Day 3 of the World Series of Poker main event was unexpectedly halted Thursday with 746 players remaining and 53 minutes remaining in Level 15. With the money bubble approaching rapidly, the tournament staff needed to have all hands on deck to handle payouts and the hectic nature of the moment. As the clock approached midnight, it wasn't feasible to organize and the decision was made to stop the action. The bubble also will serve as the start of ESPN's WSOP main event coverage this year, which begins Sept. 28.
On a day when many of the biggest stars and former champions faltered, Andrew Liporace seized the Day 3 chip lead. Liporace bagged 1.1 million in chips, just one big blind over the second-place stack of Danny Yousefzadeh.
"I feel crazy lucky," Liporace said to ESPN.com over Twitter. The New Orleans native has had big chips in the main event before, owning a top-five stack on Day 2 in 2010. In that effort he failed to cash, but was victorious in a $5,000 event at the Seminole Hard Rock Showdown in 2012. Yousefzadeh was the first player over 1 million in chips and managed to get there with Phil Ivey to his right. Being chip leader isn't anything new to the man with over $700,000 in tournament cashes and a WSOP Circuit main event title to his name.
"I feel wonderful. I was running good all day and was playing well today," Yousefzadeh said. "It's a good start. I got my trophies, I'm in it for the money. The deeper I go, the better I'm going to feel about it. All I'm going to care about is my daughter. That fame stuff is not for me. I have a 7-year-old daughter, Ariella, who means everything to me."
Ivey didn't fare well against Yousefzadeh, but still managed to bag 552,500 for the night thanks to a strong finish. He'll begin Day 4 with two other half-million stacks, held by 2012's 38th-place finisher Kyle Keranen and Jing Wang.
A total of 1,125 players were sent home short of the money Thursday and some of them were the most prolific stars of the game. Daniel Negrenau didn't make it out of the first level of the day and defending champion Ryan Riess couldn't reach the dinner break. Johnny Chan, Robert Varkonyi and Chris Moneymaker's eliminations left Huck Seed as the only former champion still alive in the event. Antonio Esfandiari, Erik Seidel, Marvin Rettenmaier, Barry Greenstein, Gavin Smith, Dan Kelly and Layne Flack were just a few of the pros to fall and the celebrities didn't do any better.
One of the most dramatic eliminations came at the end of the night. For obvious reasons, Paul Pierce wasn't just another player in the main event, but the focus of much attention since he sat down at the felt a few days ago. The NBA star put up a real fight despite a number of tough table draws, and ultimately fell during the final level of play Thursday. On his last hand, Pierce called a three-bet from Christopher Smith in the cutoff. After a flop of As-Jh-3d, Pierce checked and Smith bet 15,000. Pierce called, leading to a turn 6s where he checked-called a bet of 35,000. A river 4s enticed an all-in from Pierce and sent Smith into the tank. After some time, Smith ultimately called and showed A-J for a better two pair than Pierce's A-4.
Pierce was eliminated in approximately 800th place out of the 6,683 players.
"It's a great atmosphere that has a lot of cool people," Pierce said. "This is the world of poker right here in the Rio. This is the whole world coming to one spot for the last two months and you get a chance to enjoy it. I get a chance to be amongst the best."
A WSOP min-cash is $18,406. Using @paulpierce34's 2013 salary, Pierce would've made that in 2.5 mins on the court.
— Andrew Feldman (@AFeldmanESPN) July 11, 2014
After Riess' exit, only one member of the 2014 WSOP main event final table remained: Mark Newhouse. The 2013 ninth-place finisher finished the day with 423,500, an amount he believed he didn't come close to having at this point a year ago.
"I feel just having been this far, I definitely have more experience than the rest of them," Newhouse said. "It should put me ahead of them."
Some other Day 3 survivors include Faraz Jaka, Allen Cunningham, Michael Binger, Ali Eslami, Kenny Tran, Martin Jacobson, Maria Ho, Brett Richey, Matt Waxman and three-time WSOP champion Jeff Madsen.
"My game has just come a long way. I've been playing well," Madsen said. "It goes without saying that nothing compares to the [main event bracelet]. It would be the sickest thing ever to be the world champion. It's becoming more of a thought, but there's a lot of work for it. That would be amazing."
Here are the top 10 chip counts from Day 3:
1. Andrew Liporace (1.12 million)
2. Danny Yousefzadeh (1.12 million)
3. Raul Mestre (988,500)
4. Jesse Wilke (975,500)
5. Scott Blackman (935,000)
6. Andoni Larrabesanchez (923,000)
7. Stephen Graner (911,000)
8. Rasmus Larsen (883,000)
9. David Tuthill (850,500)
10. Roman Valerstein (850,500)
Play resumes at noon PT with the blinds at 2,000/4,000 with a 500 ante. The final 693 players will earn at least $18,406 and the one who survives the rest will pocket $10 million.