WSOP Main Event down to 78 players for $9 million first prize

Photo by Laura Rauch

Photo by Laura Rauch

LAS VEGAS -- Two-time World Series of Poker champion Johnny Chan was eliminated from the no-limit Texas Hold 'em main event Thursday after gambling strong pocket pairs twice against pocket aces, the game's best starting hand.

At the end of the night Thursday, the field was down to just 78 players as Swede Theo Jorgensen was the chip leader with nearly $9 million.

"One of those things came out of the freezer," said Chan, who won the main event in 1987 and 1988 and has 10 gold bracelets at the series.

The legendary card player immortalized in the 1998 movie "Rounders" lost the last of his chips with pocket jacks. The community cards missed Chan and his opponent, and the aces held.

Chan started the day ninth in chips with 205 players remaining, but lost most of them soon after the sixth session started with pocket kings.

"You play high structure, pocket kings against aces, what are you going to do?" he said. "I'm not going to lay it down. I don't think I could have laid down two kings."

"I lost 2.1 million (chips) after that -- I was finished," he said.

Chan won $57,102 for 156th place in the tournament that started with 7,319 players. The top prize is $8.94 million, with each entry into the tournament costing $10,000.

Chips have no actual value, and a player must lose all his or her chips to be eliminated.

Chan and 53 others were eliminated from the tournament in a little over two hours, with players planning to play 10 hours of poker excluding breaks to get the tournament down to 81 or fewer players.

Among the chip leaders after six hours was Michael Mizrachi, a 29-year-old professional card player from Miami who has come on strong this series, winning a $50,000 buy-in mixed-game tournament earlier this summer.

Mizrachi started Thursday in 30th with 1.8 million chips, but his stack sat at 5.75 million after four hours. He ended just behind Jorgensen with $8 million.

During one hand, Mizrachi called with just a pair of sevens, sensing his opponent would try to bluff if he checked.

"I planned it that way," Mizrachi said as he stacked his chips after the hand.

Mizrachi picked up more chips and eliminated another opponent when his jack-10 bested an ace-seven with a 10 on the flop. And on the last hand before the dinner break, Mizrachi forced his opponents to fold and turned up pocket kings, the second best starting hand in Hold 'em.

Also among the leaders was Robert Pisano, who took most of Chan's chips earlier in the day.

Chan's run was his deepest at the main event since 1992, when he placed seventh and won $25,250 in a tournament with 201 entries. Chan nearly won three world titles in a row in the 1980s, but was thwarted by Phil Hellmuth heads-up in 1989.

Since then, his best main event finish before this year was in 2008, when he placed 329th for $32,166.

"This year it's a different ballgame. This year I doubled up in the first 30 minutes and after that, if I have chips, I play as good as anybody in the world," Chan said. "I'm very dangerous."