Six more levels are in the books at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, and it is shaping up to be one of the best events of 2021 for the World Poker Tour. The WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic is in full swing, shattering the money bubble on Friday in driving down to the final 29 competitors. Gianluca Speranza will be the man in the driver’s seat on Saturday, holding the chip lead as the survivors play down to the WPT six-handed final table today.

Disappointed Players Leave Empty Handed

106 players came to the felt on Friday and it was certain that some of those participants were going to leave disappointed. 90 players would take cash from the nearly $7 million prize pool, which meant 16 players would be leaving the Bellagio with nothing to show for their efforts. With that said, the battle to see who would reach the money was quite entertaining.

It would take three hours for those 16 unfortunate players to be determined. Sergi Reixach was the first to go, getting his short stack to the center with K-10 only to find he was dominated by Yuri Ishida’s Big Slick. Others who would be knocked off during this run included Dylan Wilkerson and Viet Vo.

It was more fun, however, to watch those get that key double up to stick around in the event. Down close to the money bubble, veteran pro Ralph Perry would get his final chips in on the very first hand of hand-for-hand play, with Glenn LaFaye looking him up. Perry’s A-K was crushing LaFaye’s A-9 and the ten-high board did not help either man. It was enough, however, to keep Perry in the tournament and make it into the money.

The reason for this was, five hands later, the money bubble popped. Uri Reichenstein moved all in responding to Taylor Black’s raise and Black made the call. It was the classic race situation, Reichenstein’s pocket deuces racing against Black’s A-Q, but the race was completed quickly. The window of the flop brought an Ace to put Black in the lead and the Queen on the turn gave him two pair. Looking for one of two deuces remaining in the deck, Reichenstein instead saw a ten to end his tournament in 91st place ($0) and send the remaining field into the money.

Defending Champion Falls After Money Bubble Popped

After Reichenstein’s departure, the cash out cage became a popular place, at least for those who struggled into the money. The defending champion (from 2019) of the event, Alex Foxen, eked into the money with a 90th place finish for the min-cash ($18,110), followed by Nate Silver (89th), Jeremy Ausmus (88th), and James Calderaro (82nd, the recipient of a bad beat from Mohsin Charania). After a pay jump to $19,385, Felipe Ramos (76th) departed and, following the dinner break, WPT Mike Sexton Champions’ Club member Darren Elias departed with his $21,045 for his 65th place finish.

Black would use that knockout on the money bubble to power his game forward. He was in the top five in chip counts at dinnertime and, following the sustenance, was responsible for the knockout of Elias to take over the chip lead with 1.35 million chips. But it was Speranza’s late evening run that would push him into the chip lead.

Part of that run began with a double knockout by Speranza. Speranza opened up the betting and saw Nacho Barbero three bet all in from the small blind and Maxi Lehmanski power in a four-bet all-in from the big. Speranza took a brief moment to ponder the situation and decided to take the shot, making the call and putting both Barbero and Lehmanski at risk of elimination.

As it turned out, Speranza had the goods:

Speranza: pocket nines
Lehmanski: A-J
Barbero: J 10

The 3-7-3 flop did not do anything to help the trio, and the four on the turn actually left Barbero drawing very thin to just a ten and Lehmanski drawing to only a Jack or an Ace. A five came on the river, keeping Speranza in the lead with his nines and allowing him to scoop up the 1.1 million pot while Barbero and Lehmanski finished in 50th and 49th places, respectively.

Speranza was not done yet, either. He would double up through Pat Lyons in a late evening hand, his pocket Aces standing strong over Lyons’ K-J on a nine-high board, to seize the overall lead. Heading to Day Four action on Saturday, Speranza will certainly have wolves on the hunt behind him:

1. Gianluca Speranza, 2.36 million
2. Jacob Ferro, 2.32 million
3. Bryn Kenney, 2.095 million
4. Dylan Linde, 1.72 million
5. Lorenzo Lavis, 1.69 million
6. David Mock, 1.63 million
7. Pat Lyons, 1.565 million
8. Taylor Black, 1.55 million
9. Tony Wasaya, 1.41 million
10. Mohsin Charania, 1.215 million

If there is to be a repeat WPT champion from the 29 players remaining, it will be either Linde, Lyons, Charania, Brek Schutten (11th, 1.005 million), or Sam Panzica (14th, 750,000). Berkey, who started the day at the upper echelons of the leaderboard, will be fighting off the short stack (170,000), along with Aaron Massey (385,000) and Ray Quartomy (515,000).

The 29 players remaining are guaranteed a minimum of $38,890 for their efforts at the Five Diamond, but all have the final table in their sights. Just by making the six-handed final table on Sunday, a player is guaranteed a minimum payday of $261,235 (in fact, the final ten players are guaranteed six-figure payouts). But the big prize sits up top – a $1,241,430 bounty, the privilege of having your name placed on the WPT Mike Sexton Champions’ Cup, and the status of being the champion of a major WPT event.

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