What is a Day 5 Chip Lead Worth in the WSOP Main Event?

A chip lead heading into Day 5 of the WSOP Main Event doesn’t guarantee much, but Joe McKeehen proved it can be a launching pad towards eventually being crowned champion.

Tim Fiorvanti
Jul 11, 2023
Ryan Tosoc holds the chip lead heading into Day 5 of the 2023 WSOP Main Event. So what can he expect moving forward?

A Day 5 chip lead in the World Series of Poker Main Event can be a powerful thing. Ryan Tosoc, who bagged 5,120,000 and just edged out two other players for the overnight chip lead, is in prime position with 441 players left. Tosoc has big tournament experience, having finished second and then first in back-to-back years at the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic for more than $3 million combined.

Of every player remaining, it’s hard to give anyone else in the field a better chance at winning the $12.1 million first-place prize, along with the oversized WSOP bracelet. But with 441 players left, the best chance can still be a longshot.

A few days ago, we broke down how much a Day 3 chip lead was worth. No player had ever made the final table after claiming that mantle, let alone won the WSOP Main Event. But there’s good news here for Tosoc – two players who have bagged a Day 5 chip lead have eventually gone on to win a WSOP Main Event title. It did take the second player, Damian Salas, another three years later to ascend to that title. But we digress.


Year Chip Leader at Start of Day 5 Finishing Position & Prize
2022 Taylor von Kriegenbergh – 5,305,000 137th ($62,500)
2021 Ramon Colillas – 5,000,000 14th ($380,050)
2019 Dean Morrone – 4,980,000 159th ($59,295)
2018 Barry Hutter – 5,597,000 25th ($282,630)
2017 Damian Salas – 4,678,000 7th ($1,425,000)
2016 Bryan Piccioli – 4,026,000 84th ($67,855)
2015 Joe McKeehen – 3,122,000 1st ($7,683,346)
2014 Matthew Haugen – 2,808,000 28th ($230,487)
2013 Jon Lane – 2,839,000 94th ($59,708)
2012 Paul Volpe – 2,725,000 20th ($294,601)

Joe McKeehen is the gold standard for a Start of Day 5 chip leader. After jumping out to over 3.1 million over the first four days of the 2013 WSOP Main Event, McKeehen largely treaded water on Day 5 before shooting back up into the Top 5 on Day 6 and grabbing the chip lead again by the end of Day 7. From there, McKeehen led at every stage from there on out.

The aforementioned Salas is the only other Start of Day 5 chip leader to reach the final table, in 2017. He finished the night in fifth place but slipped towards the bottom of the counts by Day 6. Salas started the 2017 WSOP Main Event final table in sixth, and finished seventh. He’d eventually go on to be crowned the 2020 WSOP Main Event champion.

In a similar fate to Salas’, Bryan Piccioli’s time to shine wouldn’t come in the year he held the Start of Day 5 chip lead. After a disappointing 84th-place finish in 2016, Piccioli came back in 2017 and made the WSOP Main Event final table. He’d take sixth that year, for $1,675,000.

Things can swing drastically in the other direction, though. Just last year, Taylor von Kriegenbergh started Day 5 in the top spot, and then failed to make it to the end of the night, finishing 137th. It was a similar fate for Dean Morrone in 2019, whose tournament came to an abrupt end on Day 5 when his preflop five-bet shove with ace-nine offsuit ran head first into Chris Hunichen’s pocket kings.

Outside of Jon Lane (94th in 2013), the rest of the players who bagged the chip lead heading into Day 5 over the last 10 WSOPs fall into a similar range – between 14th and 28th, for a strong six-figure payday.

There’s a lot of work to be done between the start of Day 5 and the final table; McKeehen’s stack grew 21 times larger over that stretch, for context. But if you get as far as chip leading this deep into the field, your chances of life-changing money are strong.