Eighty-six players survived Thursday's 10 levels of Day 1 action, and with their number scheduled to be pared down to the final nine on Friday, many forecast an overlong day of poker.
But this is a tournament made up primarily of online qualifiers, after all, and with shorter stacks and hour-long levels to bolster the natural aggression of the online LAGs, it didn't take much more than 11 hours before the field was reduced to its single climactic table.
With $129,400 in chips, Germany's Andre Wagner entered the day as the chip leader, followed by Venezuelan Andres Ojeda with $115,175 and Peter Busch with $110,675. As far as notable names, well, there weren't a lot of them, with Team PokerStars pro Andre Akkari leading the charge.
Also in contention on Day 2 were Aussie online pro and man of the world Rayan Nathan, EPT3 Grand Final fifth-place finisher Josh Prager, online pro Matt "Ch0ppy" Kay, Gabriel Alarie and the husband-and-wife team of WSOP bracelet winners Max and Maria Stern.
With the payout starting at 32 places, fully 54 of the day's players would leave the Cariari Country Club empty-handed, and with so much distance remaining before the money there was plenty of fast play as competitors jockeyed for position in the early going.
Matt Kay and Gabriel Alarie found themselves among the earliest to be eliminated, with A-J featuring prominently in both Canadians' eliminations.
Kay got all-in with the above and was in great shape against A-T, only to see his opponent flop a ten and withstand the turn and the river to earn the check mark. Meanwhile, Alarie got all-in with nines in a race against A-J and saw the door card bring a jack to end his day prematurely.
The sole remaining PokerStars pro would find himself eliminated midway through the afternoon, as Andre Akkari busted about 10 spots from the money. The Brazilian got all-in with A-T on an ace-high board but found his sole opponent had flopped a set of deuces. No help came on turn or river and Akkari was outti.
By the middle of the day's fifth level the field had been reduced to 34 and tournament director Mike Ward commenced hand-for-hand play, much to Hungarian Kwaysser Akos' delight. Akos used the bubble period as his own personal chip-gobbling session, abusing his tablemates by raising every hand and putting big stacks like Andre Wagner all-in when they dared to contest his might.
Meanwhile, it was Rayan Nathan and Xavier Dutrieu who claimed the unlucky mantle of Bubble Boys, with Nathan out in 34th place after his pocket eights fell to an opponent's Q-9 when Player 2 hit runner-runner to make a flush, and Dutrieu out in 33rd place when his K-Q fell to Steven Silverman's J-6 after Silverman rivered two pair.
Midway through the day it looked like Josh Prager's tournament to win, as the Californian snatched victory from the proverbial jaws of defeat repeatedly both pre- and post-bubble. Prager cracked aces with kings to double through Alexander Soderlund and then eliminated Matt Demasis with nines against jacks, in both instances flopping a set to earn the check mark.
Prager, however, would eventually go broke in 17th place, hitting the road after losing a race with pocket eights to Steven Silverman's A-Q.
It would be only one of many bustifications in which Silverman would have a hand, as the American online qualifier went on a mad heater in the late stages of Day 2. He took over the chip lead after busting David Robinson in 14th place in the wake of a brutal hand that saw Robinson turn a set with jacks against Silverman's queens, only to see the river fill Silverman's straight draw for the win.
The Maryland native would go on to eliminate Don Stockwell, Victor Lemos and Michael Hull in 13th, 12th and 10th place respectively, almost single-handedly bursting the final-table bubble with some solid big-stack play and a good run of cards.
Helping Silverman along the way was fellow American online qualifier Ashton Griffin, a Floridian who played the role of Silverman on the second table. Griffin accumulated most of his chips after winning a monsterpotten against Johannes Romate and Marijo Cupic when both players were kind enough to shove into him when he was holding aces.
Griffin comes into the final table second in chips, behind only Silverman as we pause at the two-thirds mark of this tournament. Also earning a date with tomorrow is Kwaysser Akos, who rides his masterful bubble play into a third overall standing, as well as Americans Max Steinberg, Joe Ebanks and Alec Torelli.
By far the most popular player at the final table is Steven Thompson, who despite his name is a bona fide Costa Rican and who has drawn a massive (and loud) crowd around his tables. Every time dude won a pot on Friday the gallery would erupt in cheers and Humberto Brenes would amble over to give him a pat on the back. Look for such things to continue on Saturday.
Also continuing on Saturday is PokerListings.com's groundbreaking coverage of this groundbreaking event. Action begins at noon local time (2 p.m. Eastern/11 a.m. Pacific) and will continue until there's only one player standing, posing, and clutching a giant novelty check for $274,103. Tune in tomorrow as we push it to the limit!
Check out the Live Tournaments section for all of your Live Tournament needs. Here are today's results and here are the ways you, too, can freeroll into the WSOP Main Event. (Preview our WSOP coverage here)
In other news, here are the seating positions and chip counts for Saturday's final table:
|Seat 1||Alec Torelli||$404,000|
|Seat 2||Pawel Sanojca||$134,000|
|Seat 3||Steven Thompson||$195,000|
|Seat 4||Steven Silverman||$831,000|
|Seat 5||Kwaysser Akos||$594,000|
|Seat 6||Ashton Griffin||$761,000|
|Seat 7||Max Steinberg||$284,000|
|Seat 8||Joe Ebanks||$321,000|
|Seat 9||Alexander Sonderlund||$325,000|