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Gary Trask

Gary  Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has worked as a writer and editor more than 20 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

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Around the WSOP: Main Event eliminations come fast and furious on Day 4

9 Jul 2019

By Gary Trask
LAS VEGAS – A sense of normalcy — if there is a such a thing at a poker tournament — eventually returned to the $10,000 World Series of Poker Main Event on Tuesday as Day 4 began with 1,286 happy, if sleepy-eyed, players.

Cards went in the air just after 12 p.m. local time in the same room where the money bubble had burst around 12:30 a.m., meaning everyone who survived and came back during daylight hours would get paid for spending the better part of the last week inside the walls of the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.

The waning moments leading up to the Main Event money bubble burst is one of the most dramatic scenes you'll ever experience. If there's a definition for the phrase "you could cut the tension with a knife," it's when the line is drawn between the Main Event players who cash for at least $15k and those who go home with nothing except a $10k hole in their bankroll.

"You really can feel the tension in the air; it's palpable," said a veteran WSOP dealer by the name of Anthony, who didn’t want to give his last name. "The style of play changes dramatically. You've got the small stacks stalling and folding hands they would typically play because they just want to survive and advance. And then you have the big stacks who want to bully people and will play anything.

"It's a difficult scene to describe, unless you've lived it. Players take elimination a lot harder. When you are so, so close to the money and then have it taken away from you, it hurts. It hurts bad."

One of the fortunate 1,286 to cash was Kevin Rand from Austin, Texas, who cashed in his first Main Event bid.

"It was an intense few hours, but I survived," said the 38-year-old, whose full-time gig is as a copy editor at Apple, and who decided to jump into this year's Main Event after winning $147,327 at a WSOP Circuit Event at Choctaw Casino Resort – Durant back in January. "I was down to 20 big blinds and had to lay down a couple big hands in that final hour. I finally had to play pocket queens. I got called, and at first I got real nervous, but I eventually won the pot and here I am today."

As the surviving players began to filter into the Rio on Tuesday, the tension in the air was replaced by utter relief. There were a lot of handshakes, smiles and pats on the back.

"Congrats, guys," Mike "The Mouth" Matusow told his tablemates as they settled in for Day 4 play. "But if you think you've done something, you ain't done shit. At the end of the day today, we won't even be halfway through this thing."

When cards went in the air, those players that squirmed their way into the money with small stacks began calling "all in" in bunches, and the eliminations started to happen swiftly. One after another, the dealers called out the table and seat of the person who just got sent to the rail. And it happened in rapid fire.

"Pay out. Table 490, Seat 1!"

"Pay out. Table 469, Seat 5!"

More than 60 players were eliminated within the first 10 minutes. One hour into the day, the 1,286-player field that started the day dwindled down to just over 1,000. At 3:30 p.m., just 10% of the entire starting field (860) remained, and by the time the second break of the day came along at 5 p.m. a total of 598 players had been eliminated and only 688 people were still alive and chasing poker history.

Typically, being escorted from the table to the rail to the pay window can be akin to a walk of shame. But not on the day after the bubble bursts on the WSOP Main Event.

"It always hurts to get eliminated, but after surviving last night's pressure cooker, I can't complain," said Mathieu Rabalison, an accountant from Paris, who plays part-time and was one of the players that got bounced in the first hour on Tuesday, earning a cash in his first Main Event appearance. "I only had 10 big blinds at the end of play last night. I could have easily got eliminated without cashing. But I survived. That's what this tournament is all about. Survival."

Main Event field by the numbers
It's been well documented that this year's WSOP Main Event drew the second-largest field in its 50-year history with 8,569 players, just shy of the record 8,773 that entered in 2006.

A further look into the massive field brings some more interesting figures:

  • There were 8,219 male participants, up 8.5% from 2018

  • There were 350 female participants, up 16% from 2018

  • The average age was 41.46

  • The oldest player in the field was 85-year-old Frank Passantino from Flushing, NY, who was eliminated on Day 1B. The youngest player was Erwin Wiechers (21 years, two days old), and he was sent to the rail on Day 1C

  • 87 different countries were represented, with 6,110 players from the U.S. Canada (420) and the U.K. (414) rounded out the top three with France (151), China (117), Germany (105) and Brazil (104) also in the top seven.

Also, the 8,569-player field created a prize pool worth $80,548,600. The winner will get $10 million even.

Dealer of the Year kicks off Day 4 festivities
Day 4 of the Main Event began with 2019 WSOP Dealer of the Year Heather Alcorn handling the "Shuffle up and deal" duties.

Criteria for the annual award include "upbeat and positive attitude," ability to proficiently deal all of the game variants during the WSOP, and "positive guest and co-worker feedback," according to WSOP VP Jack Effel.

Alcorn, who has been a finalist for the award the last seven years, lives in Ozark, Missouri, and is the mother of two sons. She has dealt the WSOP for the last nine years, and this was her fifth straight year working at the ESPN featured tables. In addition to her dealing duties, Alcorn is herself an accomplished player, as proven by her victory at the WSOP Circuit Event in Southern Indiana in October, where she cashed a first-place check worth $129,654.

"It's really is an honor," Alcorn said. "I've made so many friends here over the years. It's amazing to me to travel all over the world and to always run into someone from the WSOP family. It also makes me look pretty cool to my kids, so I'm thankful for that."

Before offering the "Shuffle up and deal" command, Alcorn told the crowd, "Make sure you have fun today and let's make some more unforgettable memories."

Added Effel, "In nine years, she hasn't had one single performance demerit. She's a great role model for other dealers. She always has a positive demeanor, and there's always a smile on her face. She's a great teammate."

Checks and raises
By making the money in this year's WSOP Main Event, Allen Cunningham and two-time champion Johnny Chan joined Berry Johnston at the top of the list for most career Main Event cashes with 10. The last time Johnston cashed in the Main Event was 2007. Humberto Brenes and Swedish poker pro and actor Chris Bjorin are now all alone on the list in second place with nine cashes, followed by Bobby Baldwin, Doyle Brunson, John Esposito, Phil Hellmuthand Jason Lester, who all have eight cashes . . . Speaking of actors, WSOP regular Kevin Pollak, best known for his roles in A Few Good Men, Grumpy Old Men and The Usual Suspects, finished 986th in the Main Event and took home $15,970. This was his second-career Main Event cash after taking 134th and pocketing $52,718 back in 2012 . . . And, while we're on the "celebrity" player kick, three-time Super Bowl champion and seven-time NFL Pro Bowler Richard Seymour cashed in the Main Event for the first time in six tries. Seymour, who turned to poker after retiring from football in 2012 following a 12-year career with the Patriots and Raiders, has two previous WSOP Circuit Event cashes to his name and has more than $580,000 in poker winnings. Of course, that's still chump change when compared to the near $90 million he made as a professional football player. He ended Day 4 with 2,750,000 chips, which was good for 35th place heading into Wednesday's Day 5.
 
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