Editor's Note: The World Series of Poker main event final table will be broadcast on ESPN on Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET. Heads-up play will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com starting Monday at 11 p.m. ET.
After an action-packed final table in the Penn and Teller Theatre at the Rio, there are only two players remaining in the World Series of Poker main event: Jonathan Duhamel and John Racener. After a day off, this duo will return to center stage Monday night at 11 ET. The winner will take home not only the $8.9 million first prize, but more importantly, the coveted WSOP bracelet.
Duhamel had a roller-coaster final table. Initially, he entered the day as the chip leader, but later became the short stack with five players remaining. After some key eliminations, the youngest 2010 November Niner at 23 finally ended the night as the clear chip leader with more than a 6-to-1 advantage (188 million in chips to 30 million in chips). If the Quebec native wins, he would become the first Canadian to win the WSOP main event crown.
Racener had a different route to the final two as he scratched and clawed as the short stack for most of the night. Although he was repeatedly three-bet by his fellow November Niners, the Florida native kept his composure and doubled up at critical moments to survive to the heads-up battle. Racener native has repeatedly said that it has always been his dream to become world champion and would relish the opportunity to represent the poker world.
Whichever player emerges as the main event champion, the poker world will have a great new ambassador to take over the reins from Joe Cada. These two players had to maneuver through a minefield of seven other players. Since the final table bubble lasted almost six hours back in July, there were several short stacks among the November Nine who needed to be active early on. When Jason Senti moved all-in on the second hand of the night, it set the stage for one of the most entertaining final tables in WSOP history.
During more than 15 hours of play, I witnessed some memorable hands that will most probably be seen during the season finale on ESPN. Here's a look at some of the craziest moments from Saturday's action:
10. Soi Nguyen and John Dolan cannot out-race their opponents (Hands 28 and 129):
Since both players were cruelly eliminated on critical races, I'll combine these two hands, labeling them Hands 10A and 10B. With only a few minutes remaining in the initial level (250,000/500,000, ante 50,000), Nguyen pushed all-in from the button with Ad-Kc. However, he was quickly called by Senti, sitting in the small blind, holding Qs-Qd. When the dealer flopped Qh-3s-10c, Nguyen desperately needed a jack to save his tournament. Unfortunately, the turn (9s) and river (Ks) would not provide the needed four-outer and he was eliminated in ninth place. Ironically, Nguyen had forced Senti to lay down pocket queens on the final table bubble in July, but this time Senti made the call, sending Nguyen to the rail.
Going card dead for most of the final table, Dolan had a very tough day and became the short stack with six players remaining. Finally, with blinds 500,000/1 million and antes 150,000, Dolan made his move. After it was folded around to him in the small blind, Dolan shoved all-in, but was eventually called by Duhamel's 4d-4c in the big blind. After Dolan revealed Qd-5d, he knew he had to win this coin flip or be eliminated in sixth place. Unfortunately for Dolan, the board (Jh-7h-6h-9h-3c) provided no help and he was sent home with $1,772,959.
9. Candio shows bluff to Grinder (Hand 56):
Early in the night, Filippo Candio had been playing very tight, playing only seven of the first 54 hands. However, after winning Hand 55 (blinds were 300,000/600,000, antes 75,000), Candio called from the big blind after Senti raised to 1.35 million and Michael Mizrachi called from the button. After a checked flop of 5h-4d-2d, Candio bet 2.9 million after the Kh fell on the turn. After Senti folded, Mizrachi decided to come along for the ride. After the dealer placed the 3s on the river, Candio continued by betting 4.45 million. After much thought, Mizrachi decided to muck his hand. Afterward, the emotional Candio excitedly flipped over his hand of Qh-10h, showing the bluff.
8. Duhamel wins a critical coin flip to avoid an epic blow-up (Hand 150):
After a horrendous beat versus Racener (see Hand 5 below), Duhamel was the short stack with five players remaining. On the very next hand, Duhamel raised to 2.5 million from the small blind. With the blinds at 500,000/1 million and antes 150,000, Mizrachi decided to put a slightly distraught Duhamel to the test by moving all-in. After a moment, Duhamel chose to make the call, revealing As-9h. After The Grinder showed 3s-3h, Duhamel realized that this 50-50 hand would determine his fate at the 2010 WSOP main event final table. The dealer wasted no time by placing 9d-5d-Kh on the flop. The 9c on the turn looked pretty but did not change anything as Mizrachi still needed one of the two remaining 3s to eliminated Duhamel. Instead, the dealer flipped over the Jh, allowing Duhamel to double up and begin his comeback as chip leader. This hand also began Mizrachi's downfall; he was eliminated in fifth place 35 hands later (see Hand 6 below).
7. Grinder doubles up fellow Floridian (Hand 90):
Racener had been grinding the short stack for several hours and with five players remaining he was down to fewer than 13 big blinds. However, he never gave up and the following hand was critical to his survival. With the blinds at 500,000/1 million and antes 150,000, Mizrachi raised to 2.5 million from the hijack seat. Racener looked down at As-Kd and pushed all-in for 12.6 million. After the remaining players folded, Grinder went into the tank. After several moments, he decided the price was too good to fold, calling with Ad-8d and saying afterward that he was willing to take a risk for some chips in this spot. With his tournament life at stake, Racener was a 70-30 favorite, but was still understandably nervous. Although the flop (2h-10h-2s) provided potential chop possibilities, the turn (Kc) ended the hand. After the dealer placed the meaningless Jh on the river, Racener had doubled up back over 25 million and was out of immediate danger.
