We've established our final table of six contenders a day earlier than planned, with six finalists guaranteed a taste of TV superstardom when the WPT cameras converge on the island of Providenciales on Sunday. Those six emerged the survivors of nearly five more levels of tournament play in the cafeteria at Club Med whilst their already eliminated cronies were enjoying a day of sailing and sunbathing outside, and for their reward they'll play for the $436,675 first prize in one day's time.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Day 3 of the WPT's first foray onto Turkoise soil began with 30 contestants still alive and jockeying for a taste of the $996,675 prize pool, payable to the contest's top nine finishers. Leading the charge into today's play was California's Rami Boukai, who with $235,700 found himself atop a chip leaderboard that also included the likes of Erik Cajelais, Alan Sass, Johan Storakers and Will "The Thrill" Failla.
It also included "Krazy Kanuck" Jim Worth, who dealt out the first elimination of the day after doubling through and then eliminating Quentin Jones with the Dead Man's Hand (aces and eights) in the climactic confrontation. Jones would be joined at the rail by nine of his colleagues before the end of the first level.
Among those eliminated early were Gavin Smith, who fell when his diamond-flush draw failed to get there against Antonio Salorio's pair of nines; Mary Lou Papachristou, who busted in 25th place as the highest-finishing female player when her A♠ J♠ ran into fellow Islander Rhynie Campbell's pocket jacks; Johan Storakers, who busted with pocket fours to Mark Seif's pocket fives; and friend of PokerListings.com Alan Cutler, who busted in painful fashion when Alan Sass rivered a set with jacks to the Chicago Kid's pocket kings.
Just after the beginning of the day's second level, Will Failla would bust after shoving from the button for $13,000 with K-Q off-suit and falling to Donovan Ryan's A♥ 4♦. Failla's elimination in 19th place would mark the consolidation of the field into its final two tables, with half of the survivors guaranteed at least a modest payday for their efforts.
Not destined to be among those profiting from their tropical adventure was Antonio Salorio, who busticated in a heartbreak hand that saw him all-in against Erik Cajelais on a 8♣ 4♣ 4♠ board with A♣ 9♣ for the nut flush draw to the French-Canadien's 9♠ 9♥. The turn brought the J♣ to give Salorio the flush, but the river card was the 4♥, filling Cajelais up and sending an enraged Salorio to the exits.
Mark Seif would follow Salorio soon after, albeit with a little less profanity. Seif went out in a flurry of check-calling against Robert Been, finally calling all-in on the river of a 7♠ 5♦ 4♦ 2♠ K♥ board and mucking when he saw Mr. Been's pocket aces.
Donovan Ryan, Claudio Fonesca and Andrew Ashcroft would hit the bricks before Jim Worth and Erik Cajelais got into some Canadian-on-Canadien action that saw all of Worth's money get in pre-flop on the strength of his pocket queens, with Cajelais tabling A♠ T♣ and looking primed to double up the Krazy Kanadian. The flop would bring an ace, however, and that's all she wrote for Worth, who headed out unlucky 13th with the grim consolation of knowing he had just augmented his countryman's chip lead.
Hieu Nguyen would bust in 12th place and the remaining 11 players would head to dinner knowing two of their number would need to go before the checks came out. Upon their return, it was Steve Sung out first, busting with K-Q against Robert Been's K-10 on a ten-high flop. Neither turn nor river could save the young American, who busted even closer to the money than anyone originally suspected.
Following Sung's elimination, The Players Club founder and father of poker on the Turks & Caicos Rhynie Campbell announced that his firm would add $7,500 to the prize pool to pay a 10th place, thus ensuring the surviving members of the field a proper payday. Almost immediately following that announcement, Robert Been took advantage, completing a stunning collapse from first to worst when he doubled-up Nam Le, calling Le's all-in with ace-high on the turn of a Q-6-6-9-Q board and then busting with A-Q to Cajelais' pocket kings soon after.
Been's elimination would be the last of the day's fourth level, but Level 5 would bring the pain in the form of the elimination of Isaac Baron, who went out in ninth place for $15,000 when his pocket sevens ran into Campbell's pocket aces. Baron would be followed to the rail by erstwhile chip leader Rami Boukai, who got in good with A♦ Q♣ to Alan Sass' A♣ 8♣ but saw an eight on the flop and no love on the turn or river. Boukai finished in eighth place for $20,000.
Seventh place would go to Turks & Caicos native Jumphol Srinark, who got the last of his $200,000 stack in pre-flop with pocket eights and wound up in a race situation with Erik Cajelais, who tabled A♠ K♠. The board ran out A-Q-2-3-K and Srinark was consigned to the rail with a $25,000 payday to console him.
Thus the final table of six players had been established, with talented but underappreciated Erik Cajelais leading the charge with a massive $1,086,000 chip stack. The talented but underappreciated Alan Sass is second with a relatively minuscule $466,000, while the talented but underappreciated Nam Le and True Player Rhynie Campbell join Chris Smith and Trevor Hebert in rounding out the field.
For the moment, it's Cajelais' tournament to win or lose, but when the action resumes at 10 a.m. (EDT) on Sunday from the beautiful West Indies the French-Canadien sensation will be facing down a table of sharks all eager to take his chips. As usual, PokerListings.com will be watching from the sidelines and bringing you our trademark all-inclusive tournament coverage. We will also bring you pictures of Layla Kayleigh in a bikini, if that's what you're after. Either way, tune in and we'll blow your mind.