LAS VEGAS -- For nine poker players, the dream is just beginning after outlasting 6,411 others in days of near marathon-length games to advance to the final table of the World Series of Poker's no-limit Texas Hold 'em main event in November.
Alex Turyansky of Germany was the last player eliminated shortly before 4:30 a.m. ET Wednesday when he put the last of his chips on the line with an A-K but faced a pair of queens held by chip-leader Joe McKeehen.
That left the final nine players guaranteed at least $1 million each in winnings and a bid to return to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on Nov. 8 for a chance at $7.7 million.
McKeehen, from Pennsylvania, is the dominant chip leader with 64.1 million. Zvi Stern, 36, of Israel, is second with 29.8 million chips. Behind him, 61-year-old Neil Blumenfield of San Francisco, 72-year-old Pierre Neuville of Belgium, Max Steinberg of California, Thomas Cannuli and Joshua Beckley of New Jersey, Patrick Chan of New York and Federico Butteroni of Italy will all surround the table one last time.
The favorite among fans watching in person and at home to win the World Series of Poker's ultimate championship fell short.
Poker pro Daniel Negreanu, a six-time bracelet winner nicknamed "Kid Poker," who has gotten close but never close enough to making the final table, ended his run in 11th place, the same place he landed in 2001 when he tried against a field of 613 entries.
Negreanu gambled the last of his chips with an A-4 and appeared to be in the clear when McKeehen called showing a J-3. But McKeehen slowly but surely amassed a straight as the cards on the table were flipped. It was the last one, a queen, that did Negreanu in, sending him tumbling to the floor with his hands covering his face.
Phil Hellmuth, who won a record 14th career World Series of Poker bracelet on June 9, was among the poker pros congratulating and consoling Negreanu on Twitter.
Great run @RealKidPoker and I feel your pain. I too have found myself on the ground, in pain, but we pick ourselves up and stand tall!— phil_hellmuth (@phil_hellmuth) July 15, 2015
Marathon sessions of bluffing, betting and reading opponents for any hints at their cards started with 6,420 players each paying $10,000 to enter. After seven sessions spread over 10 days, the field shrank to a single table at 3 a.m. ET.
The winner will claim $7.7 million and the event's coveted gold bracelet, joining poker legends such as Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth and Johnny Chan as series champions.
The World Series of Poker has been crowning a champion since 1970, when it was by invite-only at Binion's Horseshoe and the players voted on the ultimate winner. Since then, only four players have won the main event more than once.
The series started May 27 and includes 68 events culminating with the main event.
The main event had fewer entries than last year. A guaranteed $10 million top prize was swapped for payouts to the top 1,000 finishers instead, after players pushed organizers to make the change.
The series attracted more than 100,000 entries for the first time, awarding $210.3 million in prize money, boosted largely by this year's Colossus event that cost $565 to enter and attracted 22,374 entries.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.