The penultimate day of the $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship at the 2019 World Series of Poker has arrived. After four days of play among 74 of the greatest poker players in the world, the final table will feature longtime pro Josh Arieh and a tightly packed bunch of competitors. One of those competitors, alas, will not be Phil Ivey, who came up short after an outstanding run that saw him lead for two of four days of action.
Money for Everyone
The 12 men who came back on Thursday were guaranteed a min-cash from the tournament – $72,078, for the record – but nobody was interested in that pittance. Ivey was in the lead for the second day in a row with his 4.XXX million stack, pursued by the reigning WSOP Player of the Year Shaun Deeb (2.45 million) Bryce Yockey (2.386 million) and David Oppenheim (2.108 million). On the other end of the spectrum, Andrew Brown (210K), Dan Cates (319K) and Chris Vitch (623K) all had their work cut out for them if they were to make it deeper in the event.
Brown would stage a mini-rally, but would be shut down by Dario Sammartino to be the first elimination of the day in 12th place. Talal Shakerchi was the next man out after getting into a battle with both Ivey and John Esposito in Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo. By the time the cards were dealt, Ivey missed a low draw, Esposito hit an Ace-high flush and Shakerchi’s cards went to the muck.
Things didn’t get better for Ivey after that hand. He was chopped up by Deeb and Cates and, after only a couple of hours, saw himself in a dogfight with literally his entire table of Deeb (tied with 2.7 million chips), Cates (2.6 million), and Esposito (2.5 million). Meanwhile, Arieh was rocketing ahead as, in an Omaha Hold’em Hi/Lo session, he took chips (along with Vitch) from Yockey (2.9 million).
Arieh Dominates on Way to Final Table
Arieh would stay in command all the way to the determination of the final table. He knocked off Vitch in 10th place in Razz, starting with (A-3) 2 and not pairing to Vitch’s Jacks up (remember, in Razz it is the WORST hand that wins). He then picked off a bluff from Sammartino to climb over the five million chip mark and put lots of space between him and the pack.
After Oppenheim knocked off Sammartino in eighth place in Deuce to Seven Triple Draw, the final eight were looking at a short day. With only two eliminations to go to set up Friday’s action, the players locked in for the fight. That fight would take nearly four hours and featured some outstanding play from the remaining men.
Ivey was the first to go, running his King-eight into John Esposito’s K-7 that Esposito made on Seventh Street. As he ended his run for his eleventh bracelet in eighth place, the remaining men convened on one table to take it to the final six. It would take two hours alone to determine the seventh-place finisher and, when it came, it was in dramatic fashion.
After Oppenheim limped in from the hijack in Omaha Hi/Lo, Esposito raised the action from the cutoff and Yockey called the bet, as did Oppenheim. A 3-J-10 flop brought a bet out of Yockey and a raise from Oppenheim, but Esposito was undaunted. He powered in a third bet and Yockey called, but Oppenheim wasn’t sitting back either as he pushed out four bets and got calls. A nine saw the chips flying again, with Oppenheim eventually all in as the trio prepared for the river.
A five on the river didn’t seem to do anything, but Esposito and Yockey put in three bets each, which had to make Oppenheim sick (with so much action, did he have anything to beat them?). After their squabble ended with a final bet, Yockey tabled a K-Q-10-4 for a turned King-high straight. Esposito had the same hand, albeit with an A-K-Q-J, and all Oppenheim could give was an A-Q-J-10 for a flopped two pair and missed straight draw to exit the tournament in seventh place and set the action for Friday.
1. Josh Arieh, 6.22 million
2. Bryce Yockey, 4.465 million
3. Phillip Hui, 4.135 million
4. John Esposito, 3.63 million
5. Shaun Deeb, 2.485 million
6. Dan Cates, 1.26 million
The final table is shaping up to be a highly entertaining event. Arieh is on top of his game this week, seemingly making zero mistakes as he wended his way to the final table. Yockey and Hui are experienced high stakes players, but the fan favorite seems to Esposito. The poker veteran is looking for his second WSOP bracelet (won in 1999 in Limit Hold’em) and seems to have the backing of the poker community. Both Deeb and Cates can’t be counted out either, but they’re going to have to get busy early to get back in the mix.
The final table will come back together this afternoon in the Rio to crown the latest champion of what is considered the toughest challenge in poker. At stake for the remaining six are the WSOP bracelet, the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy and $1,099,311 first place prize.