WSOP 2017: Slow build ends with excitement as Day 3 ends reaching the cash

Sometimes you'll hear someone recommend a favorite film or novel or television series as a "slow build."

Usually such a descriptor functions as a kind of warning not to expect too much too soon. Be ready to wait a little. Let the exposition play out, the characters start to be filled in a little. Then get ready to have your patience rewarded with something good.

Patience in poker is crucial, particularly in a tournament like the World Series of Poker Main Event. There's a lot of slow building happening in this event in the form of increasing chip stacks sitting in front of those remaining. The whole tournament can rightly be called a "slow build," really, but the term seems most apt to describe Day 3 in particular.

From the 7,221-player starting field, there were 2,572 players returning today, with Tournament Director Jack Effel advising before the start of play the intention to play down to 1,084 and the bursting of the bubble, an event that would likely signal the end of play. Such an announcement more or less ensured the entire day and night would be characterized by slowly increasing suspense as players fell out, and others lasted into the night.

So everyone got comfortable. Strapped in. Waited. Watched.

Was it worth it? Indeed. The first true climax of the WSOP Main Event narrative punctuated the end of play tonight, and it was something to see.

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Bubble pressure -- almost too much to bear!

We'll back up a little first in this Day 3 wrap-up to point you back to the start of play and the initial anticipation, as well as the early action when Team PokerStars Pros Fatima Moreira de Melo and Aditya Agarwal were among the eliminated. And to remind you that an interesting and strategically instructive level-by-level breakdown of Agarwal's entire tournament can be found here.

We'll also point to conversations with Felipe Ramos and Jason Mercier, after which Mercier busted and Jake Cody likewise followed.

We'll refer you as well to the pre-dinner survey when there were still 1,600-plus in the hunt including five Red Spades -- Ramos, Randy Lew, Andre Akkari, Barry Greenstein, and Liv Boeree -- with Matthew Moss having grabbed the lead as the first player in the field to 1 million chips.

We could linger a little more here, too, to talk about more busts and more big stacks building into seven figures, among them Patrick Lavecchia who was edging up to 1.5 million as the bubble finally neared.

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Lavecchia, the leader

But enough build-up. Let's cut to the chase.

After five 2-hour levels they still weren't there. The clock had just struck midnight. And the tournament clock showed 1,104 players left.

Twenty players away. Twenty minutes for everyone left to go think about what was to come.

By the time the break was over they'd recounted to find the field was in fact down to 1,102 -- 18 away. Fifteen minutes later, just 1,093 were left. Then another 15 minutes passed, and after more time was needed to ensure all tables in both the Amazon and Brasilia rooms had skidded to a stop, they were at 1,086.

The first hand of hand-for-hand play saw no less than four all-ins. To create a maximum sweat for everyone else, the first two ended in doubles.

In the first it was Tex Barch, third-place finisher in the Main Event back in 2005, surviving in a hand versus Dario Sammartino. Barch was seated next to Felipe Ramos, who enjoyed the raucous scene along with everyone else -- and chronicled it for his followers, too.

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Felipe and Tex

The other all-in saw Jason Funke flop a flush to double through Faraz Jaka. Then the final two both ended in eliminations -- Roger Campbell (knocked out by Kenny Shih) and Quan Zhou (whose all-in bluff failed against Davidi Kitai). The pair were swiftly chaperoned to an empty table and dealt two-card hands followed by a five-card board, and when Zhou's hand was best he was awarded the free entry into next year's Main Event.

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Zhou wins flip over Campbell

Players in both the Amazon and Brasilia rooms simultaneously erupted with roaring applause, congratulating themselves for having survived the first three days of poker's most prestigious tournament to record coveted Main Event cashes. Do yourself a favor and go linger further on the day's most exciting moment by reading our full review of the bubble's glorious bursting here.

The day was suddenly done. Out came the bags, and the five Red Spades remaining joined the crowd counting down and securing away their hard-won chips.

Boeree started the day with the Team's shortest stack, but she ended it with the most of those left with 384,000.

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A strong Day 3 for Boeree

Ramos also ended on an upswing, finishing with 351,000. "Peak," said Ramos, alluding to his stack reaching its high for the day.

Andre Akkari (276,000) and Randy Lew (236,000) bagged as well, as did Barry Greenstein who ended with just 28,000 (less than five big blinds), securing his first Main Event cash since 2003.

Meanwhile Lavecchia (1.552 million), Pawel Brzeski (1.546 million), and former November Niner Antoine Saout (1.529 million), and Jeremiah Fitzpatrick (1.523 million) ended the night with the biggest stacks. Click here for a complete list of end of Day 3 chip counts.

It's just after two o'clock. The tournament rooms are empty and quiet now, the echoes of the night-ending festivities having long died down. It all gets going again soon, though, with an 11 a.m. start just nine hours away.

Come back then for more suspense as they push further toward the even bigger climax scheduled for... let's see... nine days from now (on July 23).

We know that seems a long way off, but stick with us. It's a slow build. You'll be glad you did.

WSOP photos by