Maybe they just got tired of the grind. But no matter how you slice it, from kickoff at noon until the final table of nine was set in the early evening, the action came fast and was unrelenting.
With many of the brand-name pros who had made the trip to Tahoe busting out on the first day, the roster of 39 players who began play today was filled with names even PokerListings.com had never heard of. But all that would change rather quickly as these guys played with the passion, poise and professionalism usually displayed by the big names they knocked out the day before.
One marquee name that did make the cut was Michael Banducci, who cashed at numerous events in the 2007 WSOP, had built himself a decent chip lead. Banducci open-raised in the hand to $9k from the cut-off and Ferguson re-raised $14,000 more from the big blind. Having played aggressively so far every time he'd woken up with a hand, Banducci stuck to that modus operandi in this instance, re-raising to bump it up another $41,500. Jesus must have thought he was weak because he pushed all-in for his remaining $130k.
Banducci mumbled something about a cooler, but made the call regardless, finding out seconds later his queens were in a tight race with Ferguson's big slick. The A♥ 6♣ 2♦ flop had to be Banducci's worst nightmare, giving Ferguson the lead. It turned out it would be all he'd need as the turn and river would not produce a queen.
Jesus stacked the chips and took the chip lead, which he would hold on to going into Sunday's final table.
When play begins at 2 p.m. (PST) tomorrow he'll be sitting on $426,500. That's 30% of the chips in play, giving Ferguson a solid shot to become the only player in history to win three WSOPC main events, having won previously at Harrah's Rincon in San Diego and Harrah's Las Vegas.
Banducci seemed shaken by the hand at first, but steadied himself as play went on and will bring a respectable $158,800 to the final table Sunday.
One player who surprisingly will not be joining them is Aaron Kanter. Kanter, best known for his fourth-place finish at the 2005 WSOP Main Event, held the chip lead for a good portion of the day and still had better than $130k in the final 18. But he managed to pick the absolute worst time to push all-in with pocket aces, running them right into Mark Bonsack's flopped set of jacks just after the dinner break. Kanter was crippled after the hand, but doubled-up a few hands later, rivering trips with A-Q against Michael Banducci's cowboys. The roller-coaster ride would end soon after, however, when he shoved with J♥ Q♥ in the big blind and Jesus called him down with A♥ K♦. The board of blanks was the final nail in Kanter's coffin.
PokerListings.com also had high hopes for the man they call Kevin "Dawson's Creek" Vanderbeek, who came into the day as chip leader. But while he held onto his big stack for most of the day, he seemed to literally melt down in the hand with Michael Banducci that ended his Tahoe dreams.
Vanderbeek raised to $11,000, but got re-popped by Banducci another $16,500. Vanderbeek called and when Banducci led out $20k into the Q♠ 6♦ 4♥ flop, he made the huge mistake of pushing all in with A-Q. Banducci wasted no time making the call, showing how he flies American Airlines, and Vanderbeek could not improve.
The final table will also include Dustin Fox, who Harvey's staff say is a regular player at the cardroom here in Tahoe and is known to crush the No-Limit cash games with the same aggressive style he put on display here today. Although he got caught a few times, he was one of the few players really trying to take advantage of the tight play around the money bubble - a trick that generally more seasoned pros are well known for.
Other than that, the final table will see Irish casino magnate Sylvester Geoghegan and several players from the California and Nevada area including Frank Lee, Gabriel Testa, Mark Bonsack, George Saca and Travis Erdman.
PokerListings.com fans should tune in early and often tomorrow to see if any of these hopefuls can knock off the man in the big black hat they call Jesus.