WSOP Event #9 Update: Team PokerStars' Isabelle Mercier at final table

(Updates below the cut)

This is one of those career moments for Isabelle Mercier. She is about to sit down at one of the most high-profile final tables of the 2006 World Series of Poker. I'll be here all day and night long until Isabelle exits the tournament area. Here's how she stacks up against the other players.

1. Vinnie Vinh 784,000
2. Phil Hellmuth 461,000
3. Marcel Luske 458,000
4. Isabelle Mercier 301,000
5. Jeff Cabanillas 275,000
6. Douglas Carli 273,000
7. Eugene Todd 240,000
8. Thomas Schreiber 200,000
9. Dan Smith 117,000


6:07pm--It was a tough table to be sure. By the time they were five-handed, Isabelle was sandwiched in between Hellmuth and Gene Todd, who had apparently decided to wage a minor war. It was not a good place for her. She knew she was getting respect the table and planned to exploit it. In the end, however, the blinds started to eat her away. By the time she made her move, she had less than 200,000 in her stack. A late position raise with K3 (a hopeful steal attempt on Jeff, who had proven many times over that he knew how to fold) turned out to come at a ba time. Jeff held pocket eights in the big blind and made the good call. Isabelle will earn $136,000 for her win. While the money is nice, her eyes, her heart was set on the bracelet. I'll admit now that I hoped Isabelle would get heads up with Hellmuth and take it down. It was not to be today.

Isabelle was right, though. This was among the toughest tables I've watched in a while. Say what you will about Hellmuth (I'm happy to say he is a whiner), he brought his A-game today. It's clear he has every intention of winning his tenth bracelet. What's more, he's playing like he deserves it. Marcel Luske is in search of his first bracelet and, similarly, seems like he would make any play to make it happen. Jeff, a first-timer here, has a rail of rowdy supporters, but seems like he might fade in the face of the professionals game. The one wild card left is Eugene Todd, who is hyper, never sitting still, and relishing his chance to tilt Hellmuth. If I were a betting man (?), I'd put the heads up match as Hellmuth vs. Luske. The only unknown variable is which of them will go heads up with Gene Todd's chips.

Then again, this is a poker game. Anything can happen.

6:05pm--And herein lies the sadness. Isabelle is out in fifth.

5:55pm--Once we got five handed, things slowed up a bit. Isabelle seems frustrated. "I'm looking for an opportunity," she said. They have been few and far between so far. Gene Todd did doubled through Jeff Cabanillas. Todd then forced Hellmuth off a pot (Hellmuth had AQ to Todd's AJ). Other than that, there's about 20 minutes until the next break.

5:12pm--Jeff has just eliminated Thomas. We're five handed. In Isabelle news, she got involved in a pot with Phil Hellmuth that cost her about 90,000 chips. To get things moving in the right direction, Isabelle has pulled out a "No Mercy" shirt and slipped it on.

4:50pm--Gettting ready to come back from break to 12K/24K/ante?

1. Phil Hellmuth 990,000
2. Marcel Luske 719,000
3. Isabelle Mercier 557,000
4. Eugene Todd 311,000
5. Jeff Cabanillas 302,000
6. Thomas Schreiber 95,000

4:31pm--Down to six players. Douglas Carli busted against Jeff just before the 15 minute break.

4:26pm--Vinnie Vinh began the day as chip leader. He quickly became a chip bleeder. A gusher, actually. AJ no good against AK. Sixes no good against kings. Now, KQ no good against Helmmuth's AT. Vinh in gone in eighth place.

4:11pm--Gus Hansen stepped up to the rail.

"Isa," he whispered. "Isabelle."

She turned around and spotted her friend. They hugged and whispered to each other. The conversation lasted too long. The cards flew into the air and Isabelle got a knee in her seat just in time to receive her last card.

There's a sick feeling in my stomach. Warranted or not, Hansen has developed a reputation as a loosey-goose player. I'm afraid his aura has bled onto Isabelle during the hug. The first thing she does upon returning to the table is come in for a raise.

It's with relief (mine, more than anybody's) that everybody folds.

3:49pm--Isabelle exhaled deeply and stepped over from the table. "This is the toughest table I've ever played in my life." You'd expect to hear the from someone who was getting chipped away. Instead, Isabelle has played three pots and taken down every one. The best so far was coming over the top of Hellmuth't button raise. Hellmuth took forever to much AT face up. In the meantime, somebody had called the clock on Hellmuth. He was none too pleased.

3:29pm--We've lost a player. Danny Smith moved all in and got called in two places. In the end, he bounced in ninth place. In other news, the blinds are an insane 10K/20K/3K. Not a lot of post flop play here. Also, Vinnie Vinh's loose play has cost him a lot of chips. Shortly after doubling up Marcel Luske, Vinh doubled up Jeff, running 66 into KK.

3:09pm--As play begins again, the table got tense. Facing a raise from Marcel Luske, Isabelle pushed all in from the small blind. Marcel thought for a long while and tried to pick up something from Isabelle. She revealed nothing, not even her cards. Luske folded. On the net hand, Luske came in for a raise again and Vinnie Vinh jammed. This time, Luske made the immediate call with AK to see Vinh's AJ. Luske's hand held up and he doubled through Vinh.

2:45pm--Well, there were only 20 minutes left in the level. The players played all of seven hands in that time. Isabelle considered playing the first hand but decided to wait. "I'm in no rush," she said. Now we're on a 15-minute break. Waiting at see this final table play out, especially after getting a taste of it, is a bit maddening. In my kind of poker coverage, most nights can be a bit dry. Even a majority of final tables aren't that exciting to watch. Seeing one like players, a member of Team PokerStars, a celeb shooting for his tenth's refeshing and exciting.

2:34pm--Play has started. Isabelle is back on the mocha and bare feet. For a non-televised final table, it is well attended. The gallery and rail are packed. If the first few hands of play are any indication, Hellmuth has come to play today. He seeks to tie Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan's ten bracelets. I don't think I have to tell you who I hope to see heads up and who wins, right?

2:17pm --The players are getting seated. ESPN decided to bring in a skeleton crew, which means we won't see a full episode of this event, but you might see some highlights. It's a shame, but that is how it goes.

1:41pm--The final table begins at 2pm...or shortly thereafter.