2008 World Series: Pop!

Just before we went hand-for-hand, PokerStars qualifier Bill Purle wanted a cigarette. "I can't," he said. "I'm on the big blind next."

Such was the anxiety before the this excruciating period that even someone seemingly cruising to the money, as was Purle with comfortably the right side of 300,000 in chips, was keen not to let any hand pass by. But he really need not have worried. As hand-for-hand ground agonisingly past the hour mark, Bill could have taken a cigarette break between each hand. They got through only about six hands in the entire period before the requisite nine players departed. Really no hurry at all.

Bubble craziness

"Happy New Year," said my colleague Stephen Bartley, when the roar went up signalling the end of the teeth-pulling. And it certainly felt like that: a big bubble of anticipation burst and fireworks flying, hands-shaking, one or two high fives. Even the bubble boy himself was brought on stage to meet his public. Temporarily he was the most popular man in poker because his misfortune was everyone else's gain. It was even surreptitious Schadenfreude either. They were whooping it up.

It's my sorry duty to report that that bubble boy was Steve Chung, the PokerStars Macau satellite qualifier, whose journey to Vegas we detailed HERE. He was given a buy-in to next year's World Series as a consolation prize, which he did his best to seem happy about.

Bubble boy Steve Chung takes it well

Still, Chung's loss was not as bad as the player who went out in 667th. That guy got nothing, and no one even knows who he is.

So, we're in the money. And the field still includes four Team PokerStars Pros: ElkY, Hevad Khan, Vanessa Rousso and Victor Ramdin. PokerStars sponsored players Kirill Gerasimov and Kara Scott also went into the cash, and Scott has plenty of chips to hang around much longer. Gerasimov is slightly lower in chips, but has the much-documented stamina to still be here days from now.

Countless PokerStars qualifiers also made it through and we'l do our best to keep track of all of them as they go deeper into the money.

PokerStars qualifiers Morten Antonsen, Norway, left and Jose Gomez Martin, Spain, right, celebrate making the money

Check out our chip count page for the latest progress.

At the moment, let's just share a thought for Mr Chung, who'll be going back to Hong Kong with that nearly-man label hanging round his neck, and a ticket to next year's event tucked in his pocket. Will he go further in 2009? I guess we'll find out one day, but from now until next Monday it's no longer about "if" it's about "how much."

Remember, payouts are HERE and everyone left is in for a slice of it.

Photos (c) 2008 by Joe Giron & Stephen Beyer/IMPDI