2008 World Series: Have we seen this before?

At last year's Main Event final table, spectators from Denmark watched aghast as their man - Philip Hilm - went from dominant chip leader at the start of play to first man out, giving all his chips to the eventual champion Jerry Yang with a misplaced semi-bluff. The serried ranks of supporters from St Louis, Missouri, are today watching with fingers, toes, ears and eyes crossed as they hope that Dennis Phillips can avoid a similar fate.

But after the first 90 minutes of action here, it looks as though history may be repeating itself.

Phillips began today with more than 26 million in chips, but his stack has been sliced down to just 8 million from those lofty heights as first Ylon Schwartz and then Ivan Demidov pushed him out of huge raised pots. We never saw what any of the players held as Phillips was forced to fold his cards after heavy betting on the flop. First up, Schwartz liked a seven-high board and re-raised Phillips' continuation bet; then Demidov did the same, this time announcing he was all in for his last 9 million on a jack-high flop after Phillips had bet 4.5 million. Ouch.

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But although Phillips is not quite the dominant force he once was, he's still very much alive. His supporters can still hold those thunder sticks ready to give their man some rousing St Louis noise when he gets back on the upward curve.

After all that, the players took a break, which allowed spectators to do the same. And out in the corridor leading to the Penn and Teller Theater, there are still hundreds of folk waiting for a space to become available inside where they can watch the action. It's reminiscent of the early days of the Main Event, where there were more than 6,000 players and a similar number of spectators every day, swarming through this casino and convention centre, feasting on fast food and finding their poker fix from behind the ropes of the Amazon Ballroom.

While there are only nine players this time - and there were still nine at time of writing - the tension has been ramped up 100-fold. And that's what the spectators come for.

Shortly into the new level - level 35 - we saw our first showdown, with this year's representative from Denmark, Peter Eastgate, taking it against Craig Marquis. The board ran out 2d-10c-Ad-2c-9c and Eastgate's two pair aces and deuces was good. Marquis mucked.

So on we go. And go we did.

The biggest hand of the last hour showed PokerStars Player Ylon Schwartz' devil-may-care style.

Dennis Phillips simply called from late position. When it got to Schwarz, he seemed to agonize in small blind before announcing "Raise" and making it 1.1 million more. Scott Montgomery called in big blind. Back around to Phillips, he thought, still seemingly in agony, and then called the 1.1 million additional raise.

The flop fell 2s-Ts-Qs. First to act, Schwartz bet out 5 million. Montgomery thought for a full minute before peeking nat his cards, breathing heavy, and announcing, "Call." Phillips insta-mucked.

On the turn, the 8s, Schwartz barely considered before announcing, "All-in." Montgomery barely blinked before throwing his cards in the muck. Pardon the reference, but the Schwartz was obviously with him.

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The PokerStars Video Blog team recently spoke with some former world champions about this kind of experience. This is what they had to say.


Watch WSOP Final Table: Former Champions P2 on PokerStars.tv

Howard Swains
@howardswains in World Series of Poker