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Best of Dan Podheiser

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Varnell continues hot streak to finish Day 2C among chip leaders

10 July 2015

LAS VEGAS – Craig Varnell is on the heater of a lifetime.

On July 4, the Colorado-based poker pro finished third in the $1,000 WSOP.com Online No-Limit Hold’em event, winning $73,079. Three days later, Varnell took to the Strip and continued to run good, besting a record WPT field of 5,113 entries to win the WPT500 Aria and $330,000.

On Thursday night back at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, Varnell continued his torrid pace, ending Day 2C of the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event with 274,200 chips.

Fresh off two of the biggest scores of his career, Craig Varnell finished Day 2B as one of the chip leaders of the 2015 WSOP Main Event.

Fresh off two of the biggest scores of his career, Craig Varnell finished Day 2B as one of the chip leaders of the 2015 WSOP Main Event. (photo by Dan Podheiser/Casino City)

"I’ve been staying focused, and pretty much just being relentless and playing my game," Varnell told Casino City at the end of play Thursday night. "I’m taking the things I’ve learned the last few months and have been implementing them into my game. People have no idea what I have – I keep everyone guessing."

Varnell had an impressive $200,000 in live tournament earnings prior to 2015, according to the Hendon Mob database, but was still a relatively small-time, unknown player. He credits his success this summer to the hard work he put in in the month leading up to the WSOP, having been coached by a few online grinders, watching "Run It Once" videos and reading various strategy articles.

Now Varnell is living every poker player's dream, and it still hasn't quite sunk in.

"There wasn’t a breath," Varnell said regarding the time between the WPT500 and the WSOP Main Event. "I just had to keep it going. It’s been a grind all summer; it’s been 40 days that I’ve been here. And now I’m going to Day 3 of this, and it’s 12 hours a day. But it’s something I love to do."

And now that Varnell's bankroll has been given a substantial boost, he's able to play with extra aggression, knowing that he can afford to take some risks.

"I’ve never played scared money, even when I didn’t have a lot of money," Varnell said. "But it definitely makes it a lot easier to make moves. My confidence is soaring right now; I’ve never been so confident in my game."

David Jackson bagged 408,800 chips to finish as the Day 2C chip leader, but is still roughly 200,000 chips behind Amar Anand, who finished Day 2AB with 603,500. Rounding out the top five chip stacks on Thursday are Zach Jiganti (401,900), Shawn Van Alsade (388,000), Louis Salter (344,400) and Hugo Perez (345,300).

Justin Schwartz (aka stealthmunk) soared to the top of the leaderboard Thursday night thanks to a few big all-ins.

Justin Schwartz (aka stealthmunk) soared to the top of the leaderboard Thursday night thanks to a few big all-ins. (photo by Dan Podheiser/Casino City)

Justin Schwartz, a poker pro known online as "stealthmunk," made a big push towards the top of the chip counts Friday thanks to a few key all-ins. His pocket aces defeated an opponent’s ace-king preflop for a pot of 126,000. And shortly before the final break of the night, Casino City caught up to Schwartz’s table while he was involved in a big pot.

With the board reading Td-8h-4d-Jd, Schwartz bet 36,500 from the button after his opponent had checked. The opponent thought for a minute but eventually called. The ace of diamonds fell on the river, making four to a flush on the board. The opponent immediately pushed all-in, and Schwartz called quickly and tabled king-nine of diamonds for the nut flush. His opponent showed pocket 10s, a flopped set turned into a bluff on the river.

"I don’t know what that guy was thinking," Schwartz’s friend on the rail said.

Four past Main Event champions thrived on Day 2C, including 2013 winner Ryan Riess, who bagged 291,700 chips. Phil Hellmuth (88,800), Scotty Nguyen (181,200) and Joe Hachem (148,500) are also still in contention for their second Main Event title. Meanwhile, four past Main Event champions busted the Main Event on Thursday, as Jamie Gold (2006), Huck Seed (1996), Peter Eastgate (2008) and Robert Varkonyi (2002) all hit the rails.

Perhaps the most notable bustout of the day belonged to Ronnie Bardah, who will not extend his record of consecutive Main Event cashes to six. Bardah busted early on Thursday afternoon.

Day 2C began with 2,765 players and ended with 1,146 (approximately) remaining. Those players will join the surviving field of 654 players from Day 2AB to play Day 3 on Friday. The Main Event will pay the top 1,000 players this year instead of the top 10 percent of the field. In 2014, the money bubble burst on Day 4, but that trend could potentially change Friday evening. Every player that min-cashes will earn $15,000, while first place will win $7,680,021.

NOTABLE CHIP COUNTS (Via WSOP.com as of 2 a.m. PST)

Matt Glantz -- 306,000
Matt Jarvis -- 304,400
Ryan Riess -- 291,700
Daniel Alaei -- 199,800
Scotty Nguyen -- 181,200
Joe Hachem -- 148,500
Daniel Negreanu -- 123,600
JC Tran -- 113,700
Byron Kaverman 108,500
Phil Hellmuth -- 88,800

NOTABLE ELIMINATIONS

Ray Romano
Jamie Gold
Phil Collins
Jason Somerville
Sam Trickett
Russell Thomas
Mike McDonald
Robert Varkonyi
Connor Drinan
Peter Eastgate
Kevin Mathers
Ronnie Bardah
Phil Ivey
Huck Seed
Barry Greenstein
Michael Mizrachi
Varnell continues hot streak to finish Day 2C among chip leaders is republished from CasinoVendors.com.
Dan Podheiser

Dan Podheiser has covered the gambling industry since 2013, but he has been an avid poker player for more than a decade, starting when he was just 14 years old. When he turned 18, he played online poker regularly on U.S.-friendly sites until Black Friday in April 2011.

Since graduating from Emerson College with a degree in journalism in 2010, Dan has worked as the sports editor for a chain of newspapers in Northwest Connecticut and served a year as an Americorps*VISTA, writing and researching grant proposals for a Boston-based charity.

Originally from South Jersey, where he still visits occasionally to see his family (and play on the state's regulated online poker sites), Dan lives in Brighton, Mass. with his wife and dog.
Dan Podheiser
Dan Podheiser has covered the gambling industry since 2013, but he has been an avid poker player for more than a decade, starting when he was just 14 years old. When he turned 18, he played online poker regularly on U.S.-friendly sites until Black Friday in April 2011.

Since graduating from Emerson College with a degree in journalism in 2010, Dan has worked as the sports editor for a chain of newspapers in Northwest Connecticut and served a year as an Americorps*VISTA, writing and researching grant proposals for a Boston-based charity.

Originally from South Jersey, where he still visits occasionally to see his family (and play on the state's regulated online poker sites), Dan lives in Brighton, Mass. with his wife and dog.