WSOP 2014: Moneymaker and Huang out late but De Meulder set for Day 4
As we wrote on the PokerStars Blog earlier today, this period after three days of play and before the bubble is the most painful time to depart. After all the effort, the emotion, there is nothing to do but leave empty handed, without even a word of solace.
They were everywhere today, those beaten by a game that three days ago they felt prepared to master. Instead it had thrown them aside, and the faces of these people, as they walked back to the hotel, encapsulates exactly what is at stake in the Main Event, and how now it will rest out of reach for another year.
At the start of Day 2 things had been different. I heard a man talking on the phone to his wife. He had busted, but was in good spirits. His wife was obviously consoling him and being as understanding as she could. Then, with a laugh he told her how much he'd enjoyed it all, that he loved her, and that he'd be home in the morning.
Now you don't hear conversations like that, for how could anyone possible understand?
Take Emmanuel Pariset for instance. On his way into the tournament room this morning the jovial Frenchman, who reached the final table of EPT Sanremo earlier this year, was bright with optimism and confidence. A few hours later I watched him walking in the other direction, a look of abject defeat on his face, his body seemingly resisting every effort to walk away from the Amazon Room that had been the centre of his world all week.
Different players though react in different ways. There are the ones who don't want to leave, who linger around the table they once were entitled to sit at, gathering their things slowly and a little surprised that nobody now talks to them - busting is not contagious of course, but nobody want's to take a chance.
Then there are the others, who stumble away as though drunk, heading for the nearest door whether it's open or not.
Team PokerStars Pros were somewhere in between, Fatima Moreira de Melo, Barry Greenstein, Leo Fernandez, Humberto Brenes, Randy Lew, Theo Jorgensen and Gabe Nassif all finding that their summer was now suddenly over in what must have felt like a blink.
For the rest it's another evening of wondering, before the most dramatic day so far. Tomorrow we reach the bubble, or at least 693 players will. The 746 players remaining tonight know this and have to handle this cruel juxtaposition - the joy at making it through three days of the biggest game in town, but the prospect that one slip could still mean leaving with nothing, except the memory of those around you roaring in celebration.
PokerStars will throw just one player into this cauldron after late exits.
Chris Moneymaker knows more than anyone what it's like to experience this roller coaster ride through to the end.
The 2003 champion, who was among the leaders coming into the day, looked set to finish well. But the penultimate level of the day conspired to deny him further advancement. He was moved to the same table as NBA star Paul Pierce, and in front of the cameras crashed out late.
It left two PokerStars players to go on without him. But even though he seemed best placed to thrive, Bryan Huang would crash out next, running into aces twice. It leaves Matthias de Meulder as the sole remaining PokerStars player, with a stack of 127,500. It's some way off the average, but De Meulder will be happy to take his chances.
The all-important fourth day begins tomorrow at 12 noon Las Vegas time. Within a level or two play will break through the bubble, sending a shockwave of delight back up the hallways towards the casino floor, where the remnants of those now busted will look for the earth to swallow them up.
All will be decided tomorrow. Join us then.