What is a Day 3 Chip Lead Worth in the WSOP Main Event?

Maurice Hawkins grabbed the overall chip lead headed into Day 3, let’s take look at history to see where other Day 3 chip leaders ended up.

Tim Fiorvanti
Jul 9, 2023
A healthy chip stack at the 2023 WSOP. (photo credit: Drew Amato)

Congratulations are in order to Maurice Hawkins. The all-time record-holder for most World Series of Poker Circuit rings, with 15, bagged 941,000 to claim the chip lead heading into Day 3 of the 2023 WSOP Main Event. While it’s a long road ahead to the final table, Hawkins is in the best possible position to make a run at the biggest WSOP Main Event payout in history.

It got us thinking. With 3,538 players left, and the better part of a week of poker to be played before the final table is even reached, how has the start of Day 3 chip leader fared? So we dug into the numbers and learned some interesting things – namely, that a final table will be, at best, just out of reach if the last ten WSOP Main Events are any indication.

Year Chip Leader at Start of Day 3 Finishing Position & Prize
2022 Gavin Munroe – 1,061,500 1,130th ($15,000)
2021 Conrad De Armas – 744,000 207th ($44,200)
2019 Julian Milliard – 947,900 334th ($38,240)
2018 Ignacio Sanchez – 627,200 880th ($17,025)
2017 Artan Dedusha – 680,000 52nd ($145,733)
2016 Valentin Vornicu – 838,600 23rd ($269,430)
2015 Amar Anand – 603,500 55th ($113,764)
2014 Phil Ivey – 505,000 430th ($25,756)
2013 Mark Kroon – 507,300 458th ($24,480)
2012 Gaelle Baumann – 505,800 10th ($590,442)

Looking back at the last 10 WSOP Main Events (excluding 2020, which was primarily played online), no player who has started Day 3 of the WSOP Main Event has ever reached the final nine. The best performance of the bunch belongs to Gaelle Baumann who, in 2012, rode her chip lead all the way to the unofficial final table before finishing 10th.

That finish was worth $590,442, also the best result of any Day 3 chip leader in the last 10 WSOP main events. Three other players in that stretch managed to turn their early chip lead into a top 100 finish and a six-figure payday: Valentin Vornicu (23rd for $269,430 in 2016), Artan Dedusha (52nd for $145,733 in 2017) and Amar Anand (55th for $113,764 in 2015).

More often than not, however, things have not gone well for Day 3 chip leaders. Outside of those four strong finishes, the next-best result is 207th. Even 10-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Ivey was not immune to a swift and brutal comedown, seeing his chip lead dissolve in a 430th-place finish in 2014.

The worst reversal of fortune for a Day 3 chip leader happened just last year. Despite bagging over 1 million chips on Day 2, Gavin Munroe ended Day 3 with less than half of what he started the day with and ultimately walked away with just a min-cash for his efforts.

So where, you might ask, did the eventual champion start Day 3 from each year? Only three of the 10 champions started in the top 100, with the highest Day 3 position of an eventual champion belonging to Martin Jacobson in 2014, who began play in 21st place.

It’s particularly good news for short stacks; 2021 champion Koray Aldemir, 2018 winner John Cynn and 2012 Greg Merson each coming back from well below 1,000th in the chip counts on Day 3 before fighting all the way to the championship. Merson’s run was particularly impressive, considering he started Day 3 in the bottom 50 stacks with 16,200 and starting blinds of 800/1,600.

These trends may not accurately predict how things play out in 2023, to be fair. But if they can tell us one thing, it’s this – even for the chip leader, there’s a long road between Day 3 and Day 11.