The fourth day of play at this World Poker Tour staple brought 58 players back to the upstairs ballroom at the Commerce, with each returning contestant guaranteed at least a $22,020 payout after the bursting of the bubble during Day 3's play on Monday.
Leading the field into the stretch drive was Kyle Burnside, whose $781,000 put him well ahead of runners-up Phil Ivey ($656,000) and Jennifer Tilly ($656,000). As it turned out, however, not even a $125,000 head start could ensure Burnside would last through even the first level of play on Tuesday.
Right from the beginning it was a madhouse at the tables, with a series of quick eliminations as the post-bubble rush (abbreviated the night before after substantial hand-for-hand play meant players experienced only 17 minutes of in-the-money action) played out in full.
Among the eliminatees was casino tycoon and would-be mayor of Las Vegas Bob Stupak, who ducked out of the tournament area ostensibly to retrieve his ID and upon his return found himself embroiled in something of a controversy.
Stupak busted in 56th place when he pushed on a raggedy flop with bottom pair and was looked up by Brian Taylor with an open-ended straight draw and two overcards. Taylor rivered a better pair and Stupak was eliminated, but nobody on the tournament staff appeared to witness the elimination or see the Stratospheric One leave the tournament area.
A few minutes later, Stupak returned to the ballroom to claim his prize money. Such had been the pace of eliminations, however, that only 46 players remained by the time he returned. That being the case, the man was paid out 47th-place money - worth $4,150 more than 56th.
Whether due to attempted angle-shoot or simply confusion, Stupak neglected to tell the tournament officials of their error and was set to walk away with a little extra in his payout slip before the media caught wind and, after much negotiation, set the record straight, with officials left scrambling to find 54th-place finisher James Lee and award him the benefit of the payout jump.
As the Stupefying negotiations were playing out, the field was thinning itself considerably, such that by the end of the first level of play a total of 18 players had been eliminated. Among them was Svetlana Gromenkova, official spokeswoman of frowning, who fell when she lost a race with A♦ 8♣ to an opponent's pocket sevens. Gromenkova would receive $26,170 for her 50th-place finish.
Also eliminated before the first break was erstwhile chip leader Kyle Burnside, who lost a massive pot to Michael Watson when both players got all the money in pre-flop in a classic race scenario. Burnside held pocket queens while Watson tabled big slick, and after the flop brought a king and the turn and river bricked, Burnside was out in 41st place for an undoubtedly disappointing $31,280 payday.
Any idea that play would slow after the first madcap 90 minutes was quickly proved wrong with the quick elimination of Shawn Buchanan in 39th place and then the double elimination of Alan Goehring and Noah Schwartz in 36.5th place. Goehring, the 2006 LAPC champ, found himself crippled and all-in for his last $2,000 from the small blind before the cards were even dealt. Schwartz limped in to the pot and called a raise from Weikai Chang to see a flop come J♣ 8♣ 6♠.
Chang bet out $40,000 and Schwartz flat-called. The turn was the J♥ and Chang fired out $125,000, prompting Schwartz to come over the top all-in, pinning his tournament life to the strength of his 9♦ 8♦. Chang, with A♠ J♠, was happy to call, and after the river was a brick both Schwartz and Goehring were busto, chopping the difference between 36th- and 37th-place money and each taking home $33,835.
Toto Leonidas and Andrew "good2cu" Robl would also find themselves among the 12 players consigned to the rail in the day's second level. Robl took something of a gruesome beat, learning firsthand the dangers of slow-playing after flopping trip kings and letting opponent Theo Tran catch up enough to hit the ace-high flush. Thus was the ShipitHolla Balla busted in 30th place for a $36,390 score.
The third level of the day would see the action slow somewhat, with 23 left standing by the end of the Day 4's 270th minute of play and 22 left standing as the field broke for dinner about 15 minutes later. Among those eliminated in the third level was 2007 champ Eric Hershler, who followed up his $2.4 million win last year with a respectable 26th-place finish in this year's event, to the tune of $42,250.
The return from dinner break left only three eliminations remaining before play was concluded for the day and it wouldn't take more than an hour or so for those bustifications to occur, with Mike Hampersomian, Lance Allred and Paul Smith hitting the bricks in rapid succession to reduce the field to the final 18.
Those 18, headed up by chip leaders Phil Ivey and Blair Hinkle and hotly pursued by Phil Hellmuth, Jennifer Tilly, Nam Le, David Singer and Theo Tran, among others, will return to the Commerce at 12:30 p.m. (PST) to play down to the final six. As usual, PokerListings.com will be on-scene to bring you the most scintillating coverage of this epic event, so tune in throughout your day and together we'll make it rain on them pros. That's a promise.