One of the biggest days of the World Series of Poker Championship Event is when the money bubble pops. That occurred on Saturday at the 2018 version of the $10,000 spectacle, with the 1182 players determined that will pocket at least a $15,000 payday for their efforts in poker’s greatest event.

Event #65 – $10,000 No Limit Hold’em World Championship – “The Main Event”

Saturday marked the first time in this year’s Main Event that the entirety of the field was together, albeit not in the same room. After three Day Ones and two-Day Twos, Day Three brought together the 2786 players who had come through the carnage of the earlier action. Leading the way was Ignacio Sanchez with the massive 627,200 chips he amassed during Day 2B. Sanchez held slightly more than a 75K chip lead over the Day 2B runner-up Eric Sfez (551,900) while Day 2A chip leader Shawn Daniels (532,500) rounded out the Top Three.

There was a flurry of busts to begin the day, with players looking for that “double up or go home” hand to take to battle. That flurry brought about the departures of top pros like Jason Mercier, Matt Berkey, former “November Niner” J. C. Tran, Eli Elezra, Erick Lindgren, Tom Marchese and Steffen Sontheimer. It was the departure of one player who caught the attention of the crowd, however.

After Friday’s play, Phil Hellmuth was the focal point of derision among the poker community. Allegedly a player got under the former World Champion’s skin and, in usual “Poker Brat” manner, Hellmuth blew up at the table. Hellmuth admitted later that if the floor manager would have given him a penalty, “it would have been acceptable.” Thus, when he busted out on Saturday, there were those on both sides of the aisle (pro- versus anti-Hellmuth) either cheering or bemoaning his departure.

After a raise from Steve Billirakis, Jans Arends three bet to 19K as the action came to Hellmuth in the blinds. Hellmuth four-bet the action up to 50K, leaving himself a singular 500 chip in the rear and getting Billirakis out of the action. Arends, however, had no intentions of letting Hellmuth rearm himself with chips and put out the extra chips to put the 1989 World Champion all in. After Hellmuth called, the cards were flipped and the battle was on.

Hellmuth’s off suit Big Slick was a solid favorite against the A 9 of Arends, and everything started well. The 8-6-4 two-spade flop didn’t give Arends anything to add outs and the trey on the turn eliminated the potential for a straight. Looking for one of the three nines left in the deck, Arends got the 9 to come on the river to pull the rug out from under Hellmuth. Instead of a blowup, fans were treated to a chastised Hellmuth that quietly shook hands with his tablemates and departed the ESPN feature table.

After that drama, about the only thing left was whether the field would pop the money bubble before the end of the five levels of play for the day. At the start of the day, WSOP officials informed the players that, if the money bubble was within reach, that there would be an attempt to play it out, even if they exceeded the five levels of play. As the clock approached midnight – and, perhaps more importantly, the end of the fifth level of action for the day – hand-for-hand play was in action two players from the money.

Upon reaching the end of the level, players were told to take a break as the staff colored up the lower denomination chips to speed the bagging process and that the play would continue until the bubble popped. Sam Taylor was the first to go after Chi Chan caught a boat with his A-3 over Taylor’s A-9 to bring the field to the stone bubble and, 30 minutes later, the day would be completed.

On that final hand of the day, Bryce McVay pushed out a bet and Matthew Hopkins moved all in, which McVay called. McVay’s A-Q was dominating Hopkins’ A-5 and no five would come to the rescue, sending Hopkins home in 1183rd place ($0, although he’ll receive a seat into the 2019 WSOP Championship Event) and sending the rest of the field into the night with the satisfaction of being “in the money” in poker’s greatest event.

1. In Sun Geoum, 1.696 million
2. Frank Flowers, 1.642 million
3. Samuel Bernabeu, 1.418 million
4. Michael Lavenburg, 1.356 million
5. Julius Malzanini, 1.292 million
6. Eric Froelich, 1.235 million
7. Farukh Tach, 1.224 million
8. Eric Hicks, 1.2 million
9. Adam Geyer, 1.191 million
10. Anthony Marsico, 1.164 million

Lurking under the Top Ten are such names as Day 1C chip leader Samuel Touil (1.013 million), Chris Moorman (969,000), Dan Heimiller (945,000), David ‘Chino’ Rheem (904,000), none other than the “other” Phil, Phil Ivey (827,000) and 2015 “Last Woman Standing” Kelly Minkin (795,000).

Now that the players are in the money and every person is guaranteed $15,000, the real work begins. Another five levels are scheduled for Sunday beginning at 11AM (Pacific Time), with ESPN broadcasting the action from the start at 2PM (Eastern Time) and the streaming PokerGO taking up the coverage at 6PM (Eastern Time). By the end of Sunday, the field should be down to around 200 players as the drive to become poker’s next World Champion continues onward.

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