After a half-hour's delay in getting started, the chips started flying with abandon, as Scott Neuman and Bill Gazes would lead out the abbreviated level with their premature exits and Ryan Young jumping into the chip lead, relieving Madsen of the majority of his chips and sending Joseph Brooks to the exit.
In a huge hand that would set the tone for the day, however, Young would lose a large portion of those chips in a massive hand with Adam Gerber, who got all-in for $368,000 with A♦ A♠ against Young's Q♦ Q♠. The board would bring no surprises and just like that, the likable Gerber was chip leader and by no small margin.
Gary Schoengold and Xiaochu Shangguan would hit the showers in Level 14, and after Joseph Primavera, 2005 USPC champ James "The Capo" Caporuscio and Herbie Montalbano bustified early in Level 15 the field was down to 19 and the bubble play ensued.
After about 10 rounds of hand-for-hand characterized by cautious play and a number of very fortunate short stacks, Gavin Smith limped-in from under the gun and saw Joanne Dorin move all-in over the top for her last $40,000.
Action folded around and Smith, who had been playing aggressively throughout the bubble period, was more or less forced to call, exposing himself for a semi-fraud with 9♥ 6♥ to Dorin's A♣ 7♦. The flop was cruel for poor Ms. Dorin, coming 8♦ 6♦ 3♠, and even after picking up a flush draw on the turn the die was cast and the bubble was broken.
The rest of the field was guaranteed at least $20,680 for their efforts, and with spots 10-18 paying identical money the bursting of the bubble had an accelerating effect on the poker being played. Of course, it likely helped that the post-bubble rush was augmented by the after-dinner rush, but either way, the eliminations started flying and didn't stop until 11 players remained.
Allen Kessler was first to go, check-calling his way to oblivion with pocket jacks on an ace-high board. He was quickly followed by Han Oh, who fell with A♥ 4♥ to Matt Glantz's A♦ 6♥. Sixteenth place went to the aforementioned Madsen, who did not have a very good day and wound up losing a race to JohnnyBax for all his marbles when his tens fell to Bax's big slick.
Meanwhile, Adam Gerber was making the most of his big-stack status, despite drawing a seating assignment that saw him placed directly to the right of both Gavin Smith and Victor Ramdin. Gerber played an impressive game throughout the later levels, raising and re-raising with extreme prejudice and letting his table know he could easily put any one of them to a decision for their tournament life. Both Ramdin and Smith were utterly stymied by Gerber's play, as was young Jared Okun, who found his every raise re-popped by a man who clearly had no intention of laying down for the shorter stacks.
Gregg Fishberg made the 15th-place elimination when he tried to pull a move on Tommy Wang with T♦ 8♦. Wang turned up cowboys and that was it for Fishberg. Emad Alabi was out next, running into cowboys as well, this time Jared Okun's and this time with A♠ 6♠. No love on the flop, turn or river, and Emad was history.
Cliff Josephy would fall in 13th place, the victim himself of a failed maneuver that saw him all-in for his last $330,000 with T♠ 9♠ to Louis Lee's pocket aces. The board came 6♠ 5♦ 4♦ 4♠ 7♦ and JohnnyBax was history. Ryan Young would exit in 12th place shortly after as Jared Okun woke up with aces and obliterated Young Ryan's pocket tens. And then the well went dry.
With 11 players remaining and a money jump a couple of spots away, play slowed to a crawl for the better part of a level before Dennis "Mike" Summers got all-in good with A♠ Q♣ to Louis Lee's A♥ 3♥. Lee had been running well (and playing well) all day, however, and saw a trey hit the flop to mean curtains for Summers.
That left 10 players remaining and a re-draw for seats at the final table. With each round costing $44,000 to play and Lee Jon Walker holding only $64,000, the final elimination of the night was not a question of who, but when, and Walker prolonged the agony for as long as possible, folding his chips away until finally, in a monstrous final hand, the inevitable occurred.
Jared Okun raised to $45,000 in middle position and saw Walker move all-in over the top for about $20,000 more (he'd doubled a few hands previous). Gavin Smith and Adam Gerber joined Okun in calling and the flop came J♦ 6♥ 4♥. Smith immediately shoved for his last $250,000 and Gerber, holding the A♥ J♥, was quick to call. Okun folded and Smith showed pocket tens to Walker's K♠ Q♣. The turn brought the 6♥ and the river the 8♥ and that meant goodbye to not only Walker but Birdguts as well, who finished in ninth place for $27,045.
Thus we have our final table, with Gerber leading the charge with $1.94 million in chips. He's joined above the chip average by only Louis Lee, with $1.35 million, while of the remaining six players only three can muster more than half the average stack (full chip counts here). Gerber will try to stave off Lee's advances and avoid the efforts of short stacks Victor Ramdin and the inimitable Svetlana Gromenkova at the final table tomorrow.
Action begins at 1:15 p.m. (EDT) and PokerListings.com will be on scene for all of the action. Tune in all day to watch the chips fall and the cards fly and the crazy alliterative photo captions reach new and incredible heights. We'll set you a place at the table; pray, don't be late.
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