The 2018 World Series of Poker chugged along into its second week on Saturday with plenty of action around the Rio. In one of the bigger tournaments currently running, Christopher Bolek will attempt to hold off a herd of professional players armed with big chip stacks in what is becoming a “player favorite” event, while the return of another popular event will attempt to change a narrative.

Event #20 – $5000 Big Blind Ante No Limit Hold’em

A 518-player field had been whittled down to 189 runners by the start of Day 2 action on Saturday. In one of the surprises of the Day 1 action Justin Bonomo, fresh off winning his second WSOP bracelet in the $10,000 Heads-Up Championship, late registered for this tournament and made quite the splash. In a short time, Bonomo earned more than seven times his starting stack of 25K (175,800) to be amongst the leaders in the event. Along with Seth Davies (175,300) and two-time WSOP bracelet winner Kristen Bicknell (170,800), they set off in pursuit of chip leader Daniel Colpoys (403,000) once the “shuffle up and deal” call was made.

With only 78 places being paid in the tournament, there was quite the bloodbath on the way to making the money. Such players as defending World Champion Scott Blumstein, former World Champions Ryan Riess and Phil Hellmuth, Ankush Mandavia, Elio Fox, Ismael Bojang and Scott Seiver all found the rail much earlier than they would have liked as the money bubble approached. Just before the dinner break, Bicknell would do the honors for the tournament as she dispatched Matthew Parry in 79th place ($0), her pocket Aces standing strong over Parry’s A-J off suit on a non-threatening Queen high board.

After Bicknell’s knockout of Parry and a bit of dinner for the survivors, the cash out cage became the place to be. Bryn Kenney, James Alexander, Ryan Olisar, Dominik Nitsche and Bonomo (stunningly) all will be sitting out the action on Sunday but get a bit of cash for their two days of work. When the players reconvene on Sunday Bolek, the only player over a million in chips, will have to fight off a host of professionals who will be looking to take him down.

1. Christopher Bolek, 1.129 million
2. Kenneth Smaron, 990,000
3. Jake Schindler, 926,000
4. Ran Ilani, 924,000
5. Shawn Buchanan, 846,000
6. Seth Davies, 812,000
7. Asi Moshe, 698,000
8. Peter Neff, 683,000
9. David Laka, 673,000
10. Patrick Truong, 655,000

Lurking on down the final 25 players is Jan Christoph von Halle, David Peters, Stephen Chidwick and Bicknell, who will have to come off the short stack (106,000) if she is to pick up her third bracelet. The plan on Sunday is for another ten levels of action on the WSOP baize, which may be enough for the champion to be determined. At stake for the players is the latest WSOP bracelet minted as well as a $537.710 batch of U. S. currency for the eventual winner to use as he (or she) pleases.

Event #21 – $1500 No Limit Hold’em “Millionaire Maker”

After seeing 3046 entries come out for Day 1A of Event #21 on Saturday, WSOP officials are hoping for a similar (and hopefully larger) outpouring of players for the second half of the “Millionaire Maker” on Sunday. The $1500 buy in tournament – which features one re-entry for each player who steps up – has long been a popular event with those who are on the lower end of the bankroll spectrum, but 2018 hasn’t been kind to these tournaments.

Earlier in this year’s WSOP schedule, the COLOSSUS – another of those special WSOP creations that was quite popular – failed to draw in the monster field that it had previously. As well pointed out by my friend and colleague Dan Katz, after its inaugural event in 2015, the field numbers dropped precipitously. That 22,374-entry field in 2015 – for the same $565 buy-in – did not continually climb as WSOP officials expected. In fact, it did the exact opposite; in 2016, the entries dropped slightly to 21,613 before dropping big time to 18,053 for last year’s event.

Whether the players have gotten bored with the tournament (or are there better options available?), 2018 may have sounded the death knell for the COLOSSUS. Only 13,071 entries – a 42% drop from only three years ago – were received for the tournament this year. While that is still a pretty big event (anything with a prize pool eclipsing $6 million can’t be sneezed at), it isn’t the “big moment” that the WSOP likes to stage.

The “Millionaire Maker” is in danger of falling prey to the same problems. The debut event in 2014 – which ensured the champion a million-dollar payday – saw 7977 entries received, then the second largest event in the history of the WSOP to only the 2006 WSOP Championship Event. In 2015, however, the “Maker” garnered 7275 entries; it went down to 7190 in 2016 before ticking up slightly last year with 7761 entries. While it is possible that there could be 4500 entries in the crowd at the Rio in Las Vegas on Sunday, there could be issues with these “made for the WSOP” events and whether they are what players want to take part in.

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