Instead of letting the pack catch up to him on Day 3 of the 2017 PokerStars Championship Prague Main Event, Paul Michaelis instead extended his lead. When the 49 players come back for Day 4 on Saturday, Michaelis’ name will be atop the leaderboard with 1.27 million in chips.

140 players came back on Friday with dreams of the latest PokerStars Championship trophy still in their heads, but the start of the day would be cruel. With only 127 players earning a cash from the tournament, there would be 13 unfortunate souls that wouldn’t earn anything from their trip to the Czech Republic except a memory. With this thought in mind, the field headed off on a planned five, 90-minute level day of action.

PokerStars Team Pro Fatima Moreira de Melo had arguably one of the more interesting days on the felt and it started virtually from the first hand of the day. After Martin Staszko opened the action and de Melo three-bet him, Michael Koran decided to make his stand. After Staszko ducked out of the way, de Melo called Koran’s all in and it initially appeared that there would be little drama. Both players had Big Slick, but de Melo’s was A♣ K♣, which became important when the flop came J♣ 7♣ 5♣. Koran went from chopping to out of the tournament as de Melo improved to 525K.

It only took about 30 minutes to reach hand-for-hand play, but it would take three times that to actually pop the money bubble. With two shorties behind him, Thomas Mercier put in enough chips to cover both from the button and only Mihai Manole decided to look him up. Mercier had the goods, however, as his A-J off suit was in the lead against Manole’s A-4. The K-Q-K flop opened up some chop opportunities and the five on the turn added to them, but the ten on the river only improved Mercier to an unnecessary Broadway straight. Fortunately for Manole, he was eliminated while Andrzej Siemieniak was getting knocked off by Konstantin Farber, meaning that Siemieniak and Manole shared the min-cash of €8700 (hey, €4350 is better than zero).

After the money bubble popped, the cash out cage became one of the most popular spots at the Casino Atrium Prague. It seemed that de Melo was responsible for most of those players heading to cash out as, on two different occasions, de Melo came out on the right side of an all-in situation and knocked out three players between the two situations. Through those two double knockouts, de Melo has remained in contention in the tournament.

The first time around, de Melo was on an A-K and got Arnaud Enselme and Aleksandr Mordvinov to commit with pocket Queens and pocket nines, respectively. While she was covering Enselme, she was running behind in chips to Mordvinov, which made the Ace on the 6-4-A flop fortuitous for the PokerStars Team Pro. Looking to dodge a nine or a Queen, the turn five and the river deuce didn’t change anything as de Melo tripled up, Mordvinov was cut down to 372K and Enselme was out the door.

The second time de Melo double dipped, it took down two pros. After James Akenhead pushed all in and Martin Staszko responded with his own all in “over the top” of Akenhead, de Melo could have quietly walked away. Instead, she called both bets and tabled pocket Queens for battle against Akenhead’s Big Chick (A-Q) and Staszko’s A-10. Nothing hit until the ten on the river, way too little, too late as de Melo took the double knockout to move close to a million in chips.

While de Melo was charging up the leaderboard and finished the day in excellent shape with 723,000 in chips (good for 11th place), it was Michaelis who quietly expanded his lead. He would reach over 1.5 million in chips at one point and, although he had a couple of missteps late in the night, he still was only one of two players to have more than a million chips when the close of action for Friday came:

1. Paul Michaelis, 1.27 million
2. Michal Mrakes, 1.032 million
3. Jason Wheeler, 931,000
4. Navot Golan, 888,000
5. Anatolii Zyrin, 825,000
6. Serhil Popvych, 812,000
7. Gavin O’Rourke, 803,000
8. Assaf Ben Yosef, 793,000
9. Alex Foxen, 761,000
10. Daniel Barriocanal, 740,000

Action is set to resume at noon Saturday in Prague (6AM Eastern Time) and is set to have five more 90-minute levels of play. That could change if there is a mass rush for the door from the 49 players that are left. With €775,000 going to the eventual champion in the PokerStars Championship Prague, the remaining players won’t be in any hurry to depart the proceedings.

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