. --JS

11:30am: Eighty down

Morning all and welcome back to Sochi for Day 3 of the PokerStars Championship Main Event. We finished yesterday at the end of Level 13, one level sooner than planned. It means we'll play one 75-minute level today before reverting to 90 minute levels to the end of the tournament.

With 82 players left, we have two major considerations: firstly, the bubble. The money kicks in when 55 are left, so there will be a nervy couple of hours before we reach that stage.

After that, we're at the discretion of the tournament director as to how long we play today. There's a good chance the bell will sound early again if players continue to depart quickly. We'll keep you updated on the plans.

In the meantime, head over to look at the chip-count page to see where they all stand. It's Nadar Kakhmazov at the summit, but plenty of talent trying to knock him from his perch.

Here's one man with another title in his sights:

8G2A2107_Chris_Moneymaker_PCSochi2017_Neil Stoddart.jpg

Chris Moneymaker

Take a look at the official website of PokerStars LIVE, with tournament schedule, news, results and accommodation details for the PokerStars Championship in Sochi and all other Festival and Championship events.

Also all the information is on the PokerStars LIVE App, which is available on both Android or IOS.

PokerStars Blog reporting team in Sochi: Stephen Bartley, Ross Jarvis, Brad Kain, Jack Stanton, Howard Swains and Alex Villegas. Photography by Neil Stoddart.