Robin Hegele takes the chip lead into Day 6 with his second consecutive deep run in the Main Event
July 16, 2017 (Las Vegas, NV) - It's getting down to the nitty gritty of the 2017 World Series of Poker. The hallways are emptying out, excess tables and chairs are being packed away, and there are only 85 players remaining in the Main Event.
Sitting atop the chip counts heading into Day 6 is Robin Hegele. The German player finished up the day with 9,900,000 in chips. Joining him atop the counts are Josh Horton (9,360,000), Max Silver (8,665,000), Frank Crivello (8,500,000) and Damian Salas (8,400,000).
Hegele doesn't have a ton of tournament results, but he's been here before. This is the second consecutive year he's played the Main Event and he's made Day 5 both times.
"It's kind of big because I made Day 5 last year," said Hegele. "And I finished 124th. It's the Main Event - it's the biggest tournament, the most important tournament."
This year, however, Hegele made it one step farther and has the chip lead with just two full days of action before the final nine players secure their seat at the final table. After spending the entire summer in Las Vegas with minimal success, Hegele might alter his plans for his next year's WSOP.
"I'll just skip the whole summer from now on," said Hegele. "Both summers were awful, and then I just ran deep in the Main Event."
The player nipping on Hegele's heels has a much different tournament track record. This is Horton's first-ever Main Event and just his second tournament ever. Horton's first tournament was a success, finishing third in last April's WSOP Circuit Main Event in Cherokee, North Carolina.
He's parlayed his success on the Circuit into a deep run in the biggest tournament of the year.
"I'm so excited right now," said Horton after he bagged up his chips for the day. "It's a life-changing event. I was in Cherokee and won $146,000 and that's how I got here. And then now,w here I'm at now. My goal is to make the final table. That's my number one goal right now. Then, we'll see where I go from there. Hopefully, this can be my job."
Horton currently holds a normal, nine-to-five day job back home in Alabama. He's been successful in cash games throughout his poker career, but felt like he really took a step in the right direction after his final table on the Circuit.
"I gained a lot of experience in Cherokee," said Horton. "I'm more of a cash game player. I gained a lot of experience just playing in that tournament. By the end of it, just playing in that final table, I learned how to play tournament poker. I really did. Position and all that. I really learned on my own. That helped me out a lot and I'm taking that same strategy here and it's done good so far."
When asked if he was going to start playing more tournaments, Horton didn't hesitate with his response.
Horton started the day in the middle of the pack and experienced some early day swings until he won the biggest pot of the tournament. Horton flopped quad nines on a flop of 9-9-8. The turn and river were both kings and Horton got all in on the river against his opponent's king-seven. That pot moved him to just above the 8 million chip mark and he was able to chip up to his finishing 9,360,000 over the last hour of the day.
Other notable pros to survive the day include four-time Circuit ring winner Scott Stewart (7,270,000), Benjamin Pollak (5,690,000), Bryan Piccioli (5,400,000), Brandon Meyers (3,905,000), Alex Greenblatt (3,865,000), Connor Drinan (3,360,000), Nick Guagenti (3,045,000), Jake Bazeley (2,805,000), Chris Wallace (2,675,000), Dario Sammartino (2,585,000), Marcel Luske (2,290,000), Mike Linster (2,075,000) and Kevin Calenzo (1,080,000).
It was a great day to be a former November Niner as well, with four players with Main Event final table experience surviving the day. Antoine Saout (8,260,000), Ben Lamb (4,725,000), Kenny Hallaert (4,370,000) and Michael Ruane (3,045,000) all putting chips in a bag at the end of the day.
Hallaert, who finished sixth in last year's Main Event, explained that having final tabled this event before gives an edge to those who play it again.
"The experience of being there already, having gone deep in the Main Event in previous years is definitely a big advantage to have towards other players who have not had that experience before," said Hallaert. "You kind of know what to expect. You know how long the days are, actually how much of a grind it is, you kind of know how deep the structure is and how patient you can be."
Despite finishing the day in the middle of the pack this deep in the Main Event, Hallaert knows that he is still far from making back-to-back final tables. If accomplished, he would be the first player to make back-to-back appearances since Mark Newhouse did it in 2013 and 2014, finishing ninth both times.
"It's still way too far out," said Hallaert about thinking about a repeat appearance at the final table. "I have an average stack and only 10 percent of the field will make the eventual final table. So, my chances are more or less 10 percent of making it. And we all know, as poker players, when you get it in as a 10 percent favorite, you are often not going to win. So, i"m definitely not dreaming yet of making back-to-back final tables, but I like the shot that I have at the moment."
Not everybody was fortunate to survive the day, however, with more than 200 players hitting the rail and heading to the cage to collect their money. Tom Cannuli, Chino Rheem, Isaac Haxton, Kory Kilpatrick, Timothy Adams, Aaron Massey, Greg Mueller, Dominik Nitsche, Sam Stein, Kyle Bowker, Eoghan O'Dea, Max Pescatori, Charlie Carrel and Vitaly Lunkin were just a few of the day's casualties.
Lunkin finished the best of the bunch, busting just before the end of the day in 87th place. The final 85 players will be back at the Rio at 11 a.m. for Day 6. The tentative plan is to play down to 27 players, but that could change as the day goes on.
ESPN2 and PokerGO will be streaming all of the day's action. ESPN will have the broadcast from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. and then PokerGO will cover the rest of the day's action all the way down to the final hand of the day.
Complete chip counts for the final 85 are being tabulated overnight and can be found here.