The $10,000 main event at the inaugural Wynn Poker Classic got a little more interesting today, as we closed out the third day of play having established a final table chock full of some of the most recognizable pros in the game. No less than Johnny Chan, Mike Matusow and Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi all wound up amongst the nine survivors destined to take home the lion's share of the tournament's $1,920,600 prize pool, but as with most everything in this star-studded tournament, the road to the most sought after patch of felt in Vegas didn't get any easier on Day 3.
The aforementioned pros, at least, came into the day with decent chances of survival, as of the 27 finalists who returned to play in the Wynn poker room on Day 3, Chan, Matusow, and Mizrachi found themselves fifth, sixth, and seventh on the chip leaderboard. Joining them on the penultimate day were the likes of Chau Giang, John Racener, Toto Leonidas, Scott Fischman, Cliff Josephy, and Allen Kessler, as well as chip leader Chris "The Canada Goose" Roos and a number of lesser-known players.
Roos, for one, did not seem at all daunted by the presence of greatness in the air around him, entering the day with a $100,000 chip lead on his closest competitor and showing no fear in staring down his storied opponents.
Seated throughout the day at a table with Mike Matusow and John Racener, Roos seemed to be following the Jamie Gold school of tournament play, continually putting opponents all-in or on the receiving end of gargantuan re-raises, and baiting and cajoling Matusow and tablemate Larry Wright in particular with actions bordering on the obnoxious.
To Matusow's credit, however, he refused to be suckered into anything that would distract him from a berth at the final table. The volatile pro has taken this tournament extremely seriously, and has been rewarded for his diligence. Even after doubling up Ted Lawson to put a $228,000 dent in his once-proud stack, "The Mouth" remained calm and focused and finished the day with $370,000 for a middle of the road chip stack.
Many of Matusow's chips came from once-contender-now-pretender John Racener's stack, as the two were involved in a massive hand early on Day 3 that wound up crippling the spiky-haired sensation.
In the hand in question, Matusow utilized a technique that many of the better-known pros (Mizrachi, Chan) seemed to be following - instead of using basic poker strategy and showing strength with weakness and weakness with strength, the men would often bet their strong hands, confident that their opponents would look them up, or that their strong lead-out bets on scary boards would be interpreted as showing strength to hide weakness.
In poor Racener's case, Matusow turned the nut straight and managed to convince Racener to put him all-in on the river. Racener obliged with a puny two pair, and once he'd settled his account payable with Matusow to the tune of $179,100, was left with naught but $4,500 in his stack. The end came quickly after that, and the man who entered the day third in chips wound up leaving without having earned a cent for his efforts, while Matusow had bolstered his own stack and taken a massive chip lead.
Not long after Racener's departure, David Levi found himself the cause of a lot of applause as he got the worst of an all-in confrontation with Scott Fischman. Fischman held A♦ J♥ and Levi Q♦ 9♦, and the board could not improve the canvas magnate's hand, sending him to the rail in 19th and bursting the money bubble. Levi left the tournament area with $0; his immediate successor, Dapo Fayedi, and all who followed, were guaranteed at least $24,008 for their time.
Following the bursting of the bubble, eliminations started to come quicker, with Doug MacKinnon, Joe Capello, Sam Grizzle, Toto Leonidas and Ted McNeely hitting the bricks before the dinner break, meaning that upon returning from the intermission only three eliminations were needed before the final table would be set.
The first of the unlucky three turned out to be Larry Wright, who fell to Chris Roos after pinning his hopes on middle pair and running into Chris Roos, who showed similar (and better-founded) confidence in his top pair. The Loudest Canadian promptly sent Wright packing, and the field was down to eleven.
Shortly thereafter, Mike Carson dropped the gloves pre-flop with Scott Fischman, mustering A-To against Fischman's pocket jacks. Despite flopping a ten, Carson could not get any closer than that, and he hit the bricks to send the tournament into round-for-round (but still two-table) play until the final elimination was recorded.
That unlucky soul was Sang Yu, a Las Vegas native who had been tenaciously holding onto his last $50,000 and fewer in chips for seemingly hours. Yu told PokerListings.com that he was bound and determined to take down first place in the tournament, and that so long as he made the final table he was assured of that goal.
Unfortunately, after multiple rounds of play spent weathering the triple threat of Mizrachi, Fischman and Chan (who seemed to be content to wait out their short-stacked counterpart), Yu finally found himself all-in with 6♠ 3♠ against Zachary Hyman's pocket aces on a board of 7♠ 4♣ 3♦ 2♠. Despite having plenty of outs, Yu could not find any help on the river and with the appearance of the 2♥ was banished to the rail.
The rest of the field headed to the rail in much happier spirits, secure in the knowledge that they will grace PokerListings.com's live updates section for one more day. Chip leader is still Chris Roos, with $888,000, followed by Scott Fischman with $596,000 and Ted Lawson with $475,000. Tournament coverage resumes at noon Pacific Time, so don't forget to set your clocks ahead and we'll see you tomorrow for the final table.