A champagne bottle popped inside a packed Amazon Room early on Level 16. Everyone cheered as the remaining players took off their glasses, hoodies and headphones to share a quick handshake or hug. The champagne was distributed to anyone who wanted it, glasses were provided, as others asked waiters for beers or shots of Patron or Jager. A player pulled out his iPad and got on FaceTime, bringing his relatives into the room with him. Cell phones were out, texts were sent and the moment these players had searched for since their starting flight last weekend had finally arrived.
Except for the three people standing with the tournament staff in the center of the room, this was the best moment of the main event for the entire place. Players had made the money in the biggest tournament of the year. They had every right to celebrate and show their excitement and now, it's back to business.
Day 4 play began with 746 players looking to survive the bubble and earn a minimum of $18,406. As short stacks hoped to make it, the stalling became brutal. The floor staff -- which issues warnings and threatens to start 10-second countdowns for all those trying to make each hand last as long as possible -- was called repeatedly to tables. Players were, rightfully, getting frustrated.
With 695 players left, tournament director Jack Effel declared that hand-for-hand action would begin. Dealers would deal one hand, then stand up at its completion. If there was an all-in and a call, the hands would remain covered until ESPN cameras were in place to cover the action. On the first hand of this effort, there were five players at risk and with two players needing to go home, it seemed likely that we'd be one and done.
The first hand had reached the river by the time its action was picked up by Effel who walked from table to table calling the progress. A roar came over the Amazon Room as Mark Newhouse rolled over 5-5 for quads to eliminate John Dwyer who held queens full. One down.
At the next table Zhen Cai waited for the cameras, but he already knew he was trailing with Q-Q to the A-A of Darren Keyes. The aces held and players were in the money.
There were now three more hopes for Cai and Dwyer to not go away empty-handed. All they needed was one more elimination and they'd share the purse for 693rd, or multiple spots if more players were knocked out. They got their wish on the next hand as Harry Kaczka cracked Kori Hunter's aces with 8d-9d with a rivered two pair. The other two players, Stuart Rutter and Paul Tedeschi, doubled through and kept their dreams alive.
Cai, Dywer and Hunter each received $6,135 for their tie in 693rd place. Cai also won a seat into the 2015 WSOP main event by picking out a high card in a stunt presented by WSOP.com.
Ronnie Bardah was all smiles as the bubble broke, and it's that smile we've seen at this very moment in the tournament for each of the past five years. This was a record-setting finish for Bardah who has finished 24th, 453rd, 540th and 124th in this event since 2010. He's one of the shortest stacks in the field now, but nobody left can compete with his experience.
Well, maybe a few players. Specifically Phil Ivey and Mark Newhouse. Ivey lost a big pot to Kyle Keranen recently and dropped to 646,000 after a strong start. Dan Smith leads with 1.8 million with the blinds at 2,500/5,000 with a 500 ante. Smith earned $2 million from his victory in the $100,000 event at the Bellagio just before the main and has 16 career WSOP cashes that include three WSOP final tables.
Small blinds: The line for payouts has expectedly been busy with 90 players already heading home in the first hour since the bubble burst. Want to re-live the bubble? Go here. tournament director Effel was wearing a GoPro camera today. Not sure how it will play into coverage, but definitely a new angle. Brothers Mukul and Vinny Pahuja cashed in the main event. Lots of foot traffic in Amazon today. Definitely one of the best days to come and watch. Purple (500) chips are getting colored up during the break. NASCAR's Jason White survived the bubble. Players out, but in the money: Olivier Busquet, Randy Ohel and Ben Yu. Rainbow Hat guy (Zach Hall) made it through. Faraz Jaka seated on an outside feature. At the table next to him is Phil Galfond. These new outside feature tables are RFID equipped.