Day 3 of the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event concluded late Thursday night with the money bubble having burst in the last official hand of the night, and several dozen players moved over the 1,000,000-chip mark during the day's play. Among the unofficial chip leaders as chips were bagged: Philadelphia's Patrick Lavecchia, at 1,552,000.
Lavecchia's total is narrowly ahead of Portugal's Pawel Brzeski (1,546,000), France's Antoine Saout (1,529,000), and American Jeremiah Fitzpatrick (1,523,000). Saout was the fortunate beneficiary of one of the day's largest pots, when he got all in pre-flop for nearly 600,000 with pocket kings against Scott Seiver's waiting pocket aces. Saout vaulted near the top of the leaderboard when he spiked a king on the river. Seiver survived the hand and the rest of the night's play, but returns on Friday well back in the pack.
This busy Day 3 found a field of 2,572 survivors from two separate Day 2 flights combined together, awaiting a full day's play with the money bubble in distant sight. While a few players such as Lavecchia soared on the day, for most players Day 3 was a tale of survival, one way or the other.
The bubble finally burst at about 1:15 am, well into an extra level of play, when two players, Roger Campbell and Quan Zhou, busted on the same hand. Campbell and Zhou were then dealt into a special race-off flip. Zhou won the flip and became the official 1,085th-place finisher, on the stone bubble of this year's Main. As a consolation prize, he will be awarded a seat into the 2018 WSOP Main Event, valued at $10,000.
Action was stopped following Zhou's and Campbell's joint bustout, meaning that all 1,084 remaining players will return to Friday's Day 4 already in the money, including the leader, Lavecchia (pictured), who's unaccustomed to such rarified WSOP air. His sole prior WSOP cash prior to this year's main was back in 2009, for a little more than $3,000 in a $1,500 no-limit hold'em event.
Lavecchia spoke briefly with the WSOP as the night-ending bagging process continued. “I made lots of hands, and I got paid off a lot. I guess it was because I look young and I don't have it [the hand] very often. I got dealt tons of really good hands, and things just really came together. Just good old-fashioned run-good. I've definitely run way, way, way above average.”
Another player whose run-good continued on Day 3 was West Virginian amateur Mickey Craft. Craft was among the Day 2 chip leaders, and he retained a top spot through Day 3 as well, bagging up 1,345,000 in chips.
According to Craft, “Day 3 started off quick, fast, and emotional. I haven't played with a lot of big names yet or a lot of big stacks. The first table I was at, I was a 4:1 stack leader the whole time and I pushed the table around; I shoved a lot. I got called a couple of times, and had it, and that helped out tremendously.
“Then I come over to this table,” he said, referring to a seat in Brasilia, where he was moved in the middle of the day's play, “and I'm a little bit above everybody else, not a lot. This guy to the right of me, and to my left, all of a sudden these guys start chipping up; I didn't know what to do. These guys here play good poker. I was at a lot of decisions that me, as an amateur – I don't know what to do. But I think I made most of the right decisions.
“But the best thing that happened all day long was that I had the best time of my life. You can't have any more fun than this.” Indeed, Craft spent the last few minutes in an impromptu celebration with his tablemates as it became clear that all of them would likely cash. Craft procured a bottle of Patron Silver, sharing drinks freely with several of his tablemates and other players in the vicinity.
Another top stack on the day belonged to Michigan's Rudy Sawa, who built on a solid first two days to land in Day 3's unofficial top 30. Sawa bagged over 1.1 million in chips after being as high as third earlier in the evening's play.
It's been an unusual summer for Sawa by any definition. He earned his first-ever WSOP cash a couple of weeks back in Event #49, $3,000 Pot-Limit Omaha 6-Handed, finishing in second place for $223,812. He's back for more in the Main.
“I started the day without 325,000 in chips,” Sawa said. “I've been picking my spots and I got lucky a couple of times. I made a couple of good folds, a couple of good reads; I've been running good.”
