We have entered the most exciting time on the poker calendar! The World Series of Poker begins next week, but before that, the sixteenth season of the World Poker Tour will draw to a close. The WPT Tournament of Champions begins in a couple days and right now, the final open event of the season – the $10,000 WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic – is taking place at the ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. After just two days, only 20 players remain from the original 162 entries with Jonathan Little – no stranger to these situations – holding 763,000 and the chip lead.

Little is in position to become just the sixth person to win three World Poker Tour titles, looking to join Darren Elias, Gus Hansen, Carlos Mortensen, Chino Rheem, and Anthony Zinno. Elias himself is still in the tournament, though near the bottom of the chip counts, so he has a chance to be the first to win four. It’s been a while for Little – he previously won the 2007 WPT Mirage Poker Showdown and the 2008 WPT World Poker Finals.

He has earned $6.7 million on the live tournament circuit in his career, according to TheHendonMob.com, and has another $1 million in recorded online tournament cashes.

As my colleague Earl Burton mentioned the other day, the WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic is a bit of a throwback event on the Tour, as it goes back to the $10,000 buy-in that used to be the norm and there were no re-entries or additional starting flights. Just a good, old high buy-in freezeout.

As one might expect in a $10,000 tournament (except for the WSOP Main Event), the remaining field is littered with top players. In second place is Stephen Chidwick, about 200,000 behind Little. Also set to play on Day 3 are such names as Sam Panzica, Bryan Piccioli, Joe McKeehen, Phil Hellmuth, and the aforementioned Elias.

Little surged to his lofty chip position in large part because of a couple big hands near the end of the night. With 23 players left, he and Andrew Lichtenberger got involved in a hand which saw Little raise pre-flop, Lichtenberger re-raise to 23,000, and Little call. It went check (Little), bet, raise, and call on the 4-3-T turn. When a 9 was dealt on the turn, Little shoved and Lichtenberger – who was covered – called for 143,000 chips. Little had him, holding pocket Tens versus Lichtenberger’s pocket Nines. The river bricked and Lichtenberger was out of the tournament while Little grew his stack to 620,000.

A few hands later, Tim Reilly bet pre-flop and Little called to see a flop of J-J-7, two clubs. Reilly bet 5,000, Little raised to 18,000 and Reilly called. On the turn 8, Reilly slowed down and checked, but then called when Little bet 45,000. The river was a K, which made a diamond flush possible, and Reilly once again check-called, this time for 110,000 chips. Little revealed 9-T of clubs for a straight and Reilly mucked. Little was up to 760,000 chips, just about where he ended the night.

World Poker Tour Bobby Baldwin Classic – Day 2 Chip Leaders

1. Jonathan Little – 763,000
2. Stephen Chidwick – 576,500
3. Sam Panzica – 411,500
4. Bryan Piccioli – 395,000
5. Joe McKeehen – 332,500
6. Kevin Eyster – 259,000
7. John Krpan – 230,000
8. Ralph Perry – 226,000
9. Dietrich Fast – 225,000
10. Rex Clinkscales – 222,000

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