Also cashing in '07 were Roland De Wolfe, Ted Lawson, John Duthie, Andreas Hagen, Rafi Amit and Ted Forrest, and as it would turn out, the list of finalists in 2008 might even eclipse last year's star-studded final 18.
Action on Day 2 of this three-day event began at 3 p.m. London time on the floor of the Empire Casino in Leicester Square, with the 45 survivors from Day 1's eight levels returning to the Empire with plans in place to play down to the final table.
Leader of the pack at the start of the day was Floridian Jason Mercier, who's just EPT Barcelona and took down the EPT4 tournament in San Remo earlier in the spring, with a good $50k in cashes at the WSOP the meat in that EPT sangwich.
Mercier's $209,000 put him almost $20k above runner-up Shaun Deeb, and while one of those two would make it deep on Day 2, his rival would see his fortunes fall at a calamitous pace and result in an unhappy and unfortunate result.
Also still in contention on the second day of play were the likes of Roy "The Boy With The Bad Nickname" Brindley, Neil Channing, Bruno Fitoussi, Phil Laak, David Williams, Andy Bloch and a number of other PLO All-Stars. Near the bottom of the chip leaderboard were Doyle Brunson and Sherkhan Farnood, the latter fresh off a victory in the £2,500 H.O.R.S.E. tournament but 10 hours previous.
Despite a decent structure that left combatants with plenty of play throughout the day, the degeneracy that is PLO claimed its fair share of victims in the early levels, with 22 hopefuls finding themselves consigned to the rail by dinnertime. Among their number were Laak and Brindley, as well as David Ulliott and Andy Bloch.
After dinner, 23 players returned to the pantry at the Empire Casino to play out the night. With the money bubble approaching and a minimum £14,438 payout at stake, the tension was high among the final three tables, particularly at Shaun Deeb's.
Deeb found himself riding a roller-coaster at precisely the wrong moment, doubling up Mike "Timex" McDonald and then, on the very next hand, busting the young Canadian in a massive pot that played out, ironically, as McDonald was openly wondering how many chips he was about to win from Deeb.
The waffle crusher would have little time to enjoy Timex's chips, however, as he wound up feeding them to the vacuum cleaner that is Jason Mercier. Mercier took a monsterpotten of his own from Deeb just a few hands after McDonald's departure, rivering the broadway straight in a tricky little hand to crack Deeb's two pair.
A few hands later, Deeb was dunzo, out in 20th place just two spots from the money. That initiated hand-for-hand play, and it wouldn't take long for Alex Kravchenko to remove himself from contention in a rather sick beat.
The Barnacle got it all-in with Ilkka Koskinen in pre-flop action while holding A♥ A♦ T♦ 9♣ to the Finn's A♠ A♣ T♣ 2♠. The flop brought two clubs and the river a third, giving Koskinen the flush and sending Kravchenko to the door, the last of the $0 men.
With the bubble taken care of, the eliminations came in furious fashion, with Level 15 seeing the field drop from 16 to 10 in what seemed like milliseconds. First, Allen Cunningham saw his aces cracked by Theo Jorgensen after the Swede flopped fours-full with Q-T-9-4.
Then Chris Bjorin had his own aces cracked by Joe Beevers, who held K-Q-J-9 double-suited and watched the board run J-T-3-9-9. Justin Smith would buck the trend, getting all-in without aces (A-9-6-5) in a three-way hand that saw Tomi Nyback double through Joe Beevers after flopping the nut flush with A-K-J-T against - you guessed it - Beevers' A-A-7-6.
Smith was out on the play, earning £16,500, and Beevers was crippled. He'd go out 12th after Jason Mercier rivered a straight with A-K-J-T against his own A-K-8-5, but not before Irish icon Padraig Parkinson hit the road in 13th place, again at Mercier's hand after the American rivered trip aces for the win.
Neil Channing, who final-tabled the £2,500 NLHE event a few days earlier, was denied his shot at a second final table of the series, going out rather unremarkably against Tomi Nyback after getting it all-in with T♥ 9♦ 6♦ 6♥ against Nyback's A♠ 9♥ 6♠ 5♦ on a 9♠ 8♥ 5♣ flop. The board bricked out and the Bad Beat was banished, busto in 11th for £18,562 of his own.
That left only one elimination to decide the final nine, and after the field was consolidated into one 10-handed final table the end came quickly for Ilkka Koskinen, who got all-in in a monster pot with Theo Jorgensen early in Level 16. The carnage occurred on an 8♥ 7♥ 3♦ J♣ J♦ board with all of the money in on the turn. Jorgensen, with J-9-9-8, rivered the boat to send Koskinen packing.
And with Koskinen's elimination the final nine were set. Jorgensen brings the chip lead into Day 3 with $897,000, with Mercier second holding $650,000. Also still in contention and looking for that bling are Max Pescatori and Chris "Jesus" Ferguson.
Action kicks off at 4 p.m. local time and continues until a bracelet is awarded. PokerListings.com will be on location to bring live updates from the tournament floor throughout the day, so keep it tuned in and turned on and we'll do the rest.
Here are the seating positions and chip counts for the final nine:
|Seat 1||Erik Friberg||$189,000|
|Seat 2||David Penly||$162,000|
|Seat 3||Jason Mercier||$650,000|
|Seat 4||Sorel Mizzi||$290,000|
|Seat 5||Tomi Nyback||$434,000|
|Seat 6||Theo Jorgensen||$897,000|
|Seat 7||Max Pescatori||$126,000|
|Seat 8||Eric Dalby||$277,000|
|Seat 9||Chris "Jesus" Ferguson||$282,000|