From a starting field of 610 entries, just nine players remain in the WSOP Circuit Horseshoe Tunica Main Event. Four-time ring winner Scott Stewart leads the pack, bagging up the big stack of 2,765,000 at the conclusion of Day 2. He'll be the man to beat when the final table reconvenes on Monday afternoon as he seeks to join a small group of players with at least five Circuit victories. Robert Hankins is looking to do better than that; a victory would put him in elite company as a seven-time winner.
Here's the remaining lineup:
Seat 1: Neil Patel - 1,545,000 (52 bb)
Seat 2: Martin Ryan - 2,335,000 (78 bb)
Seat 3: Cory Smith - 1,545,000 (52 bb)
Seat 4: Robert Hankins - 750,000 (25 bb)
Seat 5: Scott Stewart - 2,765,000 (92 bb)
Seat 6: Lytle Allen - 945,000 (32 bb)
Seat 7: Chris Davis - 375,000 (13 bb)
Seat 8: Aaron Plaisted - 870,000 (29 bb)
Seat 9: Charlie Nguyen - 1,100,000 (37 bb)
The day began with 118 players still in contention and only 63 of them slated to finish in the money. Stewart started the day second in chips, and he quickly chipped up into the top spot on the leaderboard, where he remained off-and-on throughout the remainder of the ten-level day. He was never outside the top three, in fact.
The early pace of eliminations was brisk, with ring winners Warren Sheaves, T.K. Miles, Eric Rivkin, and Bob Beck all hitting the rail in quick succession. Three-time ring winner Charles "Woody" Moore saw his stack whittled down to nothing, too, and he was sent off just shy of a cash, finishing somewhere in the high sixties.
With 64 players left, start-of-day chip leader John Parrett was responsible for the bursting of the money bubble, flopping a set of nines and fading his opponent's flush draw to send him home empty-handed. That reduced the field to 63 players, with each of them guaranteed to earn at least $2,992.
Bracelet winner and six-time Circuit victor Kyle Cartwright fell shortly thereafter, along with Tony Sewell, Chris Conrad, and David Knuckles, who won his first ring just this past week in Tunica. Parrett fizzled out in 20th place, and the average pot size began to swell once the field was reduced to two tables. The last two ladies remaining, Ellen Lambeth and April Wiggins, were eliminated back-to-back in 14th and 13th places, respectively, and the field was further trimmed to the final nine by the time the clock ran out on the day.
Though Stewart would likely be the betting favorite tomorrow, his path to victory is littered with potential landmines. Hankins' name is the first one that jumps off the page. "Skinny" (pictured) is the owner of six Circuit rings, with two of them coming in prior Main Events. A third one would tie him with Chris Ferguson, Maurice Hawkins, and Blair Hinkle for the most in the tour's 13-year history.
Martin Ryan, a native of Trinidad, has won three gold rings all in the last six months, and he has a couple near-misses sprinkled in there, as well. He'll be looking to ride the heater to a career-best payday on Monday.
Lytle Allen is still looking for his first ring, but he's come tantalizingly close on several occasions. Recently, too. Earlier this season, he finished second and third in consecutive Main Events in Biloxi and Southern Indiana, and he's on the verge of a breakthrough victory this week in Tunica. The second of those back-to-back final tables was won by none other than Hankins, so the two have plenty of history together.
Blinds will be 15,000/30,000 with a 5,000 ante when play resumes, putting the average stack at 45 big blinds. Everyone left is guaranteed to earn at least $17,824, with the ring and a top prize of $192,152 reserved for the winner.
Cards go in the air at noon.