LAS VEGAS -- Players hit the money at the World Series of Poker main event on Friday, with each of the 693 top finishers getting at least $19,359 each.
Reza Kashani, a 31-year-old flooring company owner from Irvine, Calif., busted in 694th place, sending the remaining players into a frenzy as they learned they would profit from a $10,000 entry in the no-limit Texas Hold 'em tournament.
Kashani moved in for the last of his roughly 150,000 in chips with a pair of kings and an inside straight draw, but was called by Joseph Cheong, last year's third place finisher. Cheong had a set of queens, which held on the turn and river.
"I expected to get first," said Kashani, who was playing in his first major poker tournament after learning to play a year ago. After posing for ESPN cameras and being announced to the crowd, Kashani said he'd told his family that he was in Jamaica, not the series in Las Vegas.
Kashani said he tried to double his stack, feeling pressure sitting at the same table as Cheong and Daryl Jace, one of the tournament's chip leaders.
"I'm going low on chips, so I took a risk," Kashani said. "Either I'm going to come up, or I'm going to lose -- so that's exactly what I did."
Tournament officials awarded Kashani a free entry into next year's tournament.
Just before the money bubble burst, tournament officials slowed play to a crawl, forcing all dealers to play one hand at a time then wait until all tables were finished. It took about 40 minutes -- six hands -- to eliminate the two players.
His ouster touched off a flurry of all-in bets from players short on chips, just happy to make money in the tournament. Another 34 players were eliminated in roughly 20 minutes of play right after Kashani left the tournament floor.
Through five hours of play on Friday, 299 players had been eliminated. The players will continue toward determining the final table by Tuesday night or early Wednesday, and the last nine players will return to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in November to settle the title, worth $8.71 million.
Last year, Jonathan Duhamel won $8.94 million for defeating 7,318 opponents.
Two former champions, including 11-time bracelet winner and 1989 champ Phil Hellmuth and 1986 champion Berry Johnston, exited just after the day's first break without making money.
Hellmuth moved all-in for the last of his chips with pocket threes and found himself behind an opponent who had made a higher pair.
"You didn't have what you were supposed to have when you re-raised me," Hellmuth told his opponent, Nils Deknijff of Las Vegas.