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Mixed emotions everywhere on Day 5 of WSOP Main Event

14 Jul 2013

By Vin Narayanan
LAS VEGAS -- The base appeal of sports -- and competition in general -- is binary in nature. There are winners and losers. There's the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. The often fine line between winning and losing -- whether it's a three pointer at the buzzer or an ace on the river -- provides compelling drama.

Televised poker banks heavily on the binary nature of the game to provide entertainment value. Hands have winners and losers. The person at the end of the tournament with all of the chips wins. If you have no chips, you lose. It's simple. And the nature of No-Limit Hold'em creates drama each step of the way. Each time a card is dealt, it can feel like there's a new winner or loser. It's those wild swings of emotion -- combined with the high stakes of poker's top tournament -- that make the World Series of Poker Main Event a compelling television product.

But what makes the Main Event a fascinating tournament is not binary in nature. It occupies that wide space between winning and losing. It's the schizophrenic nature of the game as the stakes rise. It's about measuring success in ways other than being the ultimate champion. It's about professing a love for the game while being worn out by the demands of being a champion. It's about how in a game of skill, luck can go a long way. It's about how a family member showing up to watch is more important than the action at the table. It's about the sheer joy of making a deep run and strategizing with your rail about the next money jump.

Jackie Glazer is the only woman still in the tournament. She has more than 4 million in chips.

Jackie Glazer is the only woman still in the tournament. She has more than 4 million in chips. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

Those many facets of poker -- binary and otherwise -- were on display Saturday during Day 5 of the WSOP Main Event. Day 5 began with 239 players. When it ended, only 68 players remained in the tournament.

Sami Rustom is the chip leader with 7.005 million. Marc McLaughlin (6.695 million), Jason Mann (6.58 million), Maxx Coleman (6.26 million), George Wong (5.74 million), Sylvain Loosli (5.69 million) and Ryan Riess (5.57 million) have the next biggest chip stacks. Jackie Glazier is the last woman remaining in the tournament. She has 4.045 million in chips. There were 298 women in the 6,352-player Main Event field this year.

The Main Event champion will win $8,359,531.

For some players, the pressure and strain of playing deep into the Main Event started to show. Jon Lane began the day with 2.839 million and the chip lead. But he didn't survive the day. He busted out of the tournament after the dinner break.

Vladmimir Geshkenbein, who began the day with 1.8 million in chips, was given a penalty for gripping and squeezing the cards too tightly. He was leaving creases in the cards that left them unusable and the tournament staff was forced to make him take an orbit off. Later in the day Geshkenbein didn't want to show his hole cards to the cameras, which of course is a requirement for playing in the Main Event. Tournament officials had to threaten him with another penalty before he complied.

While Geshkenbein was fulminating, Matthew Elsarelli was nursing a short stack and trying to enjoy his day at the Main Event. Elsarelli, a Las Vegas native who turned 21 last September, spotted his mom, Janene Stafford, on the rail, and rushed over to hug her.

Matthew Elsarelli shared his Main Event moment with his mom and a friend.

Matthew Elsarelli shared his Main Event moment with his mom and a friend. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

"I'm so glad you came," Elsarelli said with a big smile on his face. "I don't have many chips, but that's OK."

Elsarelli, along with one of his friends, tried to explain the game to Stafford.

"You want to get all of the chips," they said.

"I know that," said Stafford said with a grin. "I work in a casino. I just don't know poker."

Today was Stafford's first chance to watch Elsarelli play in the Main Event.

"I just came today," Stafford said. "It's my day off from work. It's exciting (to watch him play). I'm pretty nervous for him. He's been playing since he was 18."

Jason Brauda, who busted out of the Main Event in 381st yesterday, was also on the rail enjoying Elsarelli's deep run.

"I met Matt through online poker," Brauda says. "I met him about three and half years ago and we became really good friends. I'm from North Carolina and he's a Las Vegas local and we moved to Mexico for six months before the series.

"This is his first Main Event and he's had a pretty good run. This is what online (poker) does for you. It gets you experience. It gets you ready to play the Main Event. It's pretty exciting.

"It's nice to see him go deep. He's had a rough summer here. He'd play for 12 hours a day and then bust on the last level of the night. He finished 42nd in the 1k turbo event. He lost a big flip at the end of the day and was pretty distraught so it was good for him to get a good run in and hopefully he can go farther."

