As the fifth day of the WPT Championship began, 71 players entered the Fontana room at the Bellagio looking to survive another day in their quest to win $3.7 million for first place. Everyone at this point made the money, so the short stacks were looking to double up while the big stacks were hoping to maintain their lead. WPT Foxwoods Champion Victor Ramdin started the day as the chipleader and was looking to win back-to-back events on the WPT, something that has never been done before. The big sharks were all eliminated before dinner time. Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, and Phil Hellmuth won 29 WSOP bracelets combined between them, yet they all failed to advance to Day 6.
Play began at Noon with eight tables as the media and spectators huddled around the remaining players. Originally the tournament director was going to stop play when 27 players remained but he kept the clock going until the full five levels were complete. Since 25 players were eliminated in the first two hours, the field thinned out quickly. Action slowed down once the final three tables redrew for seats.
One of the most difficult starting tables had to be Table 63. The WPT Bellagio Five Diamond Champion Rhene Pedersen from Denmark was at the table along with Norway's Thor Hansen, Vinny Vinh, Phil Hellmuth, Freddy Deeb (with over $1 million in chips) and Chad Brown who has been tearing up the tournament circuit this year. There was another player of note at Table 63 and that was the lovely Vanessa Rousso a third-year law student from Miami. She almost bubbled out but survived day 4.
Noteworthy eliminations of Day 5 included: Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Phil Hellmuth, my main man Freddy Deeb, Amir Vahedi, Chip Jett, Bill Edler, Carl Olson, Meng La, Evelyn Ng, Brad "Yukon" Booth, Steven Paul-Ambrose, Don Odea, Vinny Vinh, David Williams, Thor Hansen, Bill Baxter, Gabe Thaler, Mark Gregorich, Capt. Tom Franklin, David Grey, Kenny Tran, Rhene Pedersen, Ross Boatman, and Dapo Fadeyi.
Unlike the first few days, pocket aces were holding up on Day 5. Patrik Antonius found A-A and sent David Grey to the rail. Doyle Brunson made a move with A-3, but ran into A-A and was busted. Chad Brown flopped a full house with 10-10 to send Johnny Chan home. Patrik Antonius got some revenge against fellow European Rhene Pedersen. At the WPT Bellagio last December, Antonius had his AK snapped off from Pedersen's dominated hand. This time his J-J held up against Pedersen's 10-10.
Phil Hellmuth was eliminated on a bad beat, when he flopped a set of 7s against James Van Alstyne's flopped nut flush draw. All the money went in on the flop and Van Alstyne turned his flush as Hellmuth shouted out like a wounded animal and screamed, "God dammit!"
Carlos Zambrano (the poker pro, not the baseball player) took over the chiplead at one point with over $3 million until James Van Alstyne jumped ahead with over $4 million in chips. He took a huge pot off of Patrik Antonius when his K-10s cracked Antonius' Hilton Sisters.
During the last level of play, the two remaining females Erica Shoenberg and Vanessa Rousso made a run. Rousso won a coin flip against Patrik Antonius when her 10-10 held up against his A-K. Antonius ended up getting crippled while that hand put Rousso in the top 8 in chips. Erica Shoenberg busted Freddy Deeb to add to her stack. She lingered in the top 10 in chips for most of the last hour of play.
When play ended on Day 5, only 19 players remained with the average stack just under $1.6 million. James Van Alstyne finished first in chips with over $4.25 million. WPT Paris winner Roland De Wolfe is in second place with $3.3 million. Victor Ramdin slipped to 4th in chips but still has over $2.6 million. The two ladies are still in the Top 9 in chips. Blackjack whiz Erica Shoenberg has $1.7 million, while Vanessa Rousso is 9th with $1.5 million. Men the Master and Patrik Antonius are both on life support with small stacks.
Day 6 of the WPT Championships will start at Noon on Sunday. Play will not stop until six players remain. Can one of the ladies make it to the final table? Can Victor Ramdin have a legitimate shot at back-to-back WPT titles? Can Roland De Wolfe win his second WPT title this year? We'll find out soon enough...