The final table bubble took a long time to burst – over an hour of play, plus one more for dinner as Tony G insisted on taking the break rather than play on. But while he came back with his stomach full, he left again with his wallet half empty – he was the man to bust, leaving nine others to come back tomorrow to fight for the bracelet and the $1,891,012 first prize.
And what a day it will be for PokerStars. Two of the $40,000 event final tablists are Team PokerStars Pros: Greg Raymer, the 2004 WSOP Champion, and Lex ‘RaSZi’ Veldhuis, the online specialist from Holland. While Raymer will get all the attention, Veldhuis will be happy to remain under the radar, knowing that he’s already guaranteed at least $230,317, by far the biggest payday of his live tournament career.
Veldhuis, apart from a blip that lasted no more than a level, was hovering around the chip lead all day, just as he had yesterday. At the start of play he told me: “It’s going to be a good day,” and that’s exactly how it turned out.
He sits third in chips behind Isaac Haxton and Vitaly Lunkin, who won the PokerStars RPT event in Moscow just a few weeks ago. Right behind him is Raymer. He’ll be having huge backing tomorrow – not just from the railbirds because he is a famous face, but from the poker community at large: Raymer winning a big event like this would be excellent for poker in terms of publicity.
The Fossilman won’t let any of that expectation worry him though. He’ll play his usual game, one that has served him so well over the years, and one that saw him not so much cruise through today, but certainly get through it without too many mini dramas. Even getting his aces cracked twice did not trouble him. His place on the final table means he’ll likely have to miss the Tournament of Champions, due to begin two hours later, where all previous World Champions are invited to play in a freeroll to win a beautiful restored red Corvette.
When the final nine sit down for the 2pm start tomorrow, their chips stacks will look like this:
Isaac Haxton, 5,955,000
Vitaly Lunkin, 456,5000
Lex Veldhuis, Team PokerStars Holland Pro, 3,805,000
Greg Raymer, Team PokerStars Pro, 3,345,000
Alec Torelli, 2,340,000
Justin Bonomo, 1,685,000
Dani Stern, 1,300,000
Noah Schwartz, 660,000
Ted Forrest, 560,000
We’ll also keep an eye on day 1B of the $1,000 No limit event, plus the final table of the $1,500 Omaha Hi/Low 8 or Better, where Team PokerStars Pro Andre Akkari is still going strong with about 50 players left.
All photos © Joe Giron, IMPDI