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Kenny Hallaert bags the lead after WSOP Day 3

15 July 2016

Valentin Vornicu held the chiplead for the first part of the day.

Valentin Vornicu held the chiplead for the first part of the day.

LAS VEGAS -- From a starting field of 6,737 players, just about 800 remain as Day 3 concludes. Belgian pro Kenny Hallaert will carry the chiplead into Day 4, bagging up the big stack of 1,709,000 at the end of the night. Jared Bleznick (1,607,000), Duy Ho (1,480,000), Kilian Kramer (1,400,000), and Mark Zullo (1,390,000) round out the overnight top five. Antonio Esfandiari, tournament poker's third-winningest player, bagged up 1,381,000. That's good enough for seventh place entering tomorrow's action.

Day 3 began with 2,186 players still in contention, and that number thinned out very quickly over the course of the opening levels. There were just over 1,800 left after the first break, and barely 1,500 two hours later. Things finally slowed a bit as the money bubble began to appear on the horizon, and the dinner break arrived with 1,393 players remaining.

Valentin Vornicu entered the day with a significant chiplead, but the pack chased him down within the first level. Tom Middleton climbed close to seven figures after winning a big pot with pocket aces, and he eked over that milestone and into the overall chiplead before the first break. He and Vornicu would trade places atop the leaderboard for the next several hours.

The second level was the Phil Hellmuth level. The 14-time bracelet winner was less than pleased with his leaky stack and the play of his tablemates, a fact he made clear on several occasions. He did manage to find a crucial double-up in between tirades, but he was eliminated by WSOP Circuit ring winner Sara Hall just after the following break.

Hellmuth wasn't the only former Main Event champion who had their hopes of a second banner dashed today. Just after the dinner break, reigning champion Joe McKeehen had his pocket aces cracked by Anthony Zinno, leaving him with about 25 big blinds. Oddly enough, it was pocket aces that finished off McKeehen's stack, though they weren't his. McKeehen took his stand with pocket tens against Dave Farah's aces to no avail. Despite flopping a straight flush draw, the champ could not catch up, and his elimination means Johnny Chan's back-to-back Main Event titles are still safe from being duplicated.

Other bracelet winners players who were eliminated without a payout include David Chiu, Adrian Mateos, David Benyamine, Vanessa Selbst, David Williams, Scott Seiver, Ted Forrest, Bertrand Grospellier, Tony Dunst, and Brandon Shack-Harris, along with five-time ring winner Vincent Moscati. Michael Mizrachi, who began the day ninth in chips, could not parlay his big stack into a payout, exiting just a few spots shy of the money. Also dropping out today were award-winning actor Ray Romano, Survivor contestant Garrett Adelstein, former television writer turned poker pro Matt Salsberg, and Norwegian footballer John Riise.

Speaking of the aforementioned Johnny Chan, he did manage to bag up a stack this evening, ending the day with 588,000 chips. Chan is still in contention to become the only three-time champion of this event. Greg Raymer, the 2004 champion, will return for Day 4 with 732,000 chips. Ryan Riess (below, 270,000) and Tom McEvoy (202,000) round out the list of former Main Event champions who are still alive in this one, though they'll have an uphill climb ahead of them when play resumes. The two of them exchanged pleasantries as the field was bagging up, and Riess did his best to console a downtrodden McEvoy. "Let's win this again," he said.

The highlight of the long day was the bursting of the money bubble, and it came and went mostly without incident. Right around midnight, the announcement was made for the dealers to hold the action following their current hand. The goal was to prepare for hand-for-hand play, but there ended up being no need. Adam Furgatch was down to just 6,000 chips at that point, and he stuck it in with queen-nine. Big stack George Zisimopoulos put him at risk with ace-seven, and a board full of blanks ended Furgatch's run as the bubble boy. His 1,012th place finish didn't earn him any money, but it did earn him a free seat into next year's Main Event and a huge ovation from the appreciative Amazon Room.

The final 1,011 players were all guaranteed a payout of at least $15,000, and dozens of them quickly hit the rail. Hundreds of them, by the time play concluded. Scott Clements, Jake Schindler, Noah Schwartz, Alex Kravchenko, Shannon Shorr, Keven Stammen, Kitty Kuo, and seven-time WSOP Circuit winner Cory Waaland were all eliminated with a small profit to show for the week's work.

While Vornicu and Middleton owned the first part of the day, a few others began to take control as the day wore on. Hallaert built himself a big stack over the day's middle stages, as did Shaun Deeb, Melanie Weisner, Marc-Andre Ladouceur, and Kilian Kramer. Each of them had their name at or near the top of the counts at one point, but Hallaert edged them all at the finish line. The battle atop the leaderboard will likely continue in earnest tomorrow.

Apart from the ever-dangerous Esfandiari, some of those worth keeping an eye on tomorrow include Steve O'Dwyer (1,172,000), Ray Dehkharghani (1,184,000), Tom Marchese (1,135,000), Antonie Saout (1,111,000), Ivan Luca (659,000), Andrew Lichtenberger (598,000), reigning WSOP Player of the Year Mike Gorodinsky (483,000), and Jason Somerville (above, 431,000) to name just a few. Vornicu is an eight-time Circuit winner still seeking his first bracelet, and he'll begin Day 4 with 899,000 chips, about twice the average stack.

The final 800 players will be back on Friday at noon to write the next chapter in the story of this 2016 Main Event.

(Article courtesy of World Series of Poker)

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