Level 19: 8,000-16,000, 2,000 ante
By BJ Nemeth
Barry Shulman started Day 4 with a roughly average chip stack, and actually lost chips to end Day 5 with 353,000 -- about half the average stack. But still alive in the tournament, Shulman has plenty of reasons to smile -- including a photo with the Royal Flush Girls (left to right) Tugba Ercan, Jeannie Duffy, Brittany Bell, and Ivy Teves.
The WPT Player of the Year race is really heating up. There were 12 contenders still in the field on Day 4, trying to catch POY points leader Will Failla. Four contenders survived to Day 5, though two of them need a victory here, and one needs at least fifth place.
The biggest thread to Failla's hold on Player of the Year is Joe Serock (pictured), who had the chip lead for a little while in the middle of the day. With 19 players remaining, Serock only needs to reach 15th place to pass Failla for POY. It's going to be a tense day for Failla, who can only wait for others to determine his fate.
Here are the four contenders for WPT Player of the Year, and how high they need to finish to catch Will Failla:
15th Place or better: Joe Serock
5th Place or better: Moon Kim
1st Place: Matt Juttelstad, Rinat Bogdanov
Curt Kohlberg (right) entered the day as chipleader, but lost some pots early to fall back into the pack. Kohlberg was eliminated late in the day in 24th place. Guillaume Darcourt (left) has been among the chipleaders for a couple of days, but had a rougher time on Day 4, finishing below average in chips but still alive as he seeks his second WPT title.
Antonio Esfandiari chats with Royal Flush Girl Jeannie Duffy between hands on Day 4. Esfandiari was one of the last players to register, but turned his late start around to start the day fourth in chips.
David Sands (right) was one of the contenders for WPT Player of the Year who was eliminated on Day 4. Sands was on a short stack when he moved all in with A6 -- and ran into the KK of two-time WPT winner Michael Mizrachi (left).
Matthew Waxman (left) was another contender for WPT Player of the Year, having won the WPT Grand Prix de Paris last September. But Waxman's day ended when he got it all in with AK against the QQ of Michael Mizrachi (right). Waxman lost the race, and Mizrachi cleared another POY contender from the field.
At this rate, Failla might have to award Mizrachi an assist if he holds on to win WPT Player of the Year.
WPT Bay 101 champion and POY contender Moon Kim (left) battles over a preflop pot against John Esposito (right). Esposito would win this reraising war to take the pot.
POY contender Joe Serock (right) was put to the test by Wil Wilkinson (left) after a flop of 982. Wilkinson check-raised all in with a larger stack, and Serock tanked for a while before folding.
There was a battle of the short stacks as Hoyt Corkins (standing, left) moved all in, and Josh Arieh (right) moved all in over the top with a slightly larger stack. Nicolas Fraioli (not pictured) folded J6 face up in the big blind to let the short stacks battle.
Corkins turned over 75, and he'd need to improve to survive against Arieh's KQ. If they hadn't been all in before the flop, there would have been fireworks after the flop of A98 -- both players flopped flushes., though Arieh's was higher.
Someone pointed out that Corkins still had one out to a gutshot straight-flush, but Arieh reminded him that Fraioli already folded the 6. Even if Corkins caught a runner-runner straight-flush with J10, Arieh would have a Royal Flush.
Corkins was eliminated as Josh Arieh built himself a small cushion with about 24 big blinds in his stack.
Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi already has two WPT titles under his belt, but is looking to become only the second player in history to win three WPT titles. (Gus Hansen is the only player with three titles.)
Nicolas Fraioli gives an interview to the WPT cameras after his elimination in 23rd place. Fraioli was eliminated by Hafiz Khan, who had recently taken the chip lead.
Noah Schwartz (left) has had some deep runs on the World Poker Tour lately, but is still searching for his first WPT title. With 22 players left, Schwartz moved his short stack all in with K9, but ran into the AA of WPT Bay 101 champion Moon Kim (foreground, right).
Schwartz was eliminated a few spots out of the money, while Kim was up among the chipleaders with more than 1.1 million in chips.
Marvin Rettenmaier (known as "Mad Marvin") signed a big endorsement deal shortly before the WPT World Championship, and it's working for him so far, as he finished the day second in chips with more than 1.8 million.
With 21 players remaining, there was a three-way all in between players who had all won multiple WPT titles -- Antonio Esfandiari, Jonathan Little, and Michael Mizrachi (seated, center).
Esfandiari was the short stack with about 170,000, Little had about 400,000, and Mizrachi had about 600,000. Here were their cards:
Michael Mizrachi: Q-J
Jonathan Little: A-K
Antonio Esfandiari: K-J
Little was the favorite to win a big pot, but a queen on the turn changed everything as the worst hand won for Mizrachi, eliminating Esfandiari in 21st place and Little in 20th place. With 19 players remaining, the field began hand-for-hand play on the money bubble.
