Victor Ramdin started the day dueling for the chip lead, with Pham entering the day holding $585,000 and Ramdin boasting a $504,000 stack. In third place was Hoyt Corkins, who brought $380,000 to his table. At the end of the day only Pham would remain, and even he would see a large portion of his stack shipped across the table to his rivals.
By the end a wild first level of play only 31 players remained, leaving three more needing to be defeated before the money bubble was burst. After Ed Ford was eliminated in 29th place about halfway through the second level, Daniel Negreanu and Paul Clark set forth a string of events that would eventually result in the 28th elimination.
Negreanu, quite short-stacked but pushing hard for his record fourth consecutive cash at a WPT event, got all of his chips in the middle preflop with Clark and Kyle Hamlin. Negreanu flopped a set of eights to triple up and keep the dream alive, while Clark eliminated Hamlin when he rivered a pair of tens to bust his rival's Big Slick.
On the next hand, Negreanu and Clark tangled again when the two pros saw a flop with Mark Seif. The board came K♥ 5♥ 2♦ and the Eater of Raw Flesh immediately pushed all-in, scaring Seif out of the pot but inducing a call from Negreanu. Kid Poker had T♥ T♠ but would need to improve as Eskimo turned over K♠ 9♠.
Miraculously, the board finished out with runner-runner hearts to give Negreanu the flush and cripple his opponent. Clark's day ended only a few hands later when he moved all-in on the flop with the nut-flush draw and saw Matt Russell turn a full house to send him packing.
The decision was made to play down to a final eighteen, and it was shortly after play resumed that things started to go sour for some of the early chip leaders. Victor Ramdin lost a huge pot to Young Cho after Cho turned a diamond flush to take out Ramdin's two pair.
The hand would have a dramatic effect on the tournament leaderboard, knocking Ramdin down a tax-bracket to $90,000 and bringing Young Cheezy from ashy to classy, building his stack to more than $500,000. After struggling valiantly with his short stack, Ramdin eventually would succumb to Brian Gabrielle and bust in 24th place, taking home $16,961 for his efforts.
Young Cho would continue to build his lead, siphoning chips from Kido Pham's pile and then taking his stack to Hoyt Corkins' table. Once settled on the taciturn Alabaman's patch of real estate, Cho would accomplish what Phil Hellmuth could not, sending Corkins to the rail with the Cloven-Hoofed Set (6-6-6) to take down Corkins' two pair.
At the same table, "Catfish" James Bullard was making everyone aware that "there ain't no cure for a catfish bite," and it wasn't long before Absolute Poker pro Mark Seif felt the sting. Seif ran into a monster in Bullard's pocket aces, and holding pocket nines himself, could not recover. He and Corkins both left with $16,961 in prize money, while the men who had sent them to the rail built up their stacks and headed for an epic confrontation.
That dust-up would come with nineteen players remaining and time ticking down on the third level of the day, when Bullard and Cho found themselves staring at a board reading 5♦ 9♥ 8♦ J♥. Bullard bet out $50,000 and Cho, by now sitting on over $1 million in chips, raised all-in.
Bullard mulled it over but eventually decided to pin his tournament hopes on third pair, calling with 8♣ 7♣ but finding himself in a better position than he'd probably hoped when Cho showed 6♦ 3♦. The board bricked out for Cho and he was left with an invoice worth $428,000, payable to one "Catfish" James Bullard.
The hand gave Bullard the chip lead, and at the end of the day he has managed to retain it. Young Cho rebuilt some of his stack when he flopped a set of queens to bust Gavin Smith, who had pushed with pocket cowboys and was looking to double up. But fortune was once again with the dapper Oklahoman, and after assimilating Smith's stack into his own Cho managed to retain second place on the chip leaderboard.
The official numbers are as follows: Bullard is living sucker-free with $966,000 and a clear lead over the rest of the field, while Young Cho and his $674,000 are still not to be slept on. J.C. Tran is third with $561,000.
Other notable names include Daniel Negreanu with $446,000, Amir Vahedi with $236,000, and Kido Pham near the bottom of the board with $166,000. The sole remaining female contestant, Jolyne Thompson, managed to nurse a short-stack into the money and is still clinging to life at the tail end of the chart with $72,000 to her name.
Action resumes tomorrow at noon central time from the poker room at the Gold Strike, and as usual PokerListings.com will have wire-to-wire coverage including exciting live updates and thrilling photography. The plan is to play from 18 down to the final six, so you definitely won't want to miss the fast-paced poker action as the remaining hopefuls jockey for the lion's share of the $2.8 million prize pool. See you tomorrow.