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Johnny Chan killing the WSOP Main Event

13 Jul 2010

By Vin Narayanan
LAS VEGAS -- Two-time Main Event champion Johnny Chan turned back the clock Monday and reminded the 2010 WSOP field why he's one of the greatest players of all time. With an iPod Shuffle on the table, yellow headphones in his ears and black sunglasses guarding his eyes, the "Orient Express" steamrolled his table in the Blue section of the Amazon Room and more than doubled his chip stack from 281,600 to 636,000. For most of Monday, I felt like I was watching the Johnny Chan from the 1998 movie "Rounders." PETRA: Eighty-eight World Series, huh? Johnny Chan. Flops the nut straight, and has the discipline to wait him out. He knows Seidel's gonna bluff at it. MIKE: Johnny-fucking-Chan. PETRA: Look at the control. He knows his man well enough to check it all the way and risk winning nothing with those cards. He owns him. Poor Seidel. Kid doesn't know what hit him. That's what Chan was like Monday. He was an unstoppable force. A bet from Chan often induced the table to fold. A player that had the temerity to raise Chan faced an immediae re-raise -- and folded. Players that reached showdowns with Chan inevitably lost. Chan knew what every player at the table had. The only player that was able to stand up to Chan was Josh Brikis, who was sporting a monster stack of his own. "I beat everyone else at the table," Chan said of Brikis. "He's the only guy that took chips off of me today." "The table was good...but I'm glad we're changing tables (away from Brikis)," Chan added. Chan, however, made it clear that he wasn't happy just being near the chip lead. "I wouldn't play in this if I didn't think I could win it," he said. Chan did acknowledge that winning this championship would be much more difficult than winning the titles he won in 1987 and 1988. "The players are a lot better now," Chan said. While Chan dominated his table, several other top players were eliminated: Daniel Negreanu, Vanessa Rousso, Bill Chen, Phil Laak, Scott Seiver, Lex Veldhuis, Maria Ho, Roland de Wolfe, Dave Ulliot and defending champ Joe Cada. Other popular players who saw their Main Event come to an end include Kara Scott, Lacey Jones and Jennifer Leigh. But the player who suffered the most heartbreaking exit was Billy Kopp. When we last saw Billy Kopp, he had pushed all of 20 million chips to the middle of the table in the 2009 WSOP Main Event. The all-in move came on fourth street with three diamonds on the board. Darvin Moon called the big bet and Kopp turned over a baby flush. Moon showed a king-high flush and Kopp's tournament was over. This year, it was another big move on fourth street that ended Kopp's tournament. There were two big stacks at Kopp's table. One belonged to Kopp. The other belonged to Nicolas Babel. The two traded pre-flop raises before going to the flop, where the dealer turned over 8s-8d-4c. Both players then checked. An ace hit on the turn and Kopp checked. Babel fired out a good-sized bet, Kopp check-raised all-in. Babel called instantly, and Kopp turned over pocket aces for a fullhouse -- aces full of eights. Babel turned over quad eights and an ashen Kopp knew the end was near. The river was a king, and Kopp exited the tournament for the second-straight year with a massive stack yanked from him in dramatic fashion. Annie Duke, Kopp's fellow UltimateBet pro, walked over from the adjacent table to watch the hand and couldn't believe what she saw. "That's sick. That's just so sick," Duke said. And while a shocked Duke tried to comprehend what had happened, Babel began stacking chips, and he had a lot of chips to stack. His pot with Kopp was worth 500,000, and even he was amazed at his good fortune. "What a flop," Babel said. "I couldn't believe it." Kopp didn't own the monopoly on heartbreak, however. On a table near Chan's, a dealer shouted out that he had an "all in and call." I walked over to the table and saw that a player dressed in a Celtics shirt, jacket and cap was all in with Ax-Qx. His opponent was all in with Kc-Kx. The flop missed both players, but had two clubs. The turn was another club that missed both players. Then the dealer turned over an ace on the river, and for a brief moment, it looked like the player in Celtics gear had won the hand. But the ace was the ace of clubs, giving the player holding pocket kings the nut flush. The player in Celtics gear stared in disbelief, and then turned to me and asked me to high-five him. "Give me a high-five," he said in a quaking voice. "Show me some love. I need some love after that." I high-fived him, and told him that was a tough beat. "Shit happens," the player said, on the verge of tears. Then he hustled out of the Amazon Room with his Main Event dreams dashed. In between the devastating exits of Kopp, the "Celtic" man and the joy of Chan, there were a few light moments as players tried to navigate through the second-largest WSOP Main Event field. Gavin Smith did his best to keep fans at the rail -- and the ESPN cameras -- entertained as he tried to grind his way up the leaderboard. "That's how we roll in Canada," said Smith after winning a pot. "After we lose a pot, we just go out and win the next one. After we get hit, we just go to the bench, get stitched up and skate the next shift." Gavin Smith managed to survive the day, which was quite a feat on a day when more than 1,300 people were eliminated. As eliminations flew in at a rate of 3 per minute in the early hours of the day, outer Pavilion tables were broken up quickly so empty seats at tables in the Amazon Room could be filled. As the players at one of the tables that had broken up walked toward the Amazon Room -- with chips in plastic bags -- they discussed their disappointment with having to switch tables. "I had just become comfortable at the table," said one player. "Now, I'll have to figure things out all over again." "I know," said another player. "Being the new player at a table that's been together for a while sucks." When the Main Event resumes on Day 4 Tuesday, 1,205 will be remaining from the original field of 7,319.

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