Hafiz Khan finished Day 4 with a chipleading stack of 1,966,000. Khan is a regular on the poker circuit, with more than $2.3 million in earnings. He's still looking for his first WPT Final Table, but that may change here.
There are 19 players remaining, but only the top 18 will finish in the money, guaranteed at least $40,266. First prize is worth $1,196,858.
Here are the official seating and chip counts for Day 5:
2. Ron Coury - 135,000 (8 BBs)
4. Tom McCormick - 186,000 (11 BBs)
5. Barry Shulman - 353,000 (22 BBs)
6. Nick Schulman - 1,315,000 (82 BBs)
7. Rinat Bogdanov - 278,000 (17 BBs)
8. Guillaume Darcourt - 571,000 (35 BBs)
9. Hafiz Khan - 1,966,000 (122 BBs)
1. Farzad Bonyadi - 182,000 (11 BBs)
2. Moon Kim - 1,194,000 (74 BBs)
4. Marvin Rettenmaier - 1,870,000 (116 BBs)
5. Josh Arieh - 127,000 (7 BBs)
6. Philippe Ktorza - 86,000 (5 BBs)
7. Joe Serock - 244,000 (15 BBs)
2. John Esposito - 1,080,000 (67 BBs)
3. Matt Juttelstad - 935,000 (58 BBs)
4. Wil Wilkinson - 1,197,000 (74 BBs)
5. Michael Mizrachi - 1,168,000 (73 BBs)
7. Steve O'Dwyer - 1,079,000 (67 BBs)
8. Trevor Pope - 1,300,000 (81 BBs)
Day 5 begins Wednesday at 12:00 noon PT, and action will continue for another five 90-minute levels, or until the field is down to six players, whichever comes first. Stay tuned to WPT.com for continuing live coverage.
Level 17: 5,000-10,000, 1,000 ante
Photo: Nicolas Fraioli gives an interview to the WPT cameras after his elimination.
Hafiz Khan raises to 22,000 from under the gun and Nicolas Fraioli moves all-in for 66,000 total. Action folds back around to Khan and he starts to think.
Khan tells Fraioli, "I don't want to put a bad on you, send you home."
"Thats life," Fraioli responds with a chuckle. Khan thinks about it a little while longer, then calls.
Fraioli turns over K10 and Khan shows the superior A4.
"Now I give you a bad beat," Fraioli jokes with Khan.
Fraioli isn't able to deliver that bad beat though, as the Q8859x board is no help to Fraioli and he is eliminated.
Hafiz Khan - 1,700,000 (170 BBs)
Nicolas Fraioli - eliminated
Photo (Below): Hafiz Khan counts his chips after the hand.
Level 16: 4,000-8,000, 1,000 ante
Marvin Rettenmaier (pictured) is now sitting on 1.34 million chips after he bet big on the river of a 975Q8 board and Nicolas Fraioli called with a rivered set of eights. Rettenmaier held a flopped set of nines though, so now Fraioli is down under 300,000 and Rettenmaier is the big stack in the field.
Marvin Rettenmaier - 1,340,000 (168 BBs)
Nicolas Fraioli - 270,000 (34 BBs)
Level 15: 3,000-6,000, 500 ante
Nicolas Fraioli raises under the gun to 13,500, Trevor Pope calls from late position, and Rinat Bogdanov calls from the button.
The flop comes 887, Fraioli checks, Pope bets 22,000, and Bogdanov folds. Fraioli calls. The turn card is the 6, Fraioli checks, Pope bets 50,000, and Fraioli calls.
The river card is the K, Fraioli checks, Pope bets 100,000, and Fraioli quickly calls.
Pope shows QQ, but Fraioli turns over AJ to win the pot with a diamond flush.
Nicolas Fraioli - 715,000 (119 BBs)
Trevor Pope - 375,000 (62 BBs)
Level 13: 2,000-4,000, 400 ante
Brock Parker is eliminated in the final minutes of the day when his AK is no match for Nicolas Fraioli's 88 on a Q935J board.
Nicolas Fraioli - 435,000
Brock Parker - eliminated
Level 5: 300-600, 75 ante
Chipleader Steve O'Dwyer (pictured) raises from early position to 1,800, Lance Steinberg calls from late position, and Nicolas Fraioli reraises from the button to 6,800. O'Dwyer and Steinberg both call.
All three players check to the river on a board of A10476x, and O'Dwyer bets 12,500. Steinberg calls, and Fraioli folds.
