There are dozens of cliché sports analogies to be used about Day 7 of the World Series of Poker main event, the day in which the final 27 players fight for the nine most coveted spots of the year.
It's no longer called the November Nine, because there's only a two-day break instead of a three-and-a-half-month layover, but the fight is still the same. After Day 6, dreams will come true or be shattered for those final 27 players as they try to make the final table.
Christian Pham had the kind of Sunday that dreams are made of, and it ended with him holding the overall chip lead at 31.44 million. Valentin Messina (28.59 million), Jack Sinclair (27.535 million) and Ben Lamb (25.685 million) aren't too far behind.
"I'm so happy about it," said Pham. "Yesterday, I talked with my brother, [and I said], 'I hope I just finish the day. I bet 10 million [would be] OK.' And now this!"
After nailing a miracle four-outer on Day 5 to chop a pot and survive, Pham could do no wrong on Day 6. He chipped up during the early stages of play, and then, with 38 players left, Pham got the dreamiest of dream situations.
He made a straight flush on the river, pushed all in, and got called by Jonathan Dwek.
"The turn, the miracle turn. I got diamonds, straight flush [draw], straight [draw], one pair," recalled Pham. "I got a lot of outs. I can't go [anywhere] with that hand."
Lamb, who closed out Day 6 with a late charge, hopes that his third trip to Day 7 of the WSOP main event is the charm. After finishing 14th in the 2009 main event and third in 2011, he's positioned well for a run at his second main-event final table. Antoine Saout (15th, 9.945 million) and Michael Ruane (16th, 9.34 million) each hope to do the same, though it'll take a bit more maneuvering for either of them to get the job done.
In a strange coincidence, or perhaps an almost serendipitous parallel to his run to the final table in 2016, Ruane has left himself in a bit of a bind going into Day 7; he has nothing to wear.
"Oddly enough, the same thing [has] happened to me, in that now I just don't have clothes again. For the second year in a row," said Ruane. "I swear to God, this is my last clean shirt. I wore this shirt last year, too. I have a suit that I packed because I was supposed to go to a wedding if I busted before Day 4, and my friends were joking that I should just wear the suit tomorrow because it's my only clean clothes."
A suit doesn't necessarily match the image that Ruane has been going for thus far, but if he does decide to class it up for Monday, he'll have something in common with Marcel Luske, who has sported a different suit for each day of the tournament. Luske has some unfinished business of his own, after finishing 14th in the 2003 WSOP main event and 10th in 2004; he'll have a steep road to climb with just 2.99 million, less than 13 big blinds at the start of play on Day 7.
Only four WSOP bracelet winners remain in the field: Pham, Lamb, Richard Gryko and Bryan Piccioli. Other players with at least $1 million in career tournament earnings include Jake Bazeley, Benjamin Pollak, Karen Sarkisyan and Richard Dubini.
Four-time WSOP Circuit ring winner Scott Stewart is also still in the mix. While swaps and selling pieces is fairly standard in a buy-in event of this size, one of the 1 percent sweats he sold in particular comes with a lot of other people's interest riding on things.
As part of an initiative by the Ruggles Club, a poker room that runs tournaments and cash games in the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio, operator Torrey Korsog took part of the entry fees for a future $100 buy-in tournament, and the 45 players who will be in that tournament put together a sum of $2,700 to invest in 1 percent sweats in 21 different poker players.
Of that group, nine cashed -- including three top-100 finishers, and two players (Stewart and Shawn Daniels) who made it to Day 6. With the money invested already yielding thousands of dollars, and the chance of an $80,000-plus prize pool should Stewart ultimately go on to win the main event, there's a lot riding on the next few days.
"I've known Torrey for seven or eight years now, and we always end up meeting in Vegas once a year," Stewart said. "I try to visit him in Ohio because I live in California. But this main event run has been crazy. I'm sure Shawn could tell you the same thing. This is my fourth try, and the first time I've cashed, so making it in the top 100 and having the opportunity to go further than that with a good chip stack is unbelievable. It's surreal. You know, we all watched ESPN [while] we were growing up and we were getting into poker, and it's a dream seeing yourself on there."
While Stewart's chance of making 45 Ohioans very happy carried on into Monday, Daniels (72nd) was one of 58 players whose dreams came to an end on Day 6. Martin Finger (80th), Matthias De Meulder (78th), Kenny Hallaert (64th), Connor Drinan (56th), Max Silver (45th), Dario Sammartino (43rd), Brandon Meyers (42nd) and Chris Wallace (32nd) were also among those eliminated.
The stage is set for one of the most exciting days in poker. Day 7 kicks off at 12 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET), with two hours of live coverage set for ESPN2 and WatchESPN from 7-9 p.m. ET. Play will continue until a final table is set.
A view from Sunday:
Chris Wallace dealt with an unusual problem after trying to collect his 32nd-place payout.
Correct quote from Rio staff "We are out of cash". I guess I'll take a check then...
- Chris Wallace (@foxpokerfox) July 17, 2017
End of Day 6 chip counts
1. Christian Pham (Saint Paul, Minnesota): 31.44 million
2. Valentin Messina (Pantin, France): 28.59 million
3. Jack Sinclair (London): 27.535 million
4. Ben Lamb (Las Vegas): 25.685 million
5. Pedro Oliveira (Braga, Portugal): 22.54 million
6. John Hesp (Bridlington, Great Britain): 20.88 million
7. Randy Pisane (Hoboken, New Jersey): 18.37 million
8. Scott Blumstein (Morristown, New Jersey): 18.125 million
9. Richard Dubini (Rio Gallegos, Argentina): 14.975 million
10. Bryan Piccioli (Allegany, New York): 14.5 million