6. Duhamel traps Grinder by slow-playing pocket aces (Hand 185):
The 2010 WSOP final table was very aggressive, as limping preflop was rarely seen. Thus, when Duhamel limped from the small blind, it may have set off some warning bells. Nevertheless, Mizrachi checked his big blind option holding Qd-8h. When the flop came down 5d-4s-Qc, Duhamel checked to the Grinder, who bet 2 million. Duhamel pushed back by check-raising to about 6 million. With top pair, Mizrachi shoved all-in, and was immediately called by Duhamel's Ad-Ac. The turn (Jd) and the river (Kd) provided no help to the Grinder, eliminating the headlining pro at the final table in fifth place.
5. The lady loves Racener (Hand 149):
With five players remaining, Racener was the short stack. He had been repeatedly reraised all night long, but this time he fought back and it initially looked like he had chosen the wrong time. With blinds 500,000/1 million and antes 150,000, Racener looked down at As-Qs from the cutoff and raised to 2.3 million. After the button and small blind folded, Duhamel three-bet all-in from the big blind. After a moment, Racener decided to call, putting his tournament life on the line. After Duhamel flipped over Ac-Kh, Racener's heart sank as his hand was dominated. However, the dealer decided that it was not his time to leave center stage, as the flop came Qd-4h-8c. The turn (Jd) and river (3c) did not reverse the outcome, allowing Racener to double up and get back into the game.
4. Senti hits runner-runner flush versus Cheong to survive (Hand 65):
With the clock winding down in the 300,000/600,000, ante 75,000 level, Senti was still the short stack among the remaining seven players. After everyone folded to him on the small blind, Senti pushed all-in for about 10 million. Looking down at Ac-9c, Joseph Cheong immediately called. When Senti revealed his Kd-7s, he knew that he needed help or else he would be eliminated in seventh place. The board (Jd-6d-3s) provided no help for Senti, but the turn (Ad) was a very interesting card. Although it paired Cheong's ace, it provided Senti with more outs with his flush draw. With the entire stage standing, the dealer flipped over the improbable 10d, allowing Senti to double up and get right back into the game.
3. Cheong returns the runner-runner favor to Senti (Hand 116):
On the last hand of the 400,000/800,000, ante 100,000 level, there were seven players remaining. Sitting in the cutoff seat, Senti was the short stack and raised to 1.85 million after looking down at Ad-Ks. Sitting on the button, Cheong three-bet to 4.95 million. After the blinds folded, Senti pushed all-in and Cheong quickly called, revealing 10s-10c. The race was on. Initially, it seemed the poker gods were exclusively on Senti's side when the flop came Kh-Kd-Qc. However, it always seems that the turn brings additional outs and the Jd was no exception. Although an ace would not help him, any 9 or 10 would send the pot to Cheong and eliminate Senti in seventh place. With Senti's tournament life on the line, the dealer placed the 9d on the river, sending Senti home with $1,356,720.
2. Cheong implodes in third place (Hand 213):
With three players remaining, Cheong was the chip leader with about 95 million in chips. With Duhamel holding 90 million, it seemed like a matter of time when Racener (with about 35 million) would be eliminated.
However, Cheong had other plans. Sitting in the small blind, Cheong raised to 2.9 million. After Duhamel decided to reraise to 6.75 million, Cheong chose to four-bet to 14.25 million. After a moment, Duhamel pushed back by five-betting to 22.75 million, and after much deliberation, Cheong eventually six-bet all-in and was immediately called by Duhamel, holding Qd-Qc. A disappointed Cheong flipped over As-7h and would need help or else his chip stack would be decimated. After the flop (3d-9h-2c) provided no help for Cheong, the turn (6s) and river (8s) could not provide any miracles. Cheong was left with about 4 million in chips and was eliminated in third place six hands later. The happiest person on the stage was Racener, as he was able to sneak into heads-up play on Monday night after Cheong's blow-up.
1. Grinder utilizes Moneymaker's ghost to eliminate Jarvis (Hand 43):
Without question, the following hand was the most memorable of the night and it was eerily similar to a hand seven years ago during the 2003 WSOP main event. After the first break of the night, there were eight players remaining. Mizrachi and Matthew Jarvis were among the short stacks and they were about to engage the the most memorable hand of the 2010 WSOP final table. With blinds 300,000/600,000 and antes 75,000, Duhamel raised from midposition to 1.4 million and Mizrachi called from the hijack seat. Suddenly, Jarvis moved all-in for about 14 million. After Duhamel mucked, Mizrachi considered a call for about two-thirds of his stack. After a count, Mizrachi made the call, revealing Ad-Qd. When Jarvis flipped over 9h-9c, another critical race would determine the fate of these two players, but this hand became a seesaw battle for the ages. The flop (Qs-8d-Qc) made the Mizrachi family explode, giving Grinder a 91-9 advantage. However, the dealer turned the unthinkable 9s, flip-flopping the odds as Jarvis took a 84-16 lead, heading into the river. With the entire crowd holding their collective breath, the dealer flipped over the As, igniting a celebration of the entire Mizrachi clan, but obviously deflating the Jarvis crew.
Remarkably, the hand almost mirrored Moneymaker's 2003 hand that resulted in Ivey's elimination in 10th place. Ivey held 9s-9h verses Moneymaker's Ah-Qd with a board of Qh-6s-Qs-9c-As.
There should be more memorable hands when heads-up play begins. Don't forget to watch all the action on ESPN on Tuesday night starting at 10 p.m. ET.
Bernard Lee is the official spokesperson of Foxwoods Resort and Casino. Lee is the co-host of ESPN Inside Deal, weekly poker columnist for the Boston Herald and radio host of "The Bernard Lee Poker Show."