O'Dwyer shows 77 to win the pot with a set of sevens, and Steinberg mucks.
Steve O'Dwyer - 315,000
Nicolas Fraioli - 123,000
Lance Steinberg - 95,000
Level 4: 200-400, 50 ante
By BJ Nemeth
WPT Anchor Kimberly Lansing has missed the last few tournaments here on the World Poker Tour, but she had an excellent reason -- maternity leave. Lansing gave birth to her son Jake in early March, and gives him a kiss as they check out the beautiful Bellagio Conservatory.
The Royal Flush Girls welcome the players to the start of the WPT World Championship. From left to right: Brittany Bell, Tugba Ercan, Ivy Teves, and Jeannie Duffy.
Kimberly Lansing interviews ClubWPT.com qualifier Harley Shepherd during a break on Day 1.
Shawn Cunix (right) won WPT Jacksonville earlier this month, where he played against Will Failla (left), who finished sixth in that event.
We don't know what they're talking about here, but Cunix could be asking how deep he will need to finish in this event to catch Will Failla in the WPT Player of the Year race. Failla leads the race with 2,050 points, and Cunix would need a fourth-place finish here to catch him, and a third-place finish to pass him. Of course, that assumes that Failla doesn't increase his lead by cashing in this last event of Season X.
Erik Seidel (standing, left) won the inaugural WPT High Roller event here at Bellagio during last year's WPT World Championship, capping off an amazing run in the first half of 2011 where Seidel won three high-roller events ($25,000 or higher buy-ins), finished in the top four in two others, won the NBC National Heads-Up Championship, and finished second in a WPT event, narrowly missing his second WPT title.
Unfortuntely, this season was not as successful for Seidel on the World Poker Tour. Seidel is the only player who cashed in all nine seasons of the World Poker Tour, but that streak ended when he was eliminated here on Day 1. Seidel went 0-for-Season X, but still holds the record with cashes in nine straight seasons. However, WPT Champions Club members Shawn Buchanan and Lee Markholt are knocking on the door with cashes in eight straight seasons.
Joe Serock (left) made back-to-back WPT Final Tables here in the U.S., finishing third both times to briefly take the lead in the WPT Player of the Year race. Failla regained the points lead at WPT Jacksonville, but Serock can pass Failla with a 15th-place or higher finish here. Serock is off to an excellent start, finishing Day 1 with about 200,000 in chips.
Serock posed for a photo with Nicolas Fraioli and Royal Flush Girls Ivy Teves (left) and Brittany Bell during one of the breaks.
Tommy Vedes won the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Showdown in Hollywood, Florida last month, joining the elite club of players with two WPT titles. Vedes is the first player to win multiple titles since Antonio Esfandiari won his second title in the WPT Bellagio Five Diamond World Poker Classic in December, 2010.
There have been 21 WPT titles awarded this season, and each title includes entry into the WPT World Championship. But since WPT Barcelona champion Luka Berglund is under 21 years old, he is ineligible to play here in Las Vegas.
Of the 20 remaining Season X champions, 18 entered on Day 1 -- only WPT Ireland winner Dave Shallow and WPT Grand Prix de Paris winner Matthew Waxman have yet to show up.
Unfortunately, WPT L.A. Poker Classic champion Sean Jazayeri (pictured above) was eliminated in the middle of Day 1, the only Season X champion to bust so far. The rest will attempt to become the first player since Tuan Le to win the WPT World Championship after winning a WPT title earlier that season. (Tuan Le did it all the way back in Season III.)
Matt Giannetti won WPT Malta last September, which was particularly notable because he was part of the WSOP's November Nine. While those nine players were on hiatus waiting to play out the WSOP Main Event final table, Giannetti went out and won himself a WPT title.
Bobby Oboodi won the WPT Borgata Poker Open last September, earning $922,441.
Daniel Negreanu poses for a photo with Leah Gwozdecki during the first break. Gwozdecki and her husband are visiting from Winnipeg, Canada, and were excited to get a photo with fellow Canadian Negreanu.
There were 103 entrants on Day 1, though registration remains open until the beginning of Day 3. That's right, players can still enter this tournament on Monday, and those that do will still have 62.5 big blinds to begin play.
As for those who played Day 1, only a small handful didn't survive the day. Here are the unofficial chipleaders heading into Day 2:
1. Steve O'Dwyer - 231,750
2. Masa Kagawa - 228,675
3. Tyler Smith - 221,600
4. Guillaume Darcourt - 215,250
5. Vanessa Selbst - 207,425
Day 2 begins at 12:00 noon PT, and the field will play four 90-minute levels. Stay tuned to WPT.com for continuing live coverage of the WPT World Championship.