LAS VEGAS -- The World Series of Poker Main Event caught its breath Saturday. After a frenetic Friday where 527 players busted out of the tournament, Saturday's Day 5 action saw just 212 eliminations. Only 79 players remain in the tournament -- their dreams of scoring a $10 million payday still alive.
When Day 5 play began, Matthew Haugen led the field with 2.808 million in chips. There were just 11 players with more than 2 million in chips. After nearly 11 hours of play Saturday, 27 players had more than 2 million in chips. And Mark Newhouse was the chip leader with 7.4 million in chips, with Kyle Keranen (6.67 million), Scott Palmer (6.53 million) and Dan Sindelar (5/45 million) in close pursuit.
Mark Newhouse has been in this position before. Last year, he reached the Main Event final table with 7.35 million in chips. He already has more than that this year. And if he reaches the final table this year, he'll be the first player to reach consecutive final tables since Dan Harrington did it in 2003 and 2004.
Maria Ho is the last woman remaining on the field. She has 435,000 in chips.
The mood at the table was light during the first level of the day. Jonathan Aguiar, with a sly smile on his face, asked the players at his table if they'd gone to the clubs last night (they hadn't).
Vitaly Lunkin made the walk from his nearby hotel to the featured television table looking none the worse for wear.
And Joe Lacarrubba and his pink lasso survived one table, only to be moved to the one with the chip leader (at the time). Lacarrubba arrived at table 422 in the Amazon Room as Curtis Rystadt and Adam Coats were joking about 80s references -- and the fact that Coats didn't get any of them.
Coats and Rystadt didn't waste any time welcoming Lacarrubba to the table.
"Welcome to the table, sir," Rystadt started.
"That's the chip leader," said Coats, pointing to Kyle Keranen and his 3.5 million in chips. "But he's not a very happy man."
That earned a guffaw and high five from Rystadt. But the stern expression on Keranen's face never changed.
"Where are you from?" Rystadt asked Lacarrubba.
"New York," responded Lacarrubba said with a smile from underneath his cowboy hat.
"New York City!" yelled Rystadt. "Are you the Pace Picante sauce cowboy?"
"I'm just a misplaced cowboy," Lacarrubba responded.
"You don't know the Pace Picante cowboy?" Rystadt asked. "That's an 80s reference," he added for Coats's benefit.
"A cowboy looked at the salsa jar to see where it was made, and he couldn't believe it was made in New York City."
"I'll look it up," Coats said with a grin. Lacarrubba admitted that he hadn't seen the commercials either. (We saved you the effort and embedded the commercial at the bottom of this article.)
Then Coats asked Lacarrubba if he was going to "rope in the chips" using his lasso. That line drew more laughs from the table.
"I only use it when I double up," Lacarrubba said.
"I brought the lasso to raise awareness for The Imus Ranch," Lacarrubba said. "I'm donating some of my winnings to them."
The Imus Ranch, started by radio personality Don Imus, is a working cattle ranch for kids with cancer. It's located in New Mexico, far from Imus's home turf in New York City. But any New Yorker who has ever listened to Imus knows about it -- Imus talks about it all the time on the air.
Lacarrubba said he tried to contact Imus and the show to let him know about his Main Event run.
"I just couldn't get through to anyone there," Lacarrubba said.
Lacarrubba, who ended up finishing 151st and won $52,141, wasn't the only one with charity on his mind at the Main Event.
Billionaire hedge fund manager David Einhorn finished 173rd and donated his $44,728 of prize money to the Robin Hood Foundation.
Robin Hood has been fighting poverty in New York City since 1998. Its motto: Fight Poverty Like a New Yorker.
Robin Hood funds initiatives that give people the tools they need to build a better life for themselves. It's distributed more than $1.45 billion in grants and initiatives. And Einhorn, who is a vice chair of Robin Hood's board of directors, has been sporting a Robin Hood NYC hat throughout the tournament to raise awareness about the group's efforts.
One of the remarkable things about the WSOP Main Event is that just when you've seen everything, you see something new.
That happened again late Saturday night, at a table on the far edge of the action. Four players moved all in before the flop. William Pappaconstantinou had pocket fours, Darlene Lee had Ad-Jh, Nicholas Nardello had pocket jacks and Justin Swilling had As-Ks. A flop of 10h-4d-9d gave Pappaconstantinou a set of fours and Lee and Nardello backdoor draws. An 8c on the turn made things more interesting with the possibility of straights for Lee and Nardello. A nine hit on the river and Pappaconstantinou nearly tripled up while Lee and Swilling exited stage left. Nardello had everyone covered and won a small side pot to stay in the tournament.
In a game where money is the ultimate scorecard, it's remarkable how little money means when a player busts out of the Main Event. Towards the end of the day, a player who had just busted out of the tournament tried to control his emotions as he walked to the payout windows across the hall to pick up his prize money. But he couldn't do it. He stopped just short of the door, put his forearm up against the wall and buried his head in the crook of his elbow. He balled up his other hand into a fist and started pounding the wall.
"Damn! Damn! Damn!" he yelled. With each successive shout, his voice began to crack a little bit more. The $52,141 he had won meant nothing at the moment. Because every player knows busting out this deep in the Main Event isn't a dream deferred. It's a dream dashed. Very few players make it back to this point. It's just too hard.
In previous years, as the players busted out of the Main Event, the Amazon Room turned into a ghost town. The highly efficient Rio crew would break down the tables as each one broke and remove it from play. The net effect a cavernous room that used to hold more than a hundred tables would have only five or six. At times, it looked like tumbleweeds were rolling through the room.
The enormous empty room detracted from the ambience of the Main Event. Poker's top tournament didn't look or sound like a top-tier event. There was no energy or noise coming from adjoining tables. Just vast pockets of nothingness.
That changed this year when the WSOP decided to start hosting deep stack tournaments in the Rio. All of a sudden, the room had juice again. The quietness of a tournament coming to its lonely conclusion was replaced by energy, conversation and the clacking of chips. And it also gave the deep stack players a chance to dream about playing in the Main Event one day. The Amazon Room felt like a poker room -- something it's never felt like before during the later stages of a tournament.
The setup wasn't perfect and the room could have been reconfigured some to help with logistics. But overall, it worked.
NOTABLE CHIP STACKS
Mark Newhouse 7.4 million
Kyle Keranen 6.67 million
Scott Palmer 6.59 million
Bruno Politano 5.475 million
Andoni Larrabe 5.47 million
Dan Sindelar 5.24 million
Tony Ruberto 5.23 million
Adam Coats ($52,141)
Alex Outhred ($52,141)
Rep Porter ($44,728)
Blake Cahail ($44,728)
David Einhorn ($44,728)
Jeff Madsen ($44,728)
Jesper Hougaard ($44,728)
Mike Sowers ($38,634)
John Monnette ($38,634)
Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.