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International flair on WSOP Main Event leaderboard heading into Day 5

15 Jul 2017

Amateur Mickey Craft ended Day 4 at the WSOP Main Event in sixth place.

Amateur Mickey Craft ended Day 4 at the WSOP Main Event in sixth place.

LAS VEGAS -- Eliminations were fast and furious during Day 4 of the World Series of Poker Main Event as the field was cut down from the 1,084 players that hit the money in dramatic fashion during Thursday's Day 3 play to just 297 on Friday.

The top of the leaderboard had a strong international flair. Leading the way was Argentina's Damian Salas, who entered Saturday's Day 5 play with a stack of 4,678,000 chips. The 42-year-old has 14 previous WSOP cashes, including two this summer, cashed in two previous events at this year's WSOP and has amassed $4 million in career earnings, both online and in live tournaments.

“Well, I am calm and enjoying the moment,” Salas told WSOP.com through an interpreter. “But I also understand that there is a long way to go. It's a marathon but I am trying to focus on each hand.”

The plan for Saturday's Day 5 was to play 5 1/2 more levels inside the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino with the field, which began with the third-highest total in event history with 7,221, eventually being slimmed down to nine final table players on Monday night.

Chasing Salas was a group of players that included France's Sebastian Comel (4,198,000) and Belgium's Kenny Hallaert (4,145,000), who is attempting to make the Main Event final table for a second straight year after taking sixth place in 2016. Hallaert also made a deep run in 2015 when he finished 123rd.

Great Britain's John Kelly (3,973,000) and Richard Gryko (3,559,000) were also in the hunt entering Saturday, along with Romania's Cosmin Joldis (3,500,000) and Canada's Colin Moffatt (3,086,000).

As for being a dual and live online star, we wondered how he compared the two. According to Salas, “In my humble opinion I consider playing online to be tougher. Obviously this is the Main Event and all the best players come here to play. Being in Day 4, I was confronted by playing with such extraordinary players, but when you put it into perspective, the levels you can reach with online are higher.”

Salas saw no great difference in his level of play between Day 4 and earlier sessions; things just worked out a lot better this day. And of course, there's always the added thrill of succeeding on this level in the WSOP Main Event. “I am passionate about this [referring to the WSOP] and of course this being the Main Event, I am enjoying it more than I would with any other event.”

The 1,084 players who returned for Friday's 11 a.m. resumption of play were all guaranteed a payday, with the money bubble having burst to conclude Thursday's extended Day 3 session. Philadelphia's Patrick Lavecchia led the way into Day 4 but struggled this day; he survived into Day 5 but will return to one of the shortest stacks in play.

Other player endured rollercoaster rides in Friday's 10 hours of play. We checked in with the “Flying Dutchman” of poker, Marcel Luske, who started the day well back in the pack but generally gained ground as the day wore on.

“I started with 282,000,” said Luske. “I went up and down to 180, and then I had a few hands where I saw the light. . . .” Luske's big breaks came in hands where he doubled up with aces against kings, and where he snagged a huge pot when he spiked a set on the turn in a hand where his opponent took one off on the flop. Said Luske, “He gave me an extra card on the flop, and I hit my set of fives, and then he decided to bet it. So I put my money in. He paid me off, so that got me to 500,000. From there I worked it up to 1.3 (million).” Luske see-sawed through the evening hours as well, finishing with 1,159,000, well in the hunt.

An exhausted Mickey Craft could talk about a wild ride as well, but most of it was his own doing. Craft, the amateur player from West Virginia who's been one of the most entertaining stories of the Main Event to date, started the day sixth in chips. He quickly vaulted into the lead, rising during the late afternoon to about 3.5 million. From there the rollercoaster switched into high gear, with Craft bouncing up and down in the counts as he repeatedly moved all in, applying pressure his opponents at a table that boasted several deeper stacks as the evening wore on.

Craft slipped a bit in the later hours but finished with a very playable 2,389,000. He did it all on a reported half hour of sleep, though once he made it through to the end of Day 4 play, he vowed there'd be more rest before Day 5. “As soon as my head hits the pillow, I'm gone.”

“I'll tell you tomorrow about Day 5,” Craft added. “I hope to dream about it a little bit. But I'm trying to triple up every day. That's the goal. That's what I'll be coming down here to do; I'll be determined.”

Yesterday, Craft told the WSOP he was having the time of his life. “Who wouldn't be?” he added tonight, despite his exhaustion.

Craft's perilous table featured a handful of players who topped the million-chip mark as play went on, among them Illinois' Hiren “Sonny” Patel, a WSOP veteran who picked his spots at Craft's aggressive table to carve out a big day of his own. Patel started the day in 28th place, just north of a million in chips, and he climbed all the way up to 2,700,000 and 15th place on Day 4, despite sitting two seats to the aggressive Craft's right throughout the evening.

“It feels great,” said Patel. “It's my deepest run in the Main Event, my first cash.” Patel has logged 30 other WSOP cashes and has over $400,000 in career WSOP earnings.

All three former winners of the Main Event who made it into the money were eliminated during Day 4 play as well. The knockouts of Scotty Nguyen, Joe Cada, and Carlos Mortensen guaranteed that a new World Champion will be crowned this year.

There's plenty of big-name firepower for the likes of Salas, Craft and Patel to challenge on Day 5. Among those still in contention are Ben Lamb (14th, 2,801,000), Antoine Saout (30th, 2,318,000), Dario Sammartino (70th, 1,769,000), Martin Finger (71st, 1,658,000), Jake Balsiger (83rd, 1,562,000), Kyle Bowker (87th, 1,500,000), Eoghan O'Dea (94th, 1,467,000), Isaac Haxton (98th, 1,436,000), Dominik Nitsche (102nd, 1,404,000), Greg “FBT” Mueller (117th, 1,267,000), Caufman Talley (122nd, 1,200,000), Sam Stein (134th, 1,098,000), Max Silver (149th, 1,000,000), and Ian Johns (also 149th, at 1,000,000).

For every Day 4 survivor, though, there were nearly three others who went to the rail during the day's action. Among those who were eliminated in the money on Day 4 were dozens of well-known players. Among them, each earning at least $15,000, were Phillip Hui, Barry Greenstein, Taylor Paur, Jameson Painter, Barny Boatman, Dutch Boyd, Scott Seiver, Darryll Fish, John Esposito, Lee Watkinson, Mikhail Semin, Natasha Mercier, Ryan Hughes, Nam Le, Michael Tureniec, Niall Farrell, Nick Schulman, Andy Frankenberger, Allen Cunningham, Tex Barch, Gavin Smith, Mohsin Charania, Gregg Merkow, Konstantin Puchkov, David Peters, Perry Friedman, Jesse Martin, Jared Hamby, Ryan Hughes, Bernard Lee, Tony Gregg, Christopher Vitch, Cate Hall, Steve Billirakis, JJ Liu, Matt Glantz, Peter Eichhardt, Mike Gorodinsky, Marvin Rettenmaier, Andre Akkari, Danielle Anderson, Faraz Jaka, Jared Jaffee, Jeffrey Lisandro, Sofia Lovgren, Liv Boeree, David Sands, Melanie Weisner, Ivan Luca, Ismael Bojang, and Felipe Ramos. Ramos's 299th-place exit, for $35,267, was the next to last bustout of the night.

(Article courtesy of World Series of Poker.)
 
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