When level 20 of the World Series of Poker's $1 million Big One for One Drop ended at 4:10 a.m. on Monday, most of the nine remaining players wanted to continue playing.
With payouts going to the top eight players, the tournament was sitting on the biggest bubble in the history of tournament poker. Survive one more elimination and the players would guarantee themselves a $1.3 million payout. End up on the wrong end of that equation and they'd go home with nothing.
A few players, however, wanted to get some rest, and tournament officials decided to halt play, meaning players would go home still wondering if they would win the $15.3 million first-place prize, squeak out a "min-cash" by finishing eighth, or be the only player to advance to Day 3 and finish down seven figures.
"It was pretty horrible, actually," said Paul Newey, who entered Day 3 as the table's short stack with 4.05 million chips, barely over the starting stack of 3 million. "I didn't get to sleep until 6 o'clock, and I had a bit of a restless night's sleep."
Newey, a businessman who sold his loan company to AIG in 2006, could be excused for the nerves. The first poker tournament he ever played in was the 2012 Big One for One Drop, so he doesn't have as much experience as some of the other players at the final table. He also bubbled the last high roller he played in at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, a $100,000 buy-in event where eighth place earned $217,320.
Other players, however, didn't mind the break.
"I got home, checked out some numbers a little bit, went right to bed and got my eight hours of sleep," said professional poker player Daniel Negreanu. "I never really felt nervous. I felt really calm and at peace and I just knew what the job in front of me was and I knew what I had to do to get it done."
"I slept better last night than I had the previous two nights," said Tom Hall, an entrepreneur from Hong Kong. "What's going to happen is going to happen. It's going to be fun."
Unfortunately for Hall, things didn't happen for him, and it didn't look like too much fun.
After waiting 11 hours to determine their fate, it all came down to a coin flip on the first hand of Day 3. Hall shoved with pocket 10s, Negreanu moved all-in over the top with ace-queen of clubs, and the race was on. Negreanu hit an ace on the flop and Hall was unable to retake the lead in the hand. Negreanu had Hall covered, and the money bubble burst less than five minutes into the day.
"It was nice on the very first hand to take the lead, and all of a sudden put myself in a good spot and bust a guy so it frees up players to start gambling a little bit," said Negreanu.
Hall exited the Amazon Room at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino about 20 minutes after arriving, down $1 million in poker tournament buy-ins. But it looks like, despite the tough finish, he was still able to have a good time in Las Vegas.
Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.