Writer's Note: Chip counts and details are unofficial at the time of this writing. As this report is being posted, actual chip counts and rankings are being compiled and will be posted by approximately 3 am PST.
About 770 survivors have moved one day closer to being in a position to win the 2016 world poker championship.
WSOP Main Event Day 2AB came to a rousing close at about 1:20 am on a early Wednesday morning at the Rio in Las Vegas. There were 1,847 players who started this day with high hopes of fortune and fame to go along with a gold and diamond bracelet. Now however, less than half of those who started this day remain in contention.
When the chips were bagged up at the end of the second playing session in the$10,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament, one familiar name and face was perched atop the leader board.
Valentin Vornicu, a mathematician by education and semi-professional poker player by trade, enjoyed an astounding day on the green felt. He concluded his red-hot session with about 800,000 in chips. By comparison, Chad Power, who finished his session as the second-ranked player in chips, bagged up 600,000 in his stack. The player average was somewhere around 120,000 in chips, slightly more than double the starting stack from two days ago, which provided each entrant with 50,000 in chips.
The chip leader Vornicu is no stranger to making deep runs in WSOP-related tournaments. In fact, this is familiar territory. He’s one of the most successful players of all time on the WSOP Circuit, which just ended its 11th season, which is the year-round poker series which tours the other ten months of the year when the WSOP isn’t taking place in Las Vegas. Vornicu, who is of Romanian heritage and now resides in San Diego, has quite impressively won eight gold rings on the WSOP Circuit. He’s also cashed 37 times. However, Vornicu is admittedly in somewhat new territory here and now, as the chip leader in the biggest and most anticipated poker event of the year. He’s about to step into a glaring spotlight. It remains to be seen if he either melts or shines.
Attendance was up significantly this year over last year for the WSOP Main Event Championship. This year’s competition drew 6,737 entrants, which was the highest level of participation in five years. Due to the huge turnout, three starting days were scheduled and have all now been completed. The first two flights 1A and 1B combined on this day (Tuesday) into the grouping known as 2AB, which ended with Vornicu leading the pack of roughly 770 survivors.
That said, quite a few other poker players of note were not so fortunate. Among the best-known players to see their 2016 Main Event Championship hopes and dreams come to an end were Chris Ferguson, the 2000 world champion. After a five-year absence from the WSOP (and the poker scene), Ferguson returned and enjoyed some favorable results at this year's series. However, he exited during the middle of the afternoon, never accumulating beyond 100,000 in chips. Also eliminated on Day 2AB was Dewey Tomko, who was short-stacked throughout the tournament. He finished second in the Main Event twice and is a member of the Poker Hall of Fame.
Others notables who were eliminated included – Gary Benson, David Sands, Jesse Sylvia, Dominik Nitsche, Steve Gee, Jeffrey Lisandro, Chris Bjorin, Larry Wright, Victor Ramdin, Frank Kassela, Mike Matusow, Barny Boatman, Daniel Idema, Max Pescatori, Howard Lederer, Jeff Shulman, Matt Brady, Neil Blumenfield, Steve Zolotow, Jason DeWitt, John Monnette, Faraz Jaka, Phil Galfond, Danielle Anderson, Todd Witteles, Terrence Chan, Justin Young, and many others.
As for the players who are still very much alive in the Main Event, the short list of former champions includes Tom McEvoy, Johnny Chan, and Greg “Fossilman” Raymer.
The current leader board (top 100) includes – Valentin Vornicu (1st) followed by Gaelle Bauman (10th in the 2012 Main Event), Marc Andre Ladouceur (a top Canadian pro), Michael Banducci (gold bracelet winner), Scott Montgomery (gold bracelet winner and fifth-place finisher in 2008 Main Event), Prahlad Friedman (gold bracelet winner), Maria Ho (poker ambassador and former last woman standing in Main Event), Gerry Gates (former poker writer and executive), Jennifer Shahade (two time U.S. chess champion, Bertrand Grospellier (gold bracelet winner and video game icon), and Michael Gathy (three-time gold bracelet winner who picked up his third win at this year's series).
Other notables who are still in this year’s championship beyond the top ranked players include -- Chris Klodnicki, Matt Matros, Lee Markholt, Thi Nguyen, Ant Zinno, Michael Moore, Barry Shulman, Shannon Shorr, Michael Binger, and many others.
The next step towards determining this year’s elite group of finalists, otherwise known as the “November Nine” will be Wednesday’s playing session. Day 2C commences at 12 noon and will play 10 hours and 30 minutes of poker, plus regular breaks. Those survivors will assemble back the Rio again on Thursday when both fields (2AB and 2C) will be combined into one very happy and excited group of poker players. That also means that for the first time, the eventual winner will be someone positioned inside the Rio competing for the chance to become not just a whopping $8,000,000 richer, but also join poker’s extraordinary legacy to be enshrined forever as the world champion.
Play resumes for Day 2C at 11 am Wednesday.
These (Day 2AB) survivors won’t play another hand until Thursday, at 12 noon.
With about 770 survivors coming back on Day 3, and about 3,000 returning for Day 2C, that leaves approximately 3,770 players still alive in the world championship.
This year; a record 1,011 will make the money. That critical moment is expected to occur sometime early on Day Four, which is to be played on Friday.
Note: For a more comprehensive look at the highlights from Day 2AB, please click here to see the LIVE REPORTING logs.