Loni Harwood entered Friday with a large chip lead over the competition at the final table of the 2015 WSOP National Championship.
Harwood has 1.34 million chips with just seven players remaining in contention, while her closest competitor, Darryl Fish, entered play on Friday with just 648,000.
However, Harwood’s most dangerous competitor is probably the man in third place: the legendary Daniel Negreanu.
The Canadian poker pro and six-time bracelet winner has 543,000 chips, and is looking to add yet another line to his extensive poker resume.
The WSOP National Championship is taking place at the Harrah’s Cherokee this year, the first time the event (now in its fifth year of existence) has taken place in North Carolina.
The tournament serves as the capstone for the WSOP Circuit calendar, but the stakes are higher than anywhere on the Circuit: the winner will earn themselves a WSOP bracelet and a prize of $341,599.
The National Championship isn’t an open event; players must earn invitations to take part.
Based on winning events or accumulating leaderboard points, 100 players from the WSOP Circuit season earned free entries, with the WSOP putting up $1 million for an initial prize pool to cover these players.
In addition, the top 100 players on a leaderboard based on the past two years of WSOP results were also invited to take part in the tournament, provided they were willing to buy in for $10,000 each.
A total of 22 players did so this year, bringing the total prize pool to $1,220,000.
Of those 22, two are still in contention: Harwood and Negreanu.
They are also the only two players to have previously won WSOP bracelets, with Harwood accomplishing that feat back in 2013.
For Negreanu, a win at the WSOP National Championship could also help soften the end of the WSOP season for him.
Negreanu came within touching distance of making the November Nine in the WSOP Main Event, but was eliminated in 11th place on the final day of play this summer.
The five other contenders all qualified through their WSOP Circuit results this year, and come from a variety of different backgrounds and poker pedigrees.
Fish may be the biggest name of that group. Earning his berth by winning a Circuit Main Event at the Palm Beach Kennel Club this February, Fish has nearly $1.9 million in career tournament earnings, including a number of WSOP and World Poker Tour final tables.
Those who keep a close eye on the WSOP Circuit are probably also familiar with Alex Masek.
While Masek is the short stack with just 100,000 chips, he is a dangerous opponent: the eight-time circuit ring winner qualified for the tournament by finishing 37th on the overall tour leaderboard.
Vincent Moscati may have had the best Circuit season of anyone at the final table.
He earned an at-large bid to the National Championship by finishing sixth on the season-long leaderboard, a campaign that included winning three Circuit rings.
Also at the final table are Brad St. Vincent, who won the Casino Champion title at the Foxwoods WSOP Circuit stop this May, and Paul Mattioda, who cashed 13 times over the course of the season to finish 19th on the overall leaderboard.