WSOP 2017: Robin Hegele ends Day 5 on top while Salas, Saout, Ruane, Hallaert remain
If you stood outside behind the Rio earlier today, you might have seen the moving men loading dealer's chairs, one at a time, onto the back of a truck.
If you then walked inside, you'd pass by the Amazon room, emptied of chairs and tables and with supporting beams that once held lighting strewn all over. High on the walls still hung banners commemorating past World Series of Poker Main Event champions, seeming more conspicuous somehow as the only reminders of the game that has been played in that room without cessation for nearly seven straight weeks.
If you walked a little further you'd see other rooms similarly stripped down, kiosks in the hall emptied and barren, and other evidence of the abandonment.
A few steps more, though, takes you to the Brasilia room, back to the familiar clickety chips and chatter and other ambient noise we all know so well.
There, too, the process of emptying was in full swing, as today -- Day 5 of the 2017 WSOP Main Event -- the 297 players who filled it to capacity at the start whittled down to just 85 players.
The day began full of optimism, with Randy Lew -- the last Team PokerStars Pro standing. "I will defend us and get to the end!" Lew tweeted, ready to battle as long and hard as he could for the Red Spade brigade.
We began the day with an alphabetically-influenced survey of the remaining players, followed by a deeper dive into more trivia about the combatants.
When 200 were left we stopped and looked around a bit, noting the chip leaders at the time and thinking about how having a leading stack at that point doesn't generally translate into a victory or even making a final table.
Indeed one of those mentioned then challenging for lead -- Mickey Craft -- would slide to fall in 146th, cashing for $53,247. Craft made his mark before leaving, though, having gained our interest yesterday, then our admiration after his bust when he returned with shots of Patron for his tablemates, thanking all for a memorably good time.
Others mentioned in that survey -- Robin Hegele, Gyeong Byeong Lee, and Antoine Saout -- continued to thrive as the day turned to night, as did start-of-day chip leader Damian Salas who remained near or at the top of the counts for much of play.
Before Craft even fell, Lew's magical journey finally ended in 159th (also good for $53,247), a pair of nines failing him versus ace-king in his final hand. Don't think "nanonoko" is at all deterred from trying poker's most prestigious tournament again in the future. Or from self-effacing humor.
"Best part about winning $53k today is that the next 5 #WSOPMainEvent buy-ins will be freerolled so I can go back to my annual yearly bustout," Lew tweeted.
Late in the evening the emptying had continued further and they were down to 100 players, with Dominik Nitsche (195th, $46,096), Greg Mueller (191st, $46,096), Eoghan O'Dea (172nd, $49,096), Max Pescatori (148th, $53,247), Sergio Castelluccio (138th, $53,247), Ankush Mandavia (126th, $53,247), Andrey Pateychuck (111th, $53,247), J.P. Kelly (107th, $53,247), and Jake Balsiger ($53,247) among those taken out.
At that point Antoine Saout had risen to the top of the counts with more than 9 million. As we were noting earlier, he made one WSOP Main Event final table before (finishing third in 2009), and was among the leaders at this point last year, too, before exiting in 25th.
Of those who remain, the Frenchman is as good a bet as anyone to continue further, perhaps all the way to next weekend's final table.
During the night's final hour -- when there were many more empty tables than full ones -- Gyeong Byeong Lee (91st, $61,929) and Vitaly Lunkin (87th, $72,514) were among the last to go.
Charlie Carrel was also one of the last to leave before the bagging began, the 2017 Spring Championship of Online Poker Main Event ("High") winner, two-time EPT High Roller champ, and frequent collector of six- and seven-figure scores having to settle for 88th in this one ($72,514).
By the final hands of the night, Hegele had moved back up to the top of the counts to 9.9 million, ahead of Joshua Horton, Frank Crivello, Salas, Saout and everyone else. The German took 124th in this event a year ago, and having bested that now is positioned well to go even further.
Joshua Horton, Max Silver, Frank Crivello, Salas and Saout are all near the top currently as well, with Benjamin Pollak, Ben Lamb, Connor Drinan, Matthias De Meulder, Ihar Soika, Michale Ruane, Marcel Luske, Martin Finger, and two of last year's final tablists -- Michael Ruane and Kenny Hallaert -- all remain part of the remaining line-up as well. Click here for a complete list of end of Day 5 chip counts.
The current payouts are $72,514. Those getting through one more day to make the top 27 will all be guaranteed at least $263,532. The final nine will each get at least $1 million, with that $8.15 million prize waiting up top for the winner.
If you come to the Rio tomorrow, you'll see the Brasilia emptying even more as the WSOP Main Event marches forward through Day 6. Come back tomorrow and as that happens we'll tell you more about what -- and who -- remains.
WSOP photos by PokerPhotoArchive.com.