The third of five gold bracelet events at this year’s World Series of Poker Europe is winding down to an exciting conclusion. 

A starting field size of 582 entrants in the £1,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em event has been whittled down to just nine players.  Survivors will return Tuesday, September 21st at 2 PM to London’s luxurious Casino at the Empire, where they will take their seats at the final table.  At stake is £133,857 in first place prize money plus the most coveted prize in poker – a WSOP gold bracelet.

Coming into the final table, the chip leader is Kevah Payman, from Vancouver, BC (Canada).  He previously cashed in the first event held at WSOP Europe.  Payman took 23th place in the Six-Handed No-Limit Hold'em championship.  Payman is in great position to earn what would be a first-ever WSOP victory.  He works as a home theatre installer, but plays poker seriously part-time. 
Ranked second in chips is Mehdi Senhaji, from Casablanca, Morocco.  He is a student who is playing in his first WSOP tournament ever.  He entered this event by winning a single-table satellite.  Should Senhaji win, he would become the first Moroccan champion in history.  In fact, he would become the first WSOP winner ever from the continent of Africa.  
However, much attention will be focused on J.P. Kelly, from Aylesbury, UK.  The two-time WSOP gold bracelet champion won this same event last year, held in London.  Should he win tomorrow, he would become the first player to successfully defend a WSOP title since Thang Luu won back-to-back Omaha High-Low Split gold bracelets in 2007 and 2008.  The last player to accomplish consecutive wins in the game Hold’em was Phil Hellmuth, who won back-to-back titles in 1992 and 1993 ($5,000 buy-in Limit Hold’em).  In fact, the list of Hold'em back-to-back winners is a short one indeed, consisting of Hellmuth, Johnny Chan, Stu Ungar, and Doyle Brunson.  One expects that Kelly would be quite pleased to add his name to that illustrious list. 
Furthermore, Kelly could set additional marks of distinction.  Should he win, he would become the first British player ever to win three WSOP gold bracelets.  He is currently tied with Chris Bjorin and Praz Bansi in wins with two.  He could also become the youngest three-time gold bracelet winner in WSOP history, at 24 years, 7 months, and 11 days.  That would eclipse the mark set by Phil Ivey in 1993.

Here are the nine players and starting chip counts when final table play begins at 2 pm on Tuesday:
SEAT 1:  Karim Jomeen (London, UK) -- 109,000 in chips
SEAT 2:  Scott Shelley (London, UK) -- 148,000 in chips
SEAT 3:  Nickey Katz (London, UK) -- 150,000 in chips
SEAT 4:  Paul Pitchford (Sutton-on-Ashfield, UK) -- 77,000 in chips
SEAT 5:  Jeppe Bisgaard (Copenhagen, Denmark) -- 171,000 in chips
SEAT 6:  Mehdi Senhaji (Casablanca, Morocco) -- 369,000 in chips
SEAT 7:  Kevah Payman (Vancouver, BC Canada) -- 434,000 in chips
SEAT 8:  J.P. Kelly (Aylesbury, UK) -- 242,000 in chips
SEAT 9:  Jack Lyman (London, UK) -- 55,000 in chips

Turnout for the £1,000 buy-in tournament was so large that three starting days were necessary to accommodate the field of 582 players.  Day 1-A was played on Friday.  Day 1-B was played on Saturday.  Day 1-C was completed on Sunday.  Today, the 80 survivors from the three starting days combined into a single field for the first time and played down to the final nine.

Among those who did not survive this day was Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler (Las Vegas, NV).  He was eliminated in 38th place, but did manage to cash.  When combined with his eight cashes earlier in Las Vegas, this marked his ninth overall in-the-money finish at this year’s WSOP.  Kessler now has a chance to tie (or break) the all-time record for most WSOP cashes in a single year set by Nikolay Evdakov in 2008.  Two more gold bracelet events remain.

The schedule closes out with the £10,000 buy-in Heads-Up High Roller No-Limit Hold’em championship to be played on Tuesday, starting at 5 pm.  The £10,000 buy-in Main Event championship begins on Thursday, starting at noon.

The first event winner at this year’s London series was Phil Laak (Las Vegas, NV USA).  Jeffrey Lisandro (Salerno, Italy) was the winner of the second event. 

Through the first three events of WSOP Europe, overall attendance is up slightly over last year.  The 2010 edition of WSOP Europe continues through September 28th. 

For more information about the WSOP and WSOP Europe, please click HERE.