LAS VEGAS -- The 1,933 survivors from Day 1A and Day 1B returned to action Tuesday for another five two-hour levels of play. As intended, the fields were kept in separate playing areas with 1A occupying Amazon and 1B in Brasilia and Pavilion. By the end of the fourth level all that remained was the Purple section in Amazon (about a quarter of the room) and three-fourths of Brasilia. Eliminations came rapidly, and a total of 1,115 players were sent home on Day 2AB with 2013 WSOP main event champion Greg Merson being one of the first. Some took it better than others.
Day 1 is all about survival and Day 2 is about accumulation. Players first broke the 250,000 chip barrier before dinner. Then came 300,000. Then four players attained 400,000 (250 big blinds). Tim Stansifer bagged a substantial chip lead for the night, trailed closely by Tom Cannuli, Tony Ruberto and Joe Kuether. Out of that group, Ruberto and Kuether have found a few successes this Series. Ruberto earned three cashes and a third-place finish in the six-handed Event 15 and Kuether had five cashes, with his best being a 17th-place result in the turbo Event 23. Stansifer, on the other hand, is looking for his first career tournament cash. A Day 2 chip lead doesn't mean much, but it's a strong step on the path toward the money.
Besides Merson, four of the other former main event champions advanced to Day 3. Defending champion Ryan Riess, 1987 and 1988 champion Johnny Chan, 1996 champion Huck Seed and 2003 champion Chris Moneymaker are all looking to make history. Dan Harrington can not. Moneymaker had the best day of the group and finished with 222,000.
"Going in I knew it was going to be a very tough day," Moneymaker said. "I dropped all the way down to 24,000 at my low point. ... But now the tournament really starts. It really starts on Day 3. I'm in a position now where I can hopefully use my experience and grow this stack as we get closer to the money and really put myself in a position to do something. The biggest thing in this tournament is getting to Day 3, with a stack, and using it effectively."
Moneymaker hasn't cashed in the main event since his victory in 2003.
As for the other champs, Riess (84,900) coasted most of the day before having a tough last level. "I made my first mistake," he said during a break in the action. Chan suffered a similar setback, chipping up well above average before ultimately losing a few key pots to finish with 46,600. Seed, who has final tabled this event twice, ended with 96,500.
The other worldwide star stayed silent for the most part in Amazon on Day 2AB. Antonio Esfandiari was focused on the grind for most of the day, but a big hand with aces against A-Q gave him a boost at the end of the night. Finishing with 277,800, he looks to cash for the third time in six years.
"I ran good," he said of his final few hours. "What can I do? When the cards come they come. I ran good, I played pretty good and I'm very fortunate to have a good stack to enter Day 3."
Esfandiari was part of the Day 1A contingent that played in a reserved fashion in the Amazon Room. Across the hall, Brasilia's atmosphere was like a loud party with chatter, smiles and drinks during the final level of the night. Given the smaller space and nearly three times the players, there was a clear emotional distinction between the two rooms. The chip leaders above all built their stacks in Brasilia, as did Erik Seidel, Faraz Jaka, Allen Cunningham, Ole Schemion, Jeff Madsen, Marvin Rettenmaier and Phil Galfond.
Here are the unofficial top 10 chip counts from Day 2AB:
1. Tim Stansifer (481,500)
2. Tom Cannuli (407,800)
3. Tony Ruberto (402,700)
4. Joe Kuether (401,200)
5. Zhen Cai (367,900)
6. John Sacha (364,400)
7. Munir Shahin (361,900)
8. Tom Roupe (349,600)
9. Martin Jacobson (342,700)
10. Jon DeGeorge (342,200)
When the field combines after Day 2C, blinds will begin Day 3 at 800/1,600 with a 200 ante.
Small blinds: Only 215 of the original 771 Day 1A players remain. Jacob Zalewski advanced to Day 3 with 64,200 in chips. Actor Kevin Pollak has made Day 3 for the second time in three years. The media tournament will be held during the dinner break Wednesday night. Mike Matusow didn't take his elimination too well. He tweeted: "Out if main event this concludes the worst 6 weeks of poker in my life thanks for [all] your support #illbeback." Vanessa Selbst, Annette Obrestad, Mike Sexton, Dennis Phillips, Josh Arieh, Ray Romano, Yevgeniy Timoshenko and last year's seventh-place finisher Michiel Brummelhuis were eliminated on Day 2AB. NASCAR's Jason White bagged 157,100.