It's officially day three of the WSOP Europe and there are 84 players remaining in the battle for the bracelet. Oh, and of course the £1,000,000 first prize.
The day starts with a quick exit from Phil Hellmuth. He pushes his greatly diminished chip stack into the middle and gets up out of his seat. "Fire up the limo. Fire up the G4," he shouts across the room. To his left Matthew McCullough is thinking. He is slow-playing as it turns out. Phil perches on his seat and says: "Oh you never know, I might just win this. I could sit down." The other guy calls and flips over QsQd. Phil is behind with 8s8d.
Hellmuth's opponent gets out of his seat too. "Sit down, sit down," Phil says laughing. "You are a 4/1 favourite and you have me covered. You are not going anywhere!" The guy hesitates and we see the flop. The turn and the river are no help to Phil. He leaves the table in surprising good grace for a man known for his tantrums and shakes each player by the hand before doing some interviews.
I am not sure what happened to the limo. But I do hear him say later that he is going to be flying home the following morning at 11am. "I may have lost the game but at least I will get to spend some extra time with the wife and kids - although I am tempted to stay until next week. I hear there is a million dollar cash game which goes on 24 hours. It sounds like fun."
Online GNUF freeroll qualifier Matthew Carter finds himself on a particularly tough table against chip-leaders Patrik Antonius and Gus Hansen, and Daniel Negreanu to his immediate left. He returns to the table after the first break of the day and goes all-in on AK. He is called by Antonius who is holding 88 - a hand proving to be making and breaking fortunes today. Carter hits an ace on the flop and is about to double up when Antonius gets the luck of the devil and hits an 8 on the river. It is back to the mouse-mat for Matthew.
Chip leaders Gus and Patrik are getting most of the attention today as they play at the feature table in the TV room. At one point the two lock-horns over a board showing 2-A-Q-Q and Gus goes into the tank so long he has the clock called on him. He doesn't react, is eventually timed out and his cards are mucked. This prompts the start of continual mutterings into a dictaphone as Hansen frequently walks away from the table to record - one guesses - his thoughts and observations.
By there are five tables left. Jennifer Harman has barely a handful of chips left and gets up to go over to hubby Marco Traniello - who is doing better - for a hug. Unfortunately for her, that doesn't help. A short while later she is knocked out by dimple-chinned Annette 'Annette_15' Obrestad's pocket kings.
Poker stars Tony G, Daniel Negreanu and Joe Beevers have all busted out too by this stage. Now it is just a question of who goes out on the bubble and who makes it into the prize-money. One thing that is certain is whoever does go out in is going to be smarting. I mean missing on winning £27,150 after coming that far has got to hurt.
And it looks like it's bubble trouble for Jeff Buffenbarger who is out in 37th place. The remaining players are all in the money.
At dinner late on Friday (OK, it seems late if you've been here for the best part of 10 days), I caught up with Gus Hansen for a quick heads-up:
Hi Gus, how is the tournament going so far?
Well it's like a super-tough table. I have more than I started with, but I am not comfortable with Patrik on my left-hand side. He plays a lot of hands and you don't know exactly what he has so it's a really, really tough table. But I mean I guess I am still in, so I am doing ok.
How many chips do you have left?
I have 408,000. Patrik has just around 400,000. It would be nice to stay out of his way but we both play a lot of hands and so we are bound to play a couple of pots.
What would winning this event mean to you?
Well obviously the money is nice, everything is nice - it's always nice to win a tournament. I mean, so far I think I have been playing pretty decent throughout, so if I can continue like that I have a good shot at it. But I haven't got that far really. I have to take it one step at a time.
Apart from Patrik, what players do you fear the most, if anyone?
Right now he is my main competitor. Every time I raise, he is liable to call or re-raise, so first of all I am always eyeing him. If he folds then I can start worrying about the rest of the crew. But it's a tough table, there are a lot of good players there.
What is your strategy for after the break?
[To get] some good hands. That's my strategy for now and then we'll see what happens.
I await with baited breath Mr Hansen.
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