Thirty-six players answered the wake-up call to hit the felt at noon (PDT), led by two of poker's brightest young stars in chip-leader Jeff Madsen and runner-up Joe Sebok. Another youngster, Kyle Wilson, found himself third on the ledger, with he and Nenad Medic bracketing a man who would ironically find himself more talked-about than all four pros put together by the end of the day.
Amir Shayesteh began the day with $490,000 and almost immediately set to work increasing that total. After nine eliminations started the day, including bustifications to Clint Baskin, Lee Markholt, and an utterly despondent Joe Pelton (who saw his kings cracked by Joe Sebok's Q-Jo and resulting two-pair), Shayesteh got into the fray with a quick eradication of his own, sending Mark Micklich to the rail with pocket eights against ace-queen.
Sebok, clearly affronted by the other man's show of strength, then retorted by eliminating Erik Seidel, who got his money in dominated with king-ten to Sebok's ace-ten. But Shayesteh was not to be denied, taking down Chiwai Ng shortly thereafter in dramatic fashion, rivering a straight flush and at the very least giving Ng a good story to tell.
Next up for Shayesteh was Kevin O'Boyle, who found himself on the outside looking in after his ducks fell to the Killer's ace-king. O'Boyle busted in 22nd, but Sebok snagged the 20th place finisher with some Big Slick of his own, taking down David Ha's pocket tens to pull back into a tie in the frag count.
By mid-afternoon, some of the members of the chip-leaderboard were starting to weaken, and Shayesteh was quick to capitalize, amalgamating Kyle Wilson's short-stack into his own after Wilson pushed with a spade-flush draw and fell to Shayesteh's pocket fours. For the encore, the Killer netted Hans "Tuna" Lund with ace-king against the Albacore's ace-queen to send Lund home in 15th place for his own $55,000 payday.
Meanwhile, David Williams was clearly not feeling this poker thing anymore today, as he grew visibly and increasingly agitated at the table, finally calling Joanne Liu's all-in for the remainder of his stack and storming off in 12th place when his pocket fives fell to his fellow bounty's pocket eights. Williams was so upset at the bad beat that he could not be convinced to sign the commemorative t-shirt, although with her $5,000 bounty J.J. Liu could at least afford a respectable forgery.
Shayesteh got back on track after a bit of a prolonged pause, eliminating Ed Pellegrini from the tournament area in 11th place. Pellegrini is the man who folded pocket aces twice to small raises pre-flop on the money bubble last night, but the Tightest Player in the World refreshingly showed some signs of loosening up a little bit, relaxing his starting hand standards just enough to play A♥ K♥ and run into Shayesteh's pocket kings.
Pellegrini was later seen wandering the halls of the casino muttering about his bad luck, although the spectacle of a man being dealt pocket aces thrice on the bubble and then grumbling about bad luck seemed somewhat obvious.
After Danny Smith's elimination, the tournament was halted for a one-hour dinner break, with Shayesteh holding court over the top of the final nine players, and Madsen and Sebok following in second and third respectively. When play recommenced, however, that leaderboard would pretty well be turned upside down - well, except for Shayesteh; nobody touched him.
Play resumed with the final nine returning to play four- and five-handed instead of at the usual single final table. This meant a lot more open play and, in the case of Jeff Madsen, a lot of bad luck. Almost immediately upon his return, the 21-year-old set about creating his own after-dinner rush, hemorrhaging almost $1 million in chips in about an hour before Shayesteh got a hold of him.
Madsen's death rattle was somewhat indicative of his fall - plagued by misfortune, he got the last of his $400,000 into the pot with ace-ten of diamonds against Shayesteh's A♣ 6♣, only to see his opponent turn the club flush and send him packing despite being dominated pre-flop. For his eighth place finish, Madsen took away $100,000.
A few hands later, Shayesteh had completed his eradication of his main competitors, setting his sights on Joe Sebok and blasting the young pro with K-Q on a K-Q-3 board when Barry's son put his chips in the middle on a K-9 hunch. Sebok concluded the day with his seventh place finish, and sources tell us that he and Madsen pooled their combined $230,000 in an attempt to find someone willing to "eliminate" Shayesteh at the final table.
Speaking of final tables, we're setting up for a good one, despite the absences of Messrs Sebok and Madsen. Amir Shayesteh will be the man to beat, but he's got seasoned pros asleep and dreaming right now of how many ways they're going to carve him up. Shayesteh's pursuers include Ted Forrest, James Van Alstyne, Bill Edler, and J.J. Liu, with a man named Vincent Shaw rounding out the field and, if the rest of this season is any indication, likely to beat them all.
Action begins on Mike Sexton's stage at 5 p.m. (PDT), and PokerListings.com will be on hand all day, stealing from the players-only buffet, making snide remarks about Linda Johnson's monologue, and, oh yeah, hooking you up with some of the livest of updates you'll find anywhere on the Web. Come get some.