Note: Chip counts and other details are unofficial at the time of this writing. As this report is posted, actual chip counts and leader board rankings are being compiled and will be posted by approximately 4 am PST.
The 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event Championship continued on Friday with the start and conclusion of Day 4.
As the previous day separated those who finished in-the-money from the also-rans, this most recent poker session divided the field even further. There were hundreds of recreational and professional players alike who were eliminated and will return to their hometowns with great stories to tell and memories about achieving a cash in poker’s world championship. Then, there’s a much smaller group of serious contenders who are now primed with the golden opportunity to perhaps rake in what amounts to life changing money and even make poker history as the new champion.
Indeed, the biggest story of the day was witnessing the field size reduced considerably from 800 dreamers who began play on Friday at noon, to eventually what has become 251 survivors who are still grinding away in the No-Limit Hold’em tournament as of 12:45 am very early on Saturday morning when the playing session officially ended after a dramatic series of events.
Bryan Piccioli, from Allegany, NY made the biggest move of the day, rising to the level of every poker player’s dream scenario – being the chip leader in the Main Event Championship. He bagged about 4 million in chips at night’s end and will return on Saturday with considerably more pressure and worldwide attention as one of the key players to watch. That said, Piccioli is no stranger to the spotlight. He won a gold bracelet three years ago at WSOP Asia Pacific, in Melbourne, Australia.
Close on Piccioli’s tail is Daniel Colman, best-known for winning more than $15 million in the 2014 Big One for One Drop tourney, which was part of one of the biggest poker rushes in history. Colman enjoyed a staggering run of success two years ago, and now appears to be heating up again at just the right time.
Other notable survivors to observe more closely include just two former world champions, including Greg “Fossilman” Raymer, who is enjoying his best run in the Main Event since an impressive follow up in 2005 (finishing 25th) to his victory the year before. Johnny Chan, the two-time champion from 1987-1988 also had to be pleased with how the day went. Chan went deep three years ago, finishing 353rd, which remarkably was his last time to cash at the series. He’s guaranteed to do better than that this year. However, Tom McEvoy (the 1983 champion) wasn’t so fortunate. He busted out in 644th place during midday on Day 4. So too did Ryan Riess, the 2013 champion, who went out late in the day, finishing in 271st place.
Among the chip leaders along with Piccioli (1st) and Colman (2nd) – unofficially at this time -- are Thomas Miller (East Hampton, NY), Pierre Merliln (Chalon Sur Saaone, France), and Farhad Jamasi (Ocoee, FL) who comprise the top five. Also of note, eight countries are represented among the top 20, which includes the USA, France, Australia, Great Britain, Russia, Brazil, Germany, and Canada.
Also noteworthy on this day was the albeit temporary 1-2 ranking of two females in the Main Event Championship. While women comprised only about 4 percent of this year’s championship field, they were ranked first and second in chips during mid-afternoon when Melanie Weisner, from Houston, TX and Maria Ho, from Arcadia, CA held the top two positions on the leaderboard. Weisner rests with about three million, which places her within the top 10. Ho has 691,000 and is in the bottom half of the counts. This year’s Main Event attracted 268 females out of a total of 6,737 who participated.
Among the more well-known names in the top 50 are -- Valentin Vornicu (8-time WSOP Circuit gold ring winner, Chris Klodnicki (37 WSOP cashes and $5.5 million in earnings), Tony Gregg (gold bracelet winner and $5 million in earnings), Michael Gathy (three gold bracelet wins, including one this year), Shaun Deeb (two gold bracelet wins, including one this year), and Antione Stout (finished 3rd in 2009 Main Event).
Better-known players who also left their names on the chip count list (in 51st through 252nd place) included – Mike Gorodinsky, Scott Montgomery, Adam Friedman, Sorel Mizzi, Todd Brunson, Jennifer Shahade, Marc-Andre Ladouceur, Gaelle Baumann, Dan Heimiller, David Pham, Paul Volpe, Cliff Josephy, Don Zewin, and Andrew Barber.
While several notable players could take pride at finishing in-the-money, Friday also dealt out disappointing results to many. Those who were eliminated within the top 500 included – Chad Power (early chip leader), Antonio Eafandiari (3 gold bracelets), Barry Shulman (2 gold bracelets and Card Player publisher), John Strzemp (Wynn executive and second to Stu Ungar in ’97), Federico Butteroni (last year’s N9 finalist), and Luis Velador (2 gold bracelets), Steve O’Dwyer (top pro), and Jason Somerville (gold bracelet winner and poker ambassador). Others were -- Prahlad Friedman, Rich Zhu, Steve Billirakis, Roland Israelashvili, and Jimmy Fricke.
Other notable players who cashed 501st through 800th included gold bracelet winners – Gavin Griffin, Justin Oliver, Harry Thomas, Athanasios Polychronopoulos, Dan Kelly, Perry Friedman, Peter Eichhardt, Matt Matros, Kenny Tran, Max Greenwood, and Leo Wolpert.
Among the other better-known players who exited beyond the top 500 on Friday were – David Tuchman (WSOP and NFL commentator), Liv Boree (top UK player and poker ambassador), David Wells (top backgammon player), David Benefield (2013 N9er) Jason Senti (2010 N9er), and Will “the Thrill” Failla (poker maven).
Still, there are plenty of "feel good" stories remaining in the field. As is the case with every WSOP, each and every participant has a unique story and in most cases is someone to cheer for. That’s certainly the case with David Frields (officially listed as John David Frields). He was sent to Las Vegas by his friends in a home poker game that’s played in Ashburn, Virginia. For the past 11 years, the home game has rewarded the player who earns the most points with a buy-in and travel to the World Series of Poker. Until this year, none of the players from that home game has cashed. Hence, Frields is now the hero, at least to a few dozen regular poker players who are watching and rooting for him to go even further in the world’s greatest poker tournament.
Frields, like the other 250 other players still alive in the championship is now guaranteed to receive a payout of at least $36,708. Then, there’s the financial and emotional freeroll which is to come for playing in Day 5 of the Main Event, which is next ahead.
One other interesting side note from the day was the guaranteed cash of both Prahlad Friedman and Dee Friedman. They were the only husband-wife duo still alive in the Main Event late in the day. However, Prahlad busted out very late, leaving Dee to play for the Freidman family the rest of the way.
The next step towards determining this year’s elite group of finalists, otherwise known as the 2016 edition of the “November Nine” will be Saturday’s playing session. Cards go into the air on Day 5 at noon and will play down even further to what’s expected to be less than 100 survivors. Play will last until about 12:45 am. Those survivors will then assemble back at the Rio on Sunday, stepping into what amounts to poker’s eye of the hurricane.
Note: For a more comprehensive look at the highlights from Day 4, please click here to see the LIVE REPORTING logs.