Christian Pham bags the chip lead, while Ben Lamb, Michael Ruane and Antoine Saout eye a second Main Event final table

July 17, 2017 (Las Vegas, NV) - With 27 players remaining in the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event, only 18 eliminations stand between the remaining players and a seat at the final table.

Christian Pham bagged up the chip lead with 31,440,000, but it seems like all eyes are on Ben Lamb. The Vegas-based pro finished the day fourth in chips with 25,685,000 and is just one day away from his second WSOP Main Event final table.

Lamb, who finished third in the 2011 Main Event for over $4 million, is the most accomplished player left in the field, with more than $6 million in WSOP earnings alone and regularly plays in some of the biggest cash games on the planet. It was a simple reminder that he put in his phone that helped him wade through the massive field so far. 

"It turns out it's kind of hard to go deep in a 7,000-player field every year," said Lamb. "I just usually would bluff of my chips on Day 1. So, I made a note in my phone to remind me in a year 'Don't bluff off your chips on Day 1.' So, it popped back up on my phone right as I was going into the Main [Event], so I didn't bluff."

He's obviously made this kind of a run before, but it's even a shock to him for him to be doing it again.

"After I bagged big on Day 2, I thought it would be fun to make a deep run," he said. "I didn't expect to have 30 million with 27 left in the Main [Event] or whatever."

With a bracelet and a WSOP Player of the Year title to his name, Lamb doesn't have much left to prove, but there is always added pressure for a top pro to finish it out. When Lamb is at the table, however, he's just focused on playing the game.

"Not when I'm playing," said Lamb about feeling any pressure. "Afterwards, sometimes. I don't care if I make the final table. I want to f***ing win the thing. I want to win it."

Pham, who won a bracelet in a $1,500 no-limit 2-7 single draw event, is just hoping someone doesn't pinch him.

"It's looking like a dream come true," said Pham after he bagged up his chips. "A lot of people cheering [for me]. I love it."

Joining Pham and Lamb at the top of the counts are Valentin Messina (28,590,000), Jack Sinclair (27,535,000) and Pedro Oliveira (22,540,000).

Strangely enough, Lamb isn't the only player of the final 27 looking to make their second career Main Event final table. Former November Niners Antoine Saout and Michael Ruane are also still alive heading to Day 7. Saout finished third in 2009 and Ruane is looking to become only the third player to make back-to-back Main Event final tables in the Moneymaker era.

Dan Harrington did it in 2003 and 2004, finishing third and fourth, respectively and Mark Newhouse finished in ninth in both 2013 and 2014. Ruane finished the day with 9,340,000 and is in the middle of the pack. Ruane is still just trying to play his best and not thinking about making poker history at this point.

"I'm still just thinking about the hands that I played. Or misplayed," said Ruane after the day concluded. "It's just a minute after bagging and I'm still kind of pissed about the one or two spots that I missed. The whole November Nine thing, or July nine or whatever and just making it there, right now, I don't even care about it. I'm just trying to analyze my play right now."

Despite making Day 7 for the second consecutive year, that is where the similarities end for his two deep runs. Last year, he was seemingly flush with chips for most of the tournament, while this year, he's been forced to grind a short stack for most of the tournament.

"I'm super excited," said Ruane. "Last year, I always had chips throughout the entire tournament, which is nice, but this year, I'm proud of myself. I picked a few spots and it was just a whole different kind of experience where I didn't just cruise and have a ton of chips the whole tournament. Tomorrow, I have 9.3 mill going into 240K big blind, which is a lot, but last year I think I had 26 million going into this point. It's just a different experience."

Unfortunately, the one thing that has been similar for Ruane this year isn't a good thing.

"Just oddly enough, the same things have happened to me in that now I just don't have clothes again for the second year in a row," said Ruane. "I swear to God, this is my last clean shirt. I wore this shirt last year too. I have a suit that I packed because I was supposed to go to a wedding if I busted before Day 4 and my friends were joking that I should just wear the suit tomorrow because it's my only clean clothes."

Besides former November Niners looking to make another run at a final table, there is still a lot of firepower left in the final 27. Accomplished tournament pros Bryan Piccioli, Benjamin Pollak, Scott Stewart, Jake Bazeley and Marcel Luske will all be coming back on Monday.

Piccioli and Pollak are in the middle of the pack, while Stewart, Bazeley and Luske are on the shorter end of the spectrum. This is Luske's third time in the Moneymaker era making the final 27 players. Stewart, on the other hand, has four WSOP Circuit rings to his name and this is the first time he's cashed the Main Event of the four times he's played it.

Stewart hopes he can join the likes of Ryan Riess and Loni Harwood, who were fixtures on the Circuit before breaking through for big scores in more prestigious events.

"It's definitely a pride factor here," said Stewart on one of the last breaks of the day. "It's funny. Looking at my results and it's all Circuit cashes and the only cashes I have at the World Series of Poker are like the Colossus and the 888. So, I'm not saying it's embarrassing, but it is nice to get one under my belt that is like going to be a big sized cash at the World Series with the best players in the world and the deepest structure in the world."

It's a huge change in atmosphere as well for Stewart. The Circuit events range in buy-ins from $365 to $1,675 without any television coverage. Now, Stewart is playing under the lights for the biggest prize in poker.

"There is just so much excitement in the room. Coming around and looking around to the Thunderdome," said Stewart. "The rail is getting more rowdy, everyone is getting more serious, the play is getting much tougher, which is not fun, but there is nothing like the experience. Seeing it as a kid on TV over the years and being like 'Maybe one day I'll be there.' And now I have a chance to be there. I couldn't be more excited."

The day started at 11 a.m. with 85 players coming back to the Rio, hoping to survive the day and have a chance at coming back for Day 7. But as the blinds went up, players hit the rail. Martin Finger, Ian Johns, Kenny Hallaert, Connor Drinan, Mike Linster, Max Silver, Dario Sammartino, Brandon Meyers, and Chris Wallace were among the notable pros who hit the rail before the days end, but they were all deep in the money. Wallace had the best finish of the group, finishing 32nd for $214,913.

Day 7 kicks off at noon on Monday and will play all the way down to the final nine. Everybody remaining is guaranteed a cash of at least $263,532 and there is about one hour and 20 minutes remaining in the current level with a big blind of 240,000.

There will be complete coverage of all the day's action streamed on both PokerGO and ESPN2. The action will start on PokerGO when things kick off at noon and then switch to ESPN2 at 4 p.m. PokerGO will pick the coverage back up at 6 p.m. and take it all the way down to the end.

Complete chip counts for the final 27 players can be found here.