WSOP Main Event Update: And Then There Were Five

October 31st, 2016 | by Kaycee James
Qui Nguyen WSOP Main Event

Qui Nguyen is the chip leader after Day One at the WSOP Main Event final table. (Image: Richard Brian/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

There are just five players remaining in the 2016 WSOP Main Event.

The first evening of the final table on Sunday began with the chip leaders Cliff Josephy and Qui Nguyen in a four-bet pot pre-flop. Nguyen took down the pot and moved into the chip lead.

But the action at the table slowed down. Players bided their time waiting for the right hand to make a move.

Fernando Pons, the smallest stack when play began, waited patiently for a hand to double-up with.

That opportunity presented itself when he took on Cliff Josephy, the man known as ‘JohnnyBax’ during his online poker days. Pons got his money in as a slight favorite but his hand didn’t hold up.

The former top-ranked online poker player took down the pot and jumped back into the chip lead with eight players left. Pons already received the $1 million guaranteed for 9th place so he didn’t go home with any extra cash.

After Josephy got into the early confrontation with Nguyen, he tightened up for much of the night. He entered play as the chip leader but refrained from asserting much aggression.

Part of that had to do with a lack of getting strong starting hands, most likely.

The Star of the Show

Qui Nguyen is as much a baccarat player as he is a poker player. The ESPN announcers joked about him playing the game professionally.

“Show me a professional baccarat player and I’ll show you a loser,” Norman Chad said.

On Sunday evening, Nguyen got the last laugh. He left the Rio with the largest stack (128,625,000), more than twice his nearest competitor, Josephy (63,850,000).

Nguyen hasn’t been in a position to win a major poker tournament before. In fact, he’s a low-stakes cash game player in Las Vegas. But he showed that sometimes experience doesn’t matter. He never got out of line and made some solid laydowns when he knew he was beat.

How We Got to Five

And then there were five. After one day of play at the Main Event final table, the tournament which started with 6,737 players in July is now down to five. Those five players are (in order of chip stack) Qui Nguyen, Cliff Josephy, Vojtech Ruzicka, Gordon Vayo, and Michael Ruane.

After Pons busted in 9th place, Jerry Wong became the short stack at the table. At one point, he was under 6 million chips with a 600,000 big blind. That’s not an enticing position to be in.

He finally picked up JJ in the big blind but was disappointed to discover Ruzicka had him crushed with QQ. The board ran out 9864Q, finishing Wong off in 8th place for $1,100,076.

Griffin Benger, once the top Counter Strike player in the world, was next to go. He simply couldn’t find many hands to play and only won one pot the entire evening before Vayo eliminated him in 7th place ($1,250,190).

Originally, the plan was to play down to six players but that happened quicker than expected. Play resumed for another 90 minutes until Kenny Hallaert tangled with Nguyen.

Hallaert, coached by the great Fedor Holz in preparation for the November Nine, ran into a bit of a cooler and then overplayed his AQ, four-bet shoving all-in against Nguyen’s AA. Hallaert began the hand with over 35 million chips, but was left with nothing.

So here we are, five players remaining, all still hoping to win the $8 million first place prize, the coveted gold bracelet, and the right to be proclaimed 2016 world champion.

Play resumes at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Monday evening at 4:30 pm PST. ESPN will televise it on a 30-minute delay beginning at 5:00.

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