While the runner-up showing for Sawa in Event #49 was both exhilarating and disappointing – and he admitted to being exhausted when that event wrapped up – would he take another second-place showing in the main, if he could trade his current position off right now? Of course he would, he admitted, and that's without too much thought about the $5 million or so such a finish would bring. “To get to the final table, and make it to second place... just to get to the final table would be an honor. It would be an accomplishment in itself.” Sawa's first three days in the Main have such an accomplishment now within reach, as long as the cards stay hot.
For other players, it was more of a struggle. One of England's most famed players, two-time bracelet winner Barny Boatman, battled a short stack throughout the entire day. Boatman chatted briefly with the WSOP during the dinner break. “It's been a bit of a slog,” said Boatman. “I lost a big pot really early when I missed a big draw, and then kind of ground my way back up. Then I flopped top set, kings, and lost that one, and now I'm roughly back to where I started at the beginning of the day.”
Boatman was back up to a bit more than 200,000 at that point, about where he'd started the day. “I'm at a bad table now,” he added. “I'm comfortable, but obviously it can all go at any time – we're playing to win, not just to survive, but it would be nice to cash all the same.” Boatman made good on that, surviving four more hours on the rollercoaster to return to a smallish but playable stack on Day 4 and keeping his Main Event dream alive as well.
Other players high in the counts as Day 3 concluded were Kenny Haellert (1,258,000), Davidi Kitai (1,116,000), Ben Lamb (1,016,000), Sofia Lovgren (996,000), and Kevin Song (848,000).
Roughly 60% of Day 3's initial survivors were eliminated during the day, with many big poker names among them. 2004 Main Event champion Greg Raymer suffered back-to-back beats to bust after the post-dinner resumption of play. First, Raymer lost 65,000, about 40% of his stack, when an opponent rivered a set of sexes to overtake Raymer's pocket tens. In the very next hand, Raymer found pocket kings, but those didn't work either. He managed to get all in with them pre-flop against another player's pocket nines, but a nine on the flop and no help for his kings meant the end of Raymer's day.
Raymer wasn't the only former World Champion to bust this day. 2005 Main Event winner Joe Hachem battled a short stack throughout the early going until he finally found a spot for his last 12,500 in chips, getting it in with against Jared Palmer's . Palmer found a queen on the flop and a ten on the turn, and Hachem came up empty in his own quest for a king on the river, which would have made a winning straight.
Also exiting on Day 3 were two-time Main Event winner Johnny Chan (1987, 1988), and 1983 champion Tom McEvoy.
Other notables who made it to Day 3 but busted before reaching the cash included but were not limited to: Brandon Shack-Harris, Brian Rast, Eddy Sabat, former Olympian Fatima Moreira de Melo, Matt Salsberg, Cary Katz, Loni Harwood, Jason Lester, James Akenhead, Mike Matusow, Billy Baxter, Adrian Mateos, Donnacha O'Dea, Matt Jarvis, Pierre Neuville, Kenny Tran, Grant Hinkle, Sam Grafton, Harrison Gimbel, Pratyush Buddiga, Jason Mercier, Joe Cheong, Todd Witteles, Kristen Bicknell, Juha Helppi, Arkadiy Tsinis, Rainer Kempe, Alex Foxen, John Monnette, Doug Polk, and Randy Ohel.
While those four former Main Event champs were eliminated on Thursday, three others survived through to Day 4 and the money: Scotty Nguyen (unofficially at 232,000), Joe Cada (111,000) , and Carlos Mortensen (110,000).
Only one of the top four players in the Kings Casino Rozvadov Player of the Year chase remains alive and guaranteed additional POY points in this event, with the $1,111 Little One for One Drop still to go as well. POY fourth-place holder Ryan Hughes now has the inside track toward the seat to be awarded to the WSOP Europe Main Event this fall.
Complete chip counts through Day C play are available here, along with seating information for Friday's Day 4. Online coverage of the 2017 WSOP Main Event resumes at 11 a.m., with live updates right here at WSOP.com.