As we sit here on the stage absorbing what we've just seen, it's hard to find words to close this day out properly. But we'll try.
It was just after high noon when our November Nine filed onto the stage and into their seats under the bright lights of the made-for-TV set. They were soon engulfed by a crowd of close to 2,000 spectators all decked out in matching shirts, patched up like your grandfather's trousers, and screaming multi-lingual cheers in unison at full throat. Bruce Buffer soon took the stage to utter the most famous words in poker, and suddenly a poker game broke out amidst all the madness and pomp.
It took 28 hands to find our first casualty of the day, and it was the amateur to fall first. Soi Nguyen was content to flip his against Jason Senti's , but a third queen on the flop was all she wrote for Nguyen.
The second victim was also sent packing on a coin flip, albeit an exciting coin flip. Michael Mizrachi's loved the flop, but Matthew Jarvis' liked the turn a little bit better. It looked like he'd just saved his tournament life, but the river gave the pot back to The Grinder and sent Jarvis off in eighth place.
Seven-handed play dragged on for an eternity, and Michael Mizrachi took advantage of the table to build himself a fairly sizable chip lead with more than 60 million. There were still seven when they broke for dinner just before 7pm. When they returned, yet another exciting (and similar) coin flip broke out. Jason Senti's out-flopped Joseph Cheong's in a big way as the dealer rolled out . The turn was a little sweat for Senti, and the river was a total disaster. Cheong's straight pushed his opponent straight out the door, and Senti collected seventh-place money on his way to the bar.
John Dolan fell next in sixth place, his unable to win a race (imagine that, a race) against Jonathan Duhamel's despite turning 16 outs to survive.
The demise of Michael Mizrachi began when his doubled up John Racener's to knock him out of the chip lead. A few minutes later, he doubled up Jonathan Duhamel on a big coin flip, and it all came crashing down a few minutes later. Jonathan Duhamel played his slow, and he lured Mizrachi into a shove when his flopped top pair on the . The chips went in, and there was no further help for Mizrachi, ending his near-legendary run in fifth place. That officially gives Frank Kassela the title of 2010 WSOP Player of the Year, incidentally.
Three hands later, the volatile Italian (who was surprisingly un-volatile today) fell in fourth place. Filippo Candio got his chips in with , but he could not get there against Joseph Cheong's . Cheong flopped an ace and made a wheel by the time it was all said and done, and Candio took just over $3 million for his efforts.
When they began three-handed play, Cheong and Duhamel were running away with the show. They were each approaching 100 million while John Racener sat patiently by with his 20-ish million. Cheong, however, was in no mood to sit patiently. He went to work quickly and was the first player to crest that magical 100-million-chip mark. He and Duhamel proceeded to wage all-out war hand after dramatic hand while Racener folded his buttons, sat on his hands, and waited for the fireworks.
And the fireworks, they came. In Hand #213, 25 hands into the three-way, a battle of the big-stacked blinds broke out. It started with Cheong opening the pot, and the betting action ended with him six-bet shoving all in with . Duhamel probably didn't like the idea of playing a 180-million-chip pot, but he didn't waste any time calling with , putting himself at risk in the process. There was no ace for Cheong, and he was crushed from 95 million all the way down to just ten. It was, as far as we can tell, the largest pot in the history of the WSOP!
Cheong doubled up once in the meanwhile, but six hands after the blowup, he was gone in third place. That's good for more than $4 million, but it doesn't come with a ticket to Monday's finale.
There are only two of those, and they belong to Jonathan Duhamel and John Racener. For handicapping purposes, it's Duhamel with the big chip lead, but don't sleep on the short stack. Racener has been playing some fine poker of late, and his short-stack abilities were certainly on display here today.
There are 13 minutes, 52 seconds left in the current level, and the button was awarded to the big stack; Jonathan Duhamel will begin with position on Monday. We're scheduled for an 8pm start here in Las Vegas.
It's Duhamel. It's Racener. It's $8.9 million and the 2010 WSOP Main Event gold bracelet. Who ya got? Find out how the final chapter plays out right back here on Monday night.
Until then, all that's left is goodnight!