Elsarelli managed to stay alive in the tournament for a few more hours. He busted out in 105th and won $50,752.

Marc McLaughlin is second in chips with 6.695 million.

Marc McLaughlin is second in chips with 6.695 million. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

Defending champion Greg Merson experienced the same the joy Elsarelli did with his rail last year. This year, Merson looked exhausted after he exited the tournament in 167th place.

"It's just one long cash game," Merson told Casino City as he tried to explain his success in consecutive Main Events.

"You obviously have to get lucky to make it this far," said Merson, who became the first Main Event champion since Greg Raymer to cash the following year. "There's no one that made it this far or is in this room that hasn't gotten lucky at least once, twice, three times. There's skill involved as well. But I think (the Main Event) favors the cash game players a lot and you'll see, if they keep this structure, more and more each year that cash game players will do well in this event."

Merson, who is one of the most introspective poker players around, said although he was disappointed about busting out of the tournament, he's also happy his reign as Main Event champion is over.

"It's a relief that someone else is going to win," Merson said. "Obviously I was trying to win, but it (wears down on you)."

"I don't like this whole media stuff," Merson added. "I hate it. I really do. I don't like it at all. Next summer I'm going to get a trailer for the seven tournaments I'm going to play in so I can go out there every break. Because at this Main Event, every break was not a break. My breaks were more or less playing poker. Every break, it was hard to get privacy or just relax.

"I wanted to represent the game as well as I could. I don't want to be like I'm too good for this. That's not how I feel about it at all.

Ryan Riess is seventh in chips with 5.57 million.

Ryan Riess is seventh in chips with 5.57 million. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

"It's just that a lot has changed since online poker shut down. The opportunities for myself are much different than the previous nine winners. It's a lot easier to do five interviews a day when you have a seven-figure contract. I represent Ivey Poker and myself and I never went into poker to be this big famous person and if I'm not getting paid for it, I could care less. I don't really care about all the glamour."

Merson is grateful for the opportunities poker has given him and says he plans on playing the game "forever."

"I love it," Merson said. "I really do. I'm not sick of poker by any means by saying I dislike doing (interviews)."

Merson, who was in China from May 25th to June 17th before flying to Vegas to play in the WSOP, said he was appreciative of the travel opportunities he's been afforded because of poker.

"I only had one semester of the college experience before commuting from home. So I got my life experience from traveling the world playing poker and I think that made me a more well-rounded person than growing up on a campus and partying four days a week -- or (being in) that type of atmosphere.

"I really, really enjoy Asia. Australia is my favorite country I've been to by far. I love Canada. My favorite spot in Europe is Madrid. I haven't been to Barcelona yet. I hear that's better. I actually enjoy traveling.

"But I am looking forward to just slowing down and grinding online poker again. I have played quite a bit this year, but it's very difficult to play the biggest games online or some of the biggest games online when you take two or three weeks off or you're playing live poker for a month. They might as well be called two different games because it's not the same at all.... And (online poker) is my passion. So I'm going to do some studying and fix some things I need to fix to beat those Russians."

While an introspective Merson left the Amazon Room, an exuberant Hai Bo Chu was trying to figure out how to stay alive in the Main Event and make some more money. With about 105 players remaining, Chu would pop out of his chair after each hand and head to his rail to discuss the hand, and see how far he was from the next money jump. For a 10-minute stretch, Chu spent more time with his rail than he did at the table.

When Kima Kimura left the tournament in 100th, Chu was jubilant and pumped his fist in celebration. Chu had just gone from potentially winning $50,752 to potentially winning $59,708. Chu ended up exiting in the tournament in 97th place and collecting his $59,708.

Notable chip stacks
Sami Rustom 7.005 million
Marc McLaughlin 6.695 million
Jason Mann 6.58 million
Maxx Coleman 6.26 million
George Wong 5.74 million
Sylvain Loosli 5.69 million
Ryan Riess 5.57 million
Yevgeniy Timoshenko 4.065 million
Jackie Glazier 4.045 million
Jonathan Jaffe 3.535 million
Rep Porter 950,000

Notable eliminations
Greg Merson $42,990
Annette Obrestad $71,053
Jon Lane $59,708
Victor Cianelli $84,786
Kristy Gazes $42,990
Vivek Rajkumar $42,990
Shawn Sheikhan $42,990
Ronnie Bardah $50,752
Grayson Ramage $84,786
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