Day Two began with two of poker's most combustible personalities, Phil Hellmuth and Mike Matusow, basking in a sizeable chip lead versus the rest of the field. Hellmuth and Matusow began the second day as the only players with more than $100,000 in chips. Hoyt Corkins, the genial Alabama cowboy, started in third place with $65,000. Remarkably, very little changed on Day Two. Hellmuth and Matusow remained as the chip leaders. Corkins fell to seventh place in the chip count, but survived.

Play started at 12 noon and continued for only six hours, a lightening-fast pace by World Series of Poker standards. By late afternoon, 21 aspiring millionaires had been eliminated. Several famous names fell by the wayside, including Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi, Tony Ma, Johnny Chan, and Rene Angelil (Caesars is home turf for Angelil, who is the manager-husband of international diva, Celine Dion, who performs nightly next door at the $80 million Coliseum). But it was the tenth place finisher who was the biggest story of the day.

For poker players, there is no worse feeling than finishing on what is called "the bubble." At the TOC, the unlucky tenth place finisher can boast of outlasting 103 opponents (out of 114). But the bottom line is that "the bubble" position pays absolutely nothing. Zilch. It's tournament poker's ultimate bad beat.

Poker legend Doyle Brunson suffered the cruelest of poker's indignities when he was eliminated on the final hand of Day Two. It was a big disappointment for Brunson, a ten-time gold bracelet winner and two-time world poker champion. "Texas Dolly" was short-stacked throughout the tournament and was never able to be the dominant force which has characterized his unrivaled 50-year poker career. When Brunson moved his last $20,000 in chips into the pot, and lost, the entire audience gathered inside the Caesars Augustus Ballroom burst into applause. No one clapped more loudly, or with more reverence than his nine competitors, who were fortunate enough to return for Day Three.

The nine finalists for the 2005 Tournament of Champions are now set for tomorrow's third and final day:

Seat 1: Steve Dannenmann
Hometown: Severn, Maryland
Qualified Via: World Series of Poker (Main Event)
Chip Count: $122,000

No poker player is more modest than Steve Dannenmann. He is a 39-year-old CPA and mortgage broker who currently lives in Severn, Maryland. Dannenmann graduated from the University of Baltimore. He is married and has one child. Dannenmann shocked the poker world by outlasting 5,617 players in the main event at the 2005 World Series of Poker (WSOP). He came to within one big hand of achieving immortality, but ended up as the second place finisher to the world champion, Joseph Hachem. When he's been asked about his incredible personal achievement and winning $4,250,000 in prize money, Dannemann is often reserved and says he is just lucky to be playing with so many great players. But the truth is now becoming self-evident. As he is proving in this event, Dannemann's timid manner masks an awesome talent in tournament poker. It's been said that no one remembers the second place finisher. But a victory in the Tournament of Champions will give Dannenmann the recognition he rightly deserves.

Seat 2: Grant "G-Money" Lang
Hometown: Brookfield, Connecticut
Qualified Via: Rio -- Las Vegas
Chip Count: $61,500

Grant Lang is accustomed to sitting in front of a huge stack of poker chips. He was the chip leader coming into his last final table, at the World Series of Poker Circuit held at the Rio-Las Vegas last February. Lang looked as if he would be a force, but he ended up as the fifth place finisher - netting $126,000. Lang's poker nickname is "G-Money." G-Money was born in Bronx, NY and now resides in Connecticut. He is married with three children. Prior to his appearance at the Rio, Lang's biggest poker accomplishment was a victory at the Costa Rican Classic in 2004. Like so many others on this day, Lang has something to prove. We will see if G-Money can take a low stack and turn it into a million dollar first prize.

Seat 3: David Levi
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
Qualified Via: Harrah's Rincon - San Diego
Chip Count: $41,000

David Levi is one of the most experienced players at the final table. He has paid his dues for a decade on the poker tournament trail, grinding out a living with more than 100 cashes and numerous wins in his distinguished poker career. Levi, 42, became a full-time poker player after he retired as a professional soccer player ten years ago. Levi played on a pro soccer team in Tel Aviv, Israel. But today, his goal is different. While Levi has loads of tournament experience, what he does not have at the moment, is -- chips. He will start today as the shortest-stack at the final table. We will see if Levi can stage a huge comeback and score the biggest payday of his poker career.

Seat 4: Phil Hellmuth, Jr.
Hometown: Palo Alto, California
Qualified Via: Former WSOP Champion (sponsor exemption)
Chip Count: $281,500

If this poker tournament was a horserace, Phil Hellmuth is beginning to look a lot like Secretariat. He is on a pace to run wire-to-wire and win yet another poker title, adding to his distinguished 16-year career as a professional poker player. Hellmuth is the 1989 World Series of Poker champion. He has won a total of nine gold bracelets - second only to Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan, each with ten. At this year's World Series, Hellmuth drew even with another poker legend, Barry Johnston. Hellmuth now is tied for the most cashes ever in WSOP history. But what defines Hellmuth in the public eye is his mesmerizing personality. Love him, or hate him - he's a superstar. You never know quite what to expect when Hellmuth is sitting at a poker table. In the 2004 Tournament of Champions, the former world champion finished an intolerable second, and some say he's been fanatical about getting back here ever since. Today, we will see if Hellmuth - a successful author, conglomerate, and living poker legend - can redeem himself with a rousing TOC triumph, or will again storm away in disappointment. One way or another, it should be quite a show.

Seat 5: Hoyt Corkins
Hometown: Glenwood, Alabama
Qualified Via: Harrah's Atlantic City
Chip Count: $95,000

Hoyt Corkins was born in rural Alabama and still lives in the "Heart of Dixie" when he's not traveling around the world as a professional poker player. Corkins has emerged as one of poker's most instantly recognizable players and likeable personalities. He's made numerous final tables in recent years, but Corkins' poker success dates all the way back to 1989, when he first made it to a WSOP final table. Two years later, in 1992, he won a gold bracelet - in the Pot-Limit Omaha championship. Corkins has won major events at the Diamond Jim Brady, Super Bowl of Poker, and other prestigious titles. But he has steadily earned the respect of his peers through not only his aggressive playing style, but his venerable character, which makes him one of the game's true role models. Corkins is overdue for a big win, and this might be the day when the man in the cowboy hat rides off into the sunset with a $1 million first prize.

Seat 6: Keith Sexton
Hometown: Dayton, Ohio
Qualified Via: Harrah's Rincon - San Diego
Chip Count: $95,500

Keith Sexton is a 55-year-old real estate investor turned poker pro and sports bettor. He is originally from Ohio and now lives in Las Vegas. He has played at the World Series of Poker eight times and has several in-the-money finishes, including an impressive second place finish in the 2005 Seven-Card Stud world championship event. In a recent interview, when Sexton was asked what person had the most influence in teaching him the game of poker, he answered with great respect and reverence - his mother. Sexton is certainly a serious threat at this final table, and with just enough chips to be dangerous, he will be one of the players to watch.

Seat 7: Brandon Adams
Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana
Qualified Via: Harrah's New Orleans
Chip Count: $135,500

If ever there was someone you want to cheer for, it's Brandon Adams. He finished 21st in the championship event at Harrah's New Orleans last May, and due to a bizarre eight-way tie in the scoring system, he barely qualified to play in the TOC. That said, Adams blocked out the devastation that was caused to his hometown by Hurricane Katrina a few months ago, and has made the most of this unique opportunity. He has played exceptional poker over two days and has soared into third place in the chip count. The great thing about tournament poker is that, truly - anything is possible. Adams will need to use his aura of anonymity to pull off what would be an astonishing surprise victory. Perhaps today, a new poker superstar will be born and eight unsuspecting opponents will stagger away, wondering how an unfamiliar face from hurricane-ravaged New Orleans got some overdue measure of rightful justice.

Seat 8: Tony Bloom
Hometown: London, England
Qualified Via: Harrah's Rincon - San Diego
Chip Count: $130,000

Tony Bloom, from London, England, is the only non-US resident at today's final table. But he is certainly no stranger to the final table, especially at big events in Europe and overseas. Bloom's biggest tournament win was in the main event at the 2004 Australasian Poker Championship, where he won $400,000. He also won London's prestigious Victoria Club poker championship held in August - good for another $350,000. Today, we will see if Bloom can parlay an 18th place finish at Rincon last February into a $1 million first prize.

Seat 9: Mike Matusow
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
Qualified Via: World Series of Poker (Main Event)
Chip Count: $179,000

Matusow is one of poker's most controversial figures. He is famous, make that infamous, for baiting his opponents and incessantly chattering while he is playing. If there was a lifetime record for most time-out penalties given in World Series of Poker history for foul language and inappropriate behavior, Mike Matusow would be Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, and Phil Hellmuth -- all rolled into one. Mike "The Mouth" Matusow has won two gold bracelets at the World Series. Perhaps even more impressive, Matusow has made it to two final tables in the main event over the past four years. He finished fourth in 2001. He finished ninth in 2005. His most recent cash was worth $1 million in prize money. Whatever happens today, this has been an incredible personal odyssey and triumphant comeback for Matusow. He was admittedly at the lowest point in his life at the start of 2005, and now as the end of the year approaches, Matusow is unquestionably playing the best poker of his life. If you don't believe it - just ask him.

The nine finalists will return to play for the TOC title in front of ESPN television cameras and a live viewing audience. Play resumes at 2:00 pm PST. Prize money will be divided, as follows:

1st Place -- $1,000,000
2nd Place - $325,000
3rd Place - $250,000
4th Place - $150,000
5th Place - $100,000
6th Place - $75,000
7th Place - $50,000
8th Place - $25,000
9th Place - $25,000

Tournament reporting by Nolan